CRAWFORD | Why recruiting against Louisville is so easy, and the - WDRB 41 Louisville News

CRAWFORD | Why recruiting against Louisville is so easy, and the challenge Mack faces

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WDRB photo by Eric Crawford. WDRB photo by Eric Crawford.
Screen-shot of an Apple News version of a Sports Illustrated story Screen-shot of an Apple News version of a Sports Illustrated story
Screen shot from Screen shot from

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – The day he was announced as University of Louisville basketball coach, Chris Mack said he came into the job with his eyes open about the challenges that it entails, especially in recruiting.

“I’m not naïve,” he said. “It will take a special person, a special family, to believe in this place just like I did. I think there will be a lot of families of student-athletes, prospective student-athletes out there.”

But battling public perception, and even reporting, will be difficult. A new federal indictment handed down Tuesday did not include any new substantive allegations against Louisville, but did include a new co-conspirator from adidas who is alleged to have helped facilitate payments from the shoe company to recruits.

Still, when I clicked a link to the story sent to me via text message from a friend, the Sports Illustrated story that popped up (via the news aggregator Apple News) carried a headline that read, “Analyzing new FBI charges in CBB corruption case,” right under a photo of Mack (see photo at right).

To be clear, Mack is not included in the story. He’s not facing any charges. He has been accused of no wrongdoing. And the photo of Mack was a link to a video in which two SI reporters were talking about his decision to become the new coach at Louisville in the midst of the scandal it faces. Moreover, the arrangement of video and headline may have had as much to do with the aggregator as SI. 

But there it is. The SI logo. The headline. The picture of Mack. 

My point is this. There are few easier jobs in college basketball right now than recruiting against Mack and Louisville. Because if I’m an opposing coach, and believe me, they will do this, all I'd have to do is take a screen shot of that photo and start planting seeds of doubt all over the country.

Unless you’re really tuned into the story, or into how the media works, you’ll see that headline and photo and think, “What now?”

And it’s not just national news aggregators. The Courier Journal website on Wednesday invited readers to watch a live web discussion with the headline, “Breaking down new allegations involving Kansas, N.C. State, Louisville and Miami.”

“Involving” is a good word in 2018 journalism, especially on the web. If you can say something “involves” someone, you can spice anything up. You can use the words "new allegations" and "Louisville" together, and heads start turning. Everyone, for the most part, uses it. I’ve even seen it on WDRB’s website.

If you follow news organizations on Twitter or any social media, you know this. You click a link expecting to see news of something, only to realize that the actual news story is a far cry from what the headline or social media post teased. Let’s just say, in kind language, the post or headline was “optimized” for clicks.

That’s the case here.

The things Louisville is alleged to have done, or been “involved” with, are the same after this new, “superseding,” indictment as they were before. There’s no real difference, except for the involvement of a new adidas co-conspirator, who is alleged to have helped facilitate matters. In the context of what is in this indictment, it doesn’t appear to be that important. It does allow me, as a reporter, to say Louisville is “involved” in the new allegations, even if that involvement is pretty thin.

But if I’m an opposing coach with a target who is considering Mack and Louisville, I just send the Courier Journal a thank-you note, screen-shot that headline and text away.

Mack was right. It will take a “special person,” to see through some of this. To see that the situation at Louisville today is the same as it was before this new indictment came down.

That is to say, the situation isn’t good, but it hasn’t gotten any worse. And it certainly hasn’t reached out to somehow ensnare Mack.

The facts are bad enough without being subject to the daily needs of the hype machine – but that’s exactly the machine Mack will have to overcome, and many times, likely, in the coming months.

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