We reported recently, in connection with Ed O'Bannon's lawsuit over the licensing of his name and image as a former
You may know already that Shaw is the fifth-year USC cornerback who has been caught in a lie. He explained his two ankle injuries with a story about leaping from a second-story balcony in Palmdale to save his 7-year-old nephew from drowning.
It should be obvious that this episode would have unfolded very differently if Shaw were either a college student or an athlete, as opposed to that hybrid creature, the
The university would not have been so quick to trumpet Shaw's heroics as an example of USC athletic valor, and The Times and other media would not have been so quick to swallow the story whole. Shaw probably would not have had to hire an attorney, much less one known for representing Rhianna and
The whole thing probably would have been laughed off or treated discreetly as a university disciplinary matter. If the woman's screams and the flight across the balcony involved some sort of criminal activity, which isn't at all clear, it probably would warrant a small item on the police blotter, not top-of-the-page treatment at ESPN.com.
The national prominence of USC's football program is the underlying cause of all this mortification. As Daniel Durbin, the university's own expert on sports and media, told my colleague Nathan Fenno, the athletic department's role in disseminating the initial story stemmed in part from its desire to "protect the bottom line."
Remember: that "bottom line" involves an enterprise that has nothing whatsoever to do with academics. The university can't protect that bottom line without undermining everything else it says it wants to achieve for the students it serves.
The athletic department's rush to put out a story that it could not possibly have checked out -- though it claims, risibly, to have vetted the story with 12 different people -- makes a mockery of USC football Coach