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About that rumor…

Dec 6, 2009, 10:00 PM EDT

No, I didn’t miss the rumor/bombshell that came out of Charlie Weis’ sit-down with five hand-picked media members. I think the story has been pretty well chronicled around the interwebs, and for the sake of everyone involved, I don’t feel like I have that much to offer.

Here’s what I will say:

I’ve got no idea what the context of Weis’ comments were, but I will say that it was pretty stupid to even make the comments. Whether you’ve got a problem with it because he broke “guy code” or you think he gut-lessly slandered his arch-nemesis on his way out of town, I think this is a situation where Weis probably felt far too comfortable with media members he considered more like friends than working journalists.

I don’t know Tim Prister, but he’s a graduate of Notre Dame and has a few more decades covering the Irish than I do. But I’ve got to believe there was a pretty big error in judgment by him to be the only one of the five reporters present to post those controversial comments.

Here was Prister’s mea culpa after he pulled the Weis quotes from his story:

The five reporters and Charlie Weis were discussing Internet rumors
Saturday when a question pertaining to Pete Carroll was asked. Comments
were made that were, in my opinion, on the record, and corroborated by
another reporter in attendance as on the record. However, Coach Weis,
later in the day, indicated that they were not on the record and were
taken out of context.

Before talking to Coach Weis later in the day, I took the comments at
face value and reported them after transcribing the interview and
presenting it in its entirety (the question-answer part) before any of
the other reporters presented it.

Shortly thereafter, I was contacted by Coach Weis and asked to remove
the comment because it was an off the record statement taken out of
context. We took the necessary measures to remove it because of the
miscommunication, but a national story still contained the comment. The
reason it appeared on our site and no one else’s is because we were the
first to report it. The other reporters were asked not to use it after
our story appeared and prior to them publishing their stories.

I regret the miscommunication and in no way intended to misrepresent
the comments made by Coach Weis. I was one of five reporters asked to
this gathering and in no way would I intend to disparage or
misrepresent Coach Weis.

Again, I have no idea what was said during the 90 minute media session. When I saw this all start to shake down late Saturday night, I didn’t know how to cover it, as I was completely shocked that Weis would say something like that. That said, I’ve got to believe that there had to be some context to these quotes by Weis, and that somehow, Prister missed something.

(The rumors weren’t what bothered me. They aren’t new by any means, and as someone living in the heart of USC country, I’ve heart them before. But that’s all I’ve known them to be, strictly rumors. The fact that someone would put them in print was what shocked me.)

It sounds like Weis did his best to clarify his remarks and apologize to Carroll, and the one person who should decide whether this is over or not, clearly wants it to be.

“I talked to Charlie and he wants to set the record straight,” Carroll said. “He apologized profusely for being represented wrongly. I’m not commenting anymore.”

A week after Tiger Woods got taken down by salacious extra-marital affairs, it’d be a devastating blow to college football if these comments turned out to be the 2:30 am car crash that sparked a TMZ witch hunt. 

  1. sharkey - Dec 6, 2009 at 9:53 PM

    Yikes!!! @ Tim Prister! He has usually been a good columnist fair and accurate. I have subscribed several times to BGI when he was there and enjoyed his reporting.
    Gotta think Tim goofed big time. It’s hard to believe that of Charlie. If the article is true,dang, its totally uncool to do something like that. If it’s a misunderstanding, then Tim Prister needs to say so immediately.

  2. sharkey - Dec 6, 2009 at 9:59 PM

    Tim Prister did say so. LOL Been a long work day. Time for bed.

  3. StephenOfTroy - Dec 6, 2009 at 11:37 PM

    Don’t blame Prister for reporting what he heard. Blame the OTHER four guys for sitting on the story out of a desire to protect Charlie Weis.
    Carroll denied the rumor. He doesn’t even HAVE a house in Malibu.
    Now will all of the Weis apologists FINALLY shut up about what a great human being he is? This isn’t about breaking “guy code,” no matter how much Keith Arnold tries to soften the blow. It’s about being a complete and total waste of skin. This IS slander. Even Robert T. Gilleran knows that. When he finishes taking down the crooked college sports enterprises, maybe he can transfer some of Charlie’s 18 million dollar buyout over to Pete Carroll.
    And to think, I thought I was pretty much done with college football this year. I will give Keith Arnold credit for at least acknowledging this story (although the coverage reminds me of the way he tried to say the Clausen-got-hit-back-after-shoving-a-guy story was “tired” the DAY after it was first reported), but it’s not right to try to vilify Prister for DOING HIS JOB. Spare me the nonsense about off-the-record. If you’re sitting there talking to reporters, they’re going to report what you say. And when you go out of your way to try to slander a guy who hasn’t been anything but gracious to you, they SHOULD. Period.
    Fight On, Trojans!

  4. StephenOfTroy - Dec 6, 2009 at 11:57 PM

    Brian Grummell over at Fanhouse has this to say re: Weis’s slander of Carroll:
    “Lets be clear, as far as I know this is an unprecedented public allegation from a football coach. Just a horrible, horrible thing to reveal publicly and particularly egregious (and hypocritical) by inviting shame, humiliation and scrutiny to the other members of Carroll’s family who are most definitely not public figures such as Caroll’s wife.
    Whether true or false, Weis’ accusation has horribly wronged Carroll and his family. What a damnable act from the outgoing, most public of figures from one of the country’s finest universities and football programs.
    Update: Speaking to the Los Angeles Times, Carroll denies the allegation, saying ‘It’s untrue, it’s irresponsible, and it’s incredible he’d be talking about me like that.'”
    I agree with Grummell, not surprisingly. A damnable act. Doesn’t the Catholic religion say anything about bearing false witness against thy neighbor who doesn’t even own a house in Malibu?
    And the LA Times has Weis’s own words, in which he makes clear that he DID NOT say the comments were “off the record,” as follows:
    “Early this morning, Weis contacted The Times and said he was having a ‘totally subjective’ conversation with several reporters that was an aside to the formal interview. During that conversation, Weis said, he was speaking about Internet rumors and how they adversely affect the lives of coaches and their families.
    ‘In no way was I trying to take a shot at Pete,’ Weis said in a phone message. ‘What we were talking about was how the rumor mill can affect people’s lives. When I was asked a specific question like that, I responded like, “This is the same crap that I’m talking about.” You start saying things like this and one thing, this guy does this and I do that and all of a sudden the Internet takes it all over the place.
    ‘So, in no way was I trying to take a shot at Pete. I feel if I offended Pete, I will run Pete down and apologize. … In no way do I have any idea what’s going on in anyone’s life other than the fact that rumors on the Internet can affect coaches’ lives in a very, very negative fashion.'”
    Later, in a telephone interview, Weis said, “In no way would I be disrespectful to that guy,” and “All I know is that he kicked the crap out of me five times.”
    Weis said he had left a phone message for Carroll.”
    Um, yeah. See, where you said “this guy does this and I do that,” that’s the problem. You said that, Charlie. You said Pete Carroll does this and you do that. You weren’t just trying to say that Internet rumors hurt people. You were complaining that no one seems to care about this rumor YOU spread about Pete Carroll, yet people pick you apart for swearing. So not only did you spread that rumor, but you lacked the guts to own up to it. No one who can read will be fooled by your attempt to excuse your behavior as something other than what it was.
    And that makes you beneath contempt. You couldn’t just go gently into that good night with your unearned 18 million dollars and your vast collection of ND sweatshirts. You had to slander a guy who has done nothing to you except “kick the crap out of [you] five times.” CLASS ACT, TOUCHDOWN CHARLIE! Way to go!
    Oh, and Keith Arnold, I’m sure you would just HATE for this “devastating blow” to be revealed as true. Nice touch with the Tiger Woods reference. But it’s just going to make Weis look more like the unpalatable jerk that he showed himself to be when he showed up in South Bend talking about what’s not good enough.

  5. StephenOfTroy - Dec 7, 2009 at 12:03 AM

    Apparently, Weis has no sense of either irony or shame. From the Weis interview where he slandered Carroll:
    “CW: What people don’t understand is that in the day of the Internet and tweeting and everything else that’s out there, when people put things out that are not based on fact, they all come back to your family. They all come back. … Fire away, but you have to understand that when they’re personal, they go directly to your wife and kids, and that’s really inexcusable. Those people really should be ashamed of themselves.”
    Yes, Charlie, and so should you!

  6. Keith Arnold - Dec 7, 2009 at 12:22 AM

    Shocked that you’d weigh in on this one… Also shocked you’d site Brian Grummell, a Trojan grad.
    Also very amused how you’ve managed to turn this into your very own personal forum… again.
    As I said in my post, I’m not even comfortable talking about this, and I’m friends with members of the Carroll family. That said, claiming a guy doesn’t own a house in Malibu isn’t the end all of this rumor. (You can rent, you know…)
    Still, Carroll spoke with Weis, he wants this over. Weis spoke with Carroll, he apologized profusely. Are you serious that you’re trying to turn this into a Catholic thing with a fake commandment?
    So when you ask me if I’d hate to see this to be revealed true, yes — I would very much hate that.
    As I said in my article, this was a major flub by Weis and something that I’m sure he regrets. Not sure why we can’t just leave it at that…

  7. StephenOfTroy - Dec 7, 2009 at 3:28 AM

    Keith Arnold, I’m not trying to turn it into my personal forum. I’m just a person writing a comment or two (or three). Take it up with Robert T. Gilleran, who writes 50 numbered paragraphs and who writes 4 comments in a row routinely.
    I didn’t know Brian Grummell was a Trojan. I just know he came up first in my Google search. I didn’t know about this story until five minutes before I wrote my first comment here, because it came up on SportsCenter. I don’t think Grummell’s alma mater has anything to do with whether his opinion is valid, but I cited the link where I found his comments, so that people can look at the source material if they so choose.
    Weis wants it over and Carroll says he isn’t commenting anymore, but his comment to the LAT that it wasn’t true and that it was irresponsible is a VERY different slant than simply saying he doesn’t want to talk about it. I thought that needed to be explained.
    I didn’t try to turn anything into a Catholic thing. Take it up with Grummell; he called it a damnable act. I am not Catholic, but I remember being taught not to bear false witness against my neighbor. Pretty sure that’s in all versions of the Bible. I think Charlie Weis IS a Catholic, and I know he used to coach for a Catholic university, which is why I ask whether the guy is bound by the same ethical code I’m aware of.
    He’s always going on about how the “attacks” people make about him affect his family. I find his comments about Carroll ridiculously ironic and out-of-bounds. If you’d noted that irony and inappropriateness, rather than trying to shoot the messenger who had the journalistic integrity to REPORT the story, I would have been more inclined to just leave it at that.
    One wonders what you’d be writing if Pete Carroll had said the same thing about Weis. You bend over backward trying to excuse Weis or prop him up as an “elite” coach. You have your job to do, and you have your opinion. Don’t be shocked that I have my own opinion, since you’re shocked (shocked!) that I’d have something to say about your coach slandering mine. (I know you were being facetious. More of that “fancy writing” you were telling me about before.)

  8. mrrandolph - Dec 7, 2009 at 7:24 AM

    What do you expect from a coach that legacy was built on the tuck rule and stealing defensive signals? He lied before ‘decided schematic advantage’ so what is the shock?
    If not for the sorry results of Ty’s Washington teams, I would be arguing that he could have finished 2005 and 2006 with BCS bowls.
    And, the media stories were mostly positive until the losing started in 2007. As a matter of fact, I believe this Christmas in the bookstores, you will probably find someone with a book out celebrating the Return to Glory of ND celebrating their 2009 success and BCS bowl.
    Merry Christmas

  9. Jake - Dec 7, 2009 at 7:49 AM

    It was my understanding that these reporters were “hand picked” for this interview. As such some chose not to print the PC business. Having said that, CW was at best naive not to realize such a juicy statement would go unprinted. This was not an off hand remark. It was a thought out comparative analysis.
    Kieth, this is more than just a wink and nod guy thing mumbled over a beer at some club. This was a statement made to a reporter and as such fair game for print, shoddy as it may have been.
    As SOT stated if this statement is false then PC has a real slander/liable case here.
    Even if it is true, CW has no right or business throwing it out there. It makes CW looks petty, vindictive and certainly one not to be trusted.
    If PC was playing slap and tickle with some willing grad student in a rented, borrowed or otherwise acquired place in Malibu it is no one’s business and has nothing to do with ND football.

  10. TLNDMA - Dec 7, 2009 at 8:40 AM

    SOT, you talk alot.

  11. el - Dec 7, 2009 at 8:49 AM

    Here’s the problem Keith: you’ve spent a significant portion of the past few weeks (the “Touchdown Charlie” Death Watch, if you will) writing the same column about what a class act Charlie Weis is and how he’s just treated unfairly. And then, when evidenced comes to light that, in fact, he’s no such thing, you try to brush it under the rug as a breach of the “guy code” that was actually off the record (as if that makes a difference).
    That goes to your journalistic integrity (which I hinted was lacking in a previous post asking you discuss the objectivity of NBC Sports in light of your blog). You have an agenda, and it’s become quite clear: make Charlie Weis look as good as possible. I’m not sure what you get out of the deal (and it may be just be personal satisfaction) but you’ve made clear the only message you’re interested in presenting–that of St. Charlie.
    Let’s assume it was off the record. All that means is that it can’t be linked to Weis. It doesn’t mean those reporters can’t report it and, especially given that this was a conversation about rumors getting started and spread, it was an error beyond contempt. This was a calculated move by Weis (and shows just how far removed from reality he is if he thought this would make him look good). But you chose to chalk it up to a misunderstanding without ever putting in any sort of thought, analysis, or–at the very least–reconciling this side of Weis with the image of him you work so hard to craft. Does NBC Sports have an ombudsman?

  12. Jeremy B - Dec 7, 2009 at 11:37 AM

    ESPN reporting Clausen is entering the draft. but no report on here??? What’s the word??

  13. teo - Dec 7, 2009 at 12:43 PM

    It’s really incredible that Weis would even suggest this as fact. I think what he wanted to say is this:
    Suppose there is a big-time coach at a large university on the west coast who is having an affair with a graduate student. Supposed that affair somehow comes to light. Well, that big-time coach at a large university is going to have a lot easier time with the press than the coach at Notre Dame engaging in similar conduct.
    But, instead, Charlie botched all of his words and inserted Pete Carroll as the big-time coach and Malibu as the place where he was engaging in his conduct. I hope I am right about this — and am presenting it in a light most favorable to Charlie.

  14. Keith Arnold - Dec 7, 2009 at 1:25 PM

    el –
    Not sure that I like what you’re insinuating. If you’ve noticed, there were 5 media members in that room. I was not one of them. Only one spoke of the comments in question, and the 4 others didn’t, and still haven’t said anything or made any comments. Why do you think I should, having not been in the room or having no real idea of what went down, how it went down, how the comments were really made, etc?
    The objectivity of NBC Sports is a pretty difficult thing to talk about, especially since NBC hires hundreds of people with diverse opinions to comment on sports. I can tell you that I’ve never had a single word of mine edited, or had anyone tell me what angle to take when covering a story.
    I said in my article that this was a stupid thing for Weis to even say, regardless of the context. I presented two different ways it was dumb — on a lighter “guy code” level, and on a heavier, gut-less slander level, pretty strong words I think.
    Still, I’ve got a hard time banging the drum on this one, especially because the comments only saw the light of day for a few hours and only because 1 of the 5 guys invited thought it was fit to print. (If I did share harsh words, they’d be directed at the one guy in the room who thought it’d be smart to make that comment public.)
    This story sucks. It sucks on a personal level, a professional level, and a human level. I only wrote about it because I felt that as someone paid to discuss Notre Dame football, it’d be disingenuous to simply ignore it.
    There are plenty of websites that take pleasure in these types of stories and will write multiple posts about this incident, and if you’re looking for more, I suggest you check them out.

  15. StephenOfTroy - Dec 7, 2009 at 8:17 PM

    TLNDMA: You have twice now told me that I “talk alot.” First of all, it’s “a lot,” not “alot.” Second, how would you know? I’m writing. Not talking. Merry Christmas.

  16. StephenOfTroy - Dec 7, 2009 at 8:45 PM

    Hey el, so did you get the answer that you were looking for? I read Keith Arnold’s response to you as:
    1. Dodging the issue of an agenda of glorifying and excusing St. Charlie;
    2. Continuing to blame the one hand-picked reporter who didn’t try to protect Charlie Weis from himself;
    3. Not-so-subtly resenting that he wasn’t among those hand-picked reporters (where’s Robert T. Gilleran to unleash his venom about Eric Hansen of the South Bend Tribune?); and
    4. Telling you that if you don’t like his slanted journalism, go somewhere else to get your news. (A lot of people seem to take that approach on this website; if you’re not totally in the tank for ND, they tell you to go back where you came from. Nice.)

  17. el - Dec 7, 2009 at 10:22 PM

    I’m not insinuating anything. I am stating that this post regarding Charlie Weis, Gossip Girl, is a microcosm of what I perceive as a larger problem with this blog and NBC Sports’ treatment of Notre Dame in general.
    I’ll accept that perhaps I wasn’t clear.
    1. IMO, there were two appropriate ways for you to handle this story (which I absolutely agree you had to). First, you could have simply laid out the bare bones of the story and stated that you would withhold providing any commentary until more facts came to light. Or, you could’ve tackled it head on by reconciling this side (or even potential side) of Charlie Weis with your narrative on Weis over the past few weeks (which is unquestionably pro-Weis; a significant amount of the work here is dedicated to building Weis up as a football coach and, more disturbingly, as a human; even when you don’t do it explicitly, it’s the subtext of your post). Instead, you chose a third option–present the story in as pro-Weis a way as possible (“I’ve got to believe that there had to be some context to these quotes”; this comment is at the end of the post and serves to qualify everything else you wrote; thus, your post ultimately came around to providing an unfounded defense of Weis). Even your response to my comment is along the same lines (blaming the journalist who printed the comments; saying it’s tough to beat the drum on this issue).
    2. I think there’s a place for a blog like this and I have no issue with its existence. I do not, however, think it’s appropriate for NBC Sports to be hosting it. Quite frankly you make no attempt to objectively cover the Irish and, again, more disturbingly, are beyond pro-Charlie Weis. Your posts border on an obsession with building him up. And that projects onto NBC Sports. That’s a problem to me. I also understand that don’t hide your Irish-homer side. But that doesn’t make it any better.
    3. I don’t need or want more details on Pete Carroll’s personal life. But, if you’re going to be posting your thoughts on NBC Sports (the sports department of one of the three major American networks), I think it would be appropriate to handle this story in a professional manner. But you didn’t. You presented this story the way Charlie Weis’s PR team would have drawn up.

  18. Keith Arnold - Dec 8, 2009 at 2:02 PM

    el –
    I had a big long response to your points, but my internet crashed. Alas, it wasn’t meant to be.
    a) I appreciate your points. That said, I linked to the bare bones of the story in the FIRST SENTENCE of my post, and I think CFT — an website — did a capable job taking that angle.
    b) There is no narrative here. The fact that I like Charlie Weis as the coach of ND has nothing to do with this. Even if this was a coach that I despised, I wouldn’t feel comfortable writing about something that was never presented as a true transcript, something I never saw/heard, and something that 83% of the people in the room thought was off the record.
    c) There were plenty of discussions before Inside the Irish came about on NBC, and I think this blog has an important place in the Notre Dame media landscape. I’m not a beat writer. I don’t get access like a beat writer, I don’t get paid like a beat writer, and I don’t pretend to be a beat writer. I take a different stance on stuff than most mainstream members of the media. When things are bad, I’ll call them bad. When they’re good, I’ll call them good. The group-think mentality of ND fans everywhere is one of the things that I dislike about Notre Dame football. I’m not a contrarian, but I beat to my own drummer.
    d) There were plenty of places on to find information on this fiasco. Because I chose not to write about it in the way you’d have done it doesn’t mean NBC made a mistake.

  19. Penn Stater - Dec 8, 2009 at 2:39 PM

    You all are wearing us all out. Not sure that anyone much cares about Charlie Weis anymore – he may have been a good guy, but let’s be honest here, he is paid to win football games. Not against the crappy teams that seem to fill Notre Dame’s schedule currently, but against big time programs. He failed miserably, move on.
    I find the robertg guy just downright funny. He is like the Dwight Schrute of college football. I am watching Court TV almost non-stop waiting for his big lawsuit to hit that will topple the college football world as we know it.

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