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Why does a young reporter at a financial mag care so much about attacking the ACC?


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From HornSports.com Staff Writer Tuxedo Yoda....




“Lydon: I’m working on next month’s Oscar nominations. Any preference?

Cigarette-Smoking Man: I couldn’t care less. What I don’t want to see is the Bills winning the Super Bowl. As long as I’m alive, that doesn’t happen.

Jones: That’ll be tough, sir. Buffalo wants it bad.

Cigarette-Smoking Man: So did the Soviets in ’80.

Jones: What are you saying? That you rigged the Olympic hockey game?

Cigarette-Smoking Man: What’s the matter? Don’t you believe in miracles? “


I was never a sci-fi nerd or an Illuminati believer, but I love a good conspiracy theory when it comes to sports. When the X-Files revealed that fringe aspects of our government kept the Bills from winning those 4 super bowls, I loved it. There has always been just enough fodder in our society to keep sports conspiracy theories like this alive. From the Black Sox to Tim Donaghy, money and fear have always had the potential to alter the outcomes of our favorite sporting events. It is tough to manipulate millionaire pro athletes these days but college sports are a fertile ground for all sorts of shenanigans.


College football realignment really lends itself to conspiracies. First off, we know the key decision makers will never publicly tell us the truth. The truth has to be gleaned from clues in the context of statements, the timing of statements and by paying attention to what isn’t said. I have also learned that one should keep an eye out for lesser known media members being utilized by more powerful forces. The big boys have paid their dues but a young, struggling reporter is more than happy to scratch a back for some reciprocation down the road. That has been happening in a big way recently through the on-line presence of Forbes.


Headquartered on 5th Avenue in Manhattan, Forbes is the gold standard for financial reporting. They’ve had an on-line presence for over 15 years and their editor-in-chief has twice run for president. This isn’t small potatoes folks. When they attach their name to something, it adds instant credibility. This may come as a shock to some of you, but a person saying “I read it on-line at Forbes.com” has exponentially more stroke than saying, “TuxedoYoda tweeted it this morning.” When Forbes says something about the financial markets or some other news item, it can be trusted. Still, I have been surprised by their sudden interest in college football realignment……and the obvious side they have taken.


Chris Smith covers ‘the business of sports’ for Forbes. I think it is fair to say he is at the genesis of his career – I was just his 17th twitter follower. I don’t know anything about the guy but, judging by his picture which accompanies his articles, it looks like he would have a hard time buying a pack of smokes without getting carded. This young reporter has written an interesting series of articles attacking the financial integrity of the ACC. That he has an agenda can’t be questioned. With titles like “Say Your Goodbyes: The ACC’s Days Are Numbered” and “The ACC’s Third Tier Rights And Why They’re Killing The Conference”, young Chris hasn’t pulled any punches. He has gone after the family of ACC Commissioner Swofford, he praises the Big 12 & Texas and practically pronounced the ACC dead. His info is spot on and his writing is solid but his style is surprising. While the mainstream media can’t defend the ACC fast enough, this unknown reporter from a financial publication is throwing hay-makers at the ACC…..and he is landing them. His articles have bounced all over twitter, prominent message boards, and I’ve been told they have been viewed by the trustees of certain universities (wink).


When you read the articles written by Smith, you’ll notice one peculiarity. He almost exclusively uses quotes and info available from other sources. The guy is a good digger but there isn’t much original info in his stories, with one intriguing exception. There is one time he says “I reached out to…..” before discussing information from a source. One time when Chris brings some new info to the table – and it is from a heck of a source. Chris references a conversation he has with George Pyne, the President of IMG sports and entertainment. This struck me as odd for several reasons. IMG represents over 200 universities and is a major player in college sports. If anyone has a vested interest in staying low and dodging the bullets, it would be IMG. It seems odd that their president would talk with a very young, unknown reporter about something as volatile as realignment in an article that absolutely eviscerates the ACC (home to a handful of IMG clients).


So…..why did Pyne make himself available to Smith? Who could lean on Pyne to get him to be part of a public flogging of the ACC? Like anything in life, we need to follow the money. The biggest cash cow IMG has in this area of their business is a client who is most certainly interested in the potential exodus of teams from the ACC – the University of Texas. Publicly, Texas is against the Big12 expanding, but privately, Texas signed off on the additions of FSU and Clemson at the very beginning of May (you are going to have to trust me on this). Winning in the court of public opinion is crucial for these efforts and Texas seems to be utilizing every resource.


The Texas/IMG connection is a strong one. Texas has been an IMG client since 1983. People are familiar with the LHN arrangement that brings in $15M annually to Texas but its relationship with IMG brings in over $10M annually as well through a variety of media channels. IMG even opened up a new business division called Longhorn Sports Marketing with 10 full time IMG employees officed permanently right next to the Texas campus. I guess none of us should be surprised that the president of IMG allowed himself to be part of the most vicious media attack on the ACC to date.


Of course, this could all just be a coincidence…..or it may not be, who knows?!? I am still intrigued by another question: Why in the world is Forbes, of all publications, declaring war on the ACC? The “business of sports” angle exists but there are still dozens of publications that seem like more obvious outlets for this agenda than a financial magazine. Is it just a coincidence that the offices of Forbes and IMG are just down the street from each other on 5th Ave in New York? Perhaps.


I guess it is always possible that an unknown business writer at a financial publication, for his own personal reasons, is going to use his job to declare a public jihad on a college football conference and pull an interview with the president of the most prestigious sports marketing firm for a highly controversial article on a very controversial subject that could jeopardize his relationships with certain clients. That is certainly possible, about as possible as the government rigging all 4 Buffalo super bowls.



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