Joe Nocera, a New York Times sports business columnist, has come out and written an article today on the firing of John Shoop.
This article, which I will post below, alleges that the firing of John Shoop was not motivated by the performance of the Purdue football team on the field, but John Shoop's insistence to stand up for player's rights.
It's certainly a juicy read. Full of conspiracy and bad men holding down heroes, but is it in any way factual?
" The evidence also suggests that the reason had surprisingly little to do with the Boilermakers’ offense, or football at all."
He asserts that Shoop was not fired at Hazell's behest, but was a mandate from Athletic Director Morgan Burke, but not because of Shoop's performance with the football team on the field. Instead, firing him because he is, as the title of the story suggests, a champion for player's rights. He lists a few incidents between the Shoop's (His wife included) and in no particular order here they are:
"Marcia Shoop had a number of conversations with Burke about players’ rights. According to her, Burke said that he had no patience for the O’Bannon case and the effort among some Northwestern football players to form a union. As a former steel executive, he said, he had seen how the United Steelworkers operated, and he cited his distaste for the union as his reason for not supporting more rights for players. (Schott declined to respond to my questions about these conversations.)"
"In the spring, a Big Ten executive spoke to the Purdue athletic staff. After decrying the O’Bannon decision — in which a federal judge ruled the N.C.A.A. was in violation of the antitrust laws — Shoop posed a question. Why should the N.C.A.A. care, he asked, if players make money on their own likeness? According to several people at the meeting, the Big Ten executive replied, "So you would be O.K. if a University of Texas student-athlete made $1 million signing autographs for an hour?"
"Well, yes, I would," Shoop said. "But that’s not an answer to my question." An agitated Burke interrupted the exchange, put his arm around the executive, and suggested that if the two of them wanted to continue the conversation, they do it elsewhere. (Schott, who was also there, says that Burke did not try to cut off the conversation.)"
" Marcia Shoop tried to organize a forum that would have featured the Purdue Neurotrauma Group, which has done pathbreaking work on the effect of repeated subconcussive blows to the brain, and a documentary,"The Business of Amateurs," by Bob DeMars, a former college linebacker. Burke told her that the athletic department would not be involved because of the film’s emphasis on players’ rights. He also made it clear to Shoop — and to the Purdue Neurotrauma Group, according to Tom Talavage, a scientist in the department — that the athletic department would not underwrite any of the costs of the event. (Schott did not respond to a direct question about Burke’s response to the proposed forum.)"
Those are obviously not well shaded stories for Morgan Burke. They absolutely show a lane for which we could take to talk about whether Burke is fit for the job, as someone that is taking the stance only the powers that be seem to be taking, that student's rights are not a priority. But there's still that lingering issue, Purdue was really bad at football last year. Are we sure Shoop didn't get fired because of a dismal performing offense?
Nocera's rebuttal to this is simple, very simple:
"Purdue’s offense was very young, but despite inconsistent play and rookie mistakes, it showed real promise, something that Burke also noted in his news conference. The Boilermakers scored 36, 38 and 55 points in games this season. Some 28 of the team’s 40 offensive touchdowns were generated by first-year players. "
First off, any argument about a team's vitality on offense based around the score of three games is going to get you laughed out of any bar this side of the Atlantic. But sure, let's humor him.
That 36 point game? I remember that, it was our very last game, a loss to an Indiana team that gave up 37.1 points per game on the season according to ESPN.com.
The 38 points came against Indiana State, not a division 1 program.
And those 55 points against Nebraska came after five Cornhusker turnovers that resulted in 4 touchdown drives of under 22 yards. You like big numbers? How about the number 93, as in, even with those three big scoring outputs we were the 93rd best scoring team in the nation at 25.1 points per game including five games where we didn't score more than 14 points per game.
And yeah, Purdue was young, but the strength of this team was a senior-heavy offensive line. Our best rated recruits are almost all on the offensive side, particularly lining up behind center. Also, our two freshman, playing quarterback and running back, showed flashes of being really good.
It's also a failure on Shoop's part that the team was so young, it shows the coaching staff failed to mold the older players into more viable on-field options, than the younger recruiting classes who were't exactly highly touted.
Nocero then proceeds to highlight Blough's relationship with Shoop as further character building, and reason to keep the offensive coordinator around. As if it's impossible to be a bad football coach, and a good person capable of gaining loyalty from a kid not old enough to drink yet. And make no mistake, Nocero fully believes Shoop was fired for talking out, and not a failure of scoring enough touchdowns. He finishes the piece with this beautifully crafted zinger.
"'When I asked if he thought Shoop had been fired unfairly, there was a long pause. "I don’t feel comfortable answering that question," Blough finally replied.
I can’t say I blame him. He saw what happens at Purdue when people speak out."
What's infuriating is that there are pieces to a good story here, but it's not what Nocero is fixated on. Morgan Burke comes off as an out dated, anti-player curmudgeon who has views that make me very suspicious of his position on top of an athletic program. The problem is, with all the shoddy bridges created in this piece to get to the point where Shoop was fired simply for his outspokenness against the good fight, it's hard to believe the validity of the stories about Burke. They might be true, but Nocero makes way too many assumptions and crafts way too many personal injustices against someone he comes off very biased for.
It's amazing that this is a New York Times piece. As someone who writes for a blog, who has been called out for lazy, un-journalistic stories - fairly so - it hurts me a little to call someone else out on them, but with greater power comes greater responsibility. If someone had written that story here, in the mostly unregulated realm of sport bloggery, they would be eaten alive. How did an editor not read this and go, 'Woah, three games above thirty points hardly points to a conspiracy.'
We are all about student-athlete's rights. We wish that would be a topic more discussed in the New York Times and everywhere, and there are stories here that could work for that cause, but this article is not one of them. It's an embarrassment and wrong.
Coach Shoop was fired for his performance, point blank. Not because he didn't get along with Burke because Morgan Burke didn't fire Shoop. The Purdue fans, tired of watching his anemic offense week after week, fired Shoop because we were tired of a crappy football program and we demanded blood. Instead of paying 6.7 million for Hazell's head, Burke chose to give us Shoop, and two other coaches. Something that probably would have been nice to mention, but unfortunately that wouldn't fit into the fiction Nocero was trying to write.
We should all applaud Shoop for standing up for student-athlete's rights, and absolutely call Burke out on his insufferable stance against it - if that is his stance - but to make Shoop a martyr is inaccurate and careless. All he is, is a bad football coach.