CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- I was watching a quiz show Wednesday night. It claimed the first text message was sent in 1971.It made me revisit a question I've had for many years: When would social media lead to an explosion of NCAA violations charges?Perhaps the answer is now, today, this week.As folks in the Mountain State know all too well, WVU associate head coach Joe DeForest is a main character in the five-part Sports Illustrated report on alleged misdeeds within the Oklahoma State football program. DeForest was there for over a decade. More on him is expected out today.
Then on Wednesday, Yahoo Sports reported a current and four former Southeastern Conference players received impermissible benefits.Don't look for such reports to stop bubbling up. This might just be heating up.It's simply easy these days for athletes, fans and those surrounding teams to shine light on infractions.Take a few steps back to the Johnny Manziel autograph signing story. Pictures of him signing photos in a hotel room popped up on the Internet. Before that, pictures of him partying at Texas went viral.
Almost everyone has a camera phone. Almost everyone can text and email. Almost everyone has Facebook and Twitter accounts. Disgruntled athletes have easy access to revenge. Fans of schools can rat out their rivals' wrongdoing.I only wonder why the explosion took so long to get here. It's surprising, really.It would be naive to believe the charges in regard to OSU - payments, sham jobs, bonuses, drugs, sex in recruiting - are limited to Stillwater. In my 30 years of covering sports I've heard stories and charges of all - with the exception of bonuses - from many. A few were exposed. For the most part, though, those making charges wouldn't publicly step forward.Now, though, a disgruntled player can simply snap a picture of a check and post it for the world to see. Text messages were key in the Yahoo report that says former Alabama defensive lineman Luther Davis was a go-between between players and agents.Ex-Crimson Tide player D.J. Fluker - a central figure in the Yahoo report - once had this show up on his Twitter account: "Yea I took $ n college so wat. I did wat i had to do. Agents was tryin to pimp me so I pimped them. Cast da first stone." The message was quickly deleted and Fluker's agent claimed his account was hacked.
Hacked - or perhaps buzzed - players, though, have instant access to the world. So expect more and more charges.Maybe it's for the best. Maybe it's for the worst. The hope from here is social media - and players' access to it - will scare athletic programs straight. There will always be the $100 handshake and wink - it's silly to think that will ever go away - but perhaps coaches, administrators and donors will now see how easy it is for cheaters to be exposed. Maybe some illicit activity will dry up. Maybe it's led to legislation proposed to paying players a stipend.
On the other hand, we could be in for a flood of stretched charges from athletes, parents, etc. The Sports Illustrated series has received criticism from ex-OSU players and others, but it seems to have been vetted. Ex-OSU quarterback Aso Pogi, for one, said his comments were taken out of context. But the writers claimed to have interviewed 64 football players and staffers. The editors and magazine lawyers are standing behind the series.Claims not vetted, however, will surely fly in this day and age.Let's just hope the positive of this day and age, and the social media available, will outweigh the negative.Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/MitchVingle.