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CBS’ Doyel has the guts to step back from the controversy trap

by - Published December 20, 2011 in Full Court Sprints

Good journalism isn’t easy.

That’s especially true when a juicy story comes along that’s sure to rile up the masses, generating lots of readers and charged opinions. Those stories force editors and reporters to make critical decisions about the validity of sources and effort required to seek comment from an opposing side.

In the emerging brouhaha about the transfer of Todd O’Brien from Saint Joseph’s to UAB, we have an awful lot of information spewing from the O’Brien side and almost nothing from the Hawks’ side.

If you missed the background, Sports Illustrated’s website ran a lengthy column by O’Brien, who outlined his journey through college basketball, which has landed him at UAB as a graduated senior with one remaining year of eligibility. However, before O’Brien can play for the Blazers, Saint Joseph’s must grant him a full release from his scholarship. And supposedly coach Phil Martelli refuses to do so. Without that release, O’Brien won’t play college hoops again.

Frankly, it’s hard to imagine a legitimate reason for not letting a guy play, especially for a team in a different conference and not on the Hawks’ schedule. But that’s not the point.

As the media outcry has sided with O’Brien — who is seeking legal recourse to force his way onto the court — only a handful of commentators have taken a measured approach to this story. So I tip my hat to CBS Sports’ Gregg Doyel, a man with plenty of strong opinions, for leaping into the fray waiving a gigantic caution flag.

While everyone is crying foul, Doyel cried, “Wait!” He rightfully observed that Saint Joseph’s is remaining mum because they are respecting student-athletes’ privacy. The bottom line is we don’t know the Saint Joseph’s side of the story, and we might not for some time. So it’s presumptuous at best and flat-out wrong at worst to side with the supposed victim in this story.

Of course, it’s far less engaging to remain on the fence when others are going all in and calling for Martelli’s ouster. That bloodlust is unhealthy and not reflective of this country’s innocent-until-PROVEN-guilty judicial system. If mob rule dictated justice, we’d have a lot of major mistakes to apologize for whenever we learned the truth — if we ever learned the truth.

A good journalist’s duty is to present clear, accurate and precise information. Commentators who espouse opinions based on incomplete information aren’t doing anyone any good. As unsexy as it may be, we all need to follow Doyel’s lead and wait and see. Let the established rules play out in the NCAA, and if the courts get involved, let the state and local laws as interpreted by the courts decide the matter.

But there’s no need to call for Martelli’s head on a platter until there’s substantiated evidence that he acted like a callous, vindictive control freak.

We go coast to coast with news from around the college basketball nation.

Kentucky had no problems getting past Samford, 82-50, even without Terrence Jones, who missed the game to recuperate from a dislocated pinky, writes the Associated Press’ Colin Fly.

California will be without one its big men this week as sophomore Richard Solomon recovers from a left foot injury, writes Diamond Leung for ESPN.com’s “College Basketball Nation” blog. The sophomore forward is one of the team’s best rebounders, averaging 6.9 rpg, and he’ll miss at least the team’s games against UNLV Dec. 23.

Miami will get back DeQuan Jones, who figured to play a bigger role for the Hurricanes this season — if for no other reason than he’s one of the bigger players on the teams. Jones missed the first month and a half of the season because the school suspended him for the season while the NCAA investigated his possible involvement in the recruiting scandal that has rocked the university. However, according to an Associated Press report, the Hurricanes have reversed that decision, and Jones could be back in the lineup as early as this week.

Some tech-savvy pranksters punked Oregon’s website Sunday night and Monday morning, writes the Washington Post’s Steve Yanda, and the hackers posted some disparaging comments about Virginia that were attributed to Oregon coach Dana Altman. The Ducks lost to the Cavaliers 67-54, and the hacker made up comments ranging from Mike Scott’s hair to the Ducks’ pregame meal. Oregon apologized to the Cavaliers for the malfeasance.

New Mexico State is bringing suspended guard Christian Kabongo back into the fold after the sophomore had been suspended for two games for making obscene gestures in a game against UTEP, writes ESPN.com’s Diamond Leung for the “College Basketball Nation” blog.

NCAA Division I programs couldn’t get enough support to overturn a rule that bans universities from hosting high school prep tournaments, according to an Associated Press report.

Houston boosters might have lost as much as 40 percent of their investments in the David Salinas Ponzi scheme affair, according to the Associated Press. Salinas committed suicide last year, a few weeks before the Securities and Exchange Commission filed a lawsuit that detailed the deceptive investments and behavior that swindled a bunch of Division I programs and coaches.

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