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Sports Illustrated takes aim at Penn State, misses badly

It's no wonder why some people think the likes of ESPN or Sports Illustrated have an agenda when it comes to certain stories. Whether it's taking down Syracuse (ESPN) or Penn State (both) there has been a perceived bias. Well, yesterday SI hinted a blockbuster, scathing report that would break things wide open in State College, PA. 

Too bad when the actual article came out on Wednesday morning all it actually did was confirm everyone's suspicions that SI has it out for Penn State. Harsh words, we know, but it's also the honest truth. 

SI decided to run a hit piece on AD Dave Joyner and football head coach Bill O'Brien,  but did so by forgetting to do something most should be learning in Journalism 101 across America – sticking to the facts. 

Instead, the piece SI put out on the article itself decided to omit THE TRUTH from the story nearly entirely and relied on conjecture and anonymous sourcing to try and piece together some grand conspiracy that Joyner, O'Brien, and PSU are putting players safety at risk all in the name of settling some score for Joyner and cutting budget costs. 

Here are the words from the report via SI.com directly as to what's being alleged: 

A number of former players and members of the Penn State football family told SI they are dismayed that Wayne Sebastianelli has been relieved of his duties as the longtime director of athletic medicine and orthopedic surgeon-head physician for the football team.

The problem with that assertion? It isn't true and the SI article never bothered to report it. PSU had to actually issue a statement directly contradicting what SI's reporting said. 

"Contrary to the reporter's assertions, Dr. Sebastianelli remains the doctor in charge of the University's entire medical program for intercollegiate athletics, including football. Further, there has been no change in the support provided by State College-based Penn State orthopedic surgeons, including Dr. Sebastianelli."

Oops.

Either the reporter/staff was completely incompetent (never bothering to do a simple fact check on Dr. Sebastianelli's status) or he had an agenda and a score he'd like to settle for SI as a whole. No matter which one it is it's not good for Epstein or for SI – a once respected place for real journalism.

Oh, and not to mention that PSU has released every statement anyone from PSU gave to SI for the story they did and you can read it here in full.

However, one of the curious aims of this article was to somehow insinuate that head coach Bill O'Brien was behind these changes and did so for nefarious reasons, putting the kids in danger. Not exactly how it comes out when you read what O'Brien himself said to SI – something the article posted on SI.com never really takes seriously.

"When I was hired as the Head Football Coach at Penn State, I was asked to observe areas of the football program and then make recommendations. After observing our medical organization in the football program for a full year, I recommended that it would be in the best interests of our program, and most importantly our student-athletes, to make a change in the team physicians. Dr. Lynch and Dr. Seidenberg were identified as excellent doctors who could serve in this role. Dr. Seidenberg will attend our practices and Dr. Lynch will be here on game day. From a coverage standpoint, we have exactly the same level of medical care as we had previously. The same surgeons as last year are available to players who would need that level of attention. Nothing about our level or quality of athlete care has changed. These young men mean a great deal to me and our staff. They give their all to Penn State. I will always recommend what I feel is best for our student-athletes in every area of the football program."

So, basically Epstein and SI are taking a giant pissing match over who should be the team physician – some supporting the 20 year vet and some supporting the new way things are being done – and alleging that PSU is putting it's players in harms way. Call that a stretch much?

Not a single fact backs up what Epstein is alleging in his reporting. Perhaps the only thing he got right was that Sebastianelli and Joyner don't like each other and that hardly rises to groundbreaking journalism or putting the health and safety of PSU players at risk.

Sorry, SI, none of your allegations add up to a hill of beans (and this is coming from a guy who isn't exactly loved by some in the PSU community). Nice try, but next time maybe try sticking to these pesky things called facts when you send reporters out to do hit pieces? This report was a simple disgrace to any level of journalism – I know plenty of bloggers who wouldn't even print this garbage and yet SI stands as some sort of respected home of journalism?

Perhaps the transparency and internal changes need to be happening at the home of SI and not so much in State College? Just a thought.

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Andrew Coppens

About Andrew Coppens

Andy is a member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA). He is the Managing Editor of MadTownBadger and associate editor of Bloguin's World Cup site, 32flags.com as well as Publisher of Big Ten site talking10.com

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