Saturday, March 05, 2011
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Sports columnist Aaron McFarling: Extra! Extra! SI report flawed

This week's Q&A-Mac is brought to you by huge, screaming headlines: You can run 'em, but they'd better have a huge payoff.

Q: Speaking of which, DO YOU KNOW WHERE YOUR CHILDREN ARE?

A: No idea. Day care, perhaps. Shoot, it's Saturday, so maybe at the casino. I raise my kids the same way Billy Hite always coached running backs at Virginia Tech: I'll teach you the footwork to use when approaching the quarterback, but once the ball hits your paws, it's all up to you, Hoss.

Q: Wonderful. Don't think Hite would endorse such a philosophy with two children under 6. Guess eventually we'll be seeing young Casey McFarling in that "CRIMINAL RECORDS IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL" report that Sports Illustrated ran this week, huh?

A: Yeah, about that report. Let me first say that I love SI. Those guys set the standard for sports journalism. Their reporting and writing is usually brilliant. So when I saw that headline, I thought we were going to get something awesome and ground-breaking, like when that issue hit my mailbox in June of 2002 with a cover that shouted: "STEROIDS IN BASEBALL: CONFESSIONS OF AN MVP."

Q: This wasn't like that?

A: Hardly. At best, the report was confusing and incomplete. At worst, it was misleading. They did an exhaustive search of court records (at least the ones to which they had access; in most cases, this didn't involve juvenile records) and reported that, among other things, about 7 percent of college football players at the top-25 programs have criminal records. Included in this was many misdemeanor charges.

Q: And?

A: That's the thing: There really is no "and." They illustrated how some coaches were unaware that their players had committed violent crimes, which is fine if they'd left it at that. Schools should make every effort to know what their recruits are doing and/or have done, I concur. But the way it was presented made it unclear how much of this was violent crime and/or unbeknownst to the coaches as well as how much of it was committed before the player got to campus as opposed to after.

Q: You're boring me -- particularly with your reckless use of "and/or." Why should I care?

A: Because they ran a chart ranking the schools in the 2010 SI preseason top-25 -- only those schools, not everybody -- by how many players were found to have police records. Tech ranked No. 6, with 13 players charged. People keep asking me what I think of this, so I'm telling you. It means nothing to me given the way it was researched and presented. And if you think I'm soft on Hokie criminals, just google Marcus Vick. I wanted him booted two years before he actually was.

Q: Glad we cleared that up. The Hokies play basketball at Clemson this afternoon. Do they have to win this game to make the NCAA tournament?

A: Lively discussion about this on the blog. A lot of people think they do. Originally, I argued that the Hokies needed to win one of their next two games -- either today's or the first-round game in the ACC Tournament -- but the more you look at it, the more you can see the skeptics' point. The first-round tourney game after a loss today likely would be against Wake Forest, Georgia Tech or N.C. State. No huge bump to the resume by winning one of those. Need more. So a win today OR two wins in the tourney is where I'm going.

Q: Who wins tonight's Duke-Carolina matchup and claims the regular-season ACC title?

A: I'll take the Tar Heels in a tight one. They've won six in a row, and Duke isn't the same team when it strays from Cameron Indoor. Still great, but not the same. By the way, it's a real plus for the ACC that Carolina has rallied, especially when it comes to selling conference tournament tickets next week in Greensboro, N.C. With Wake (the closest school to Greensboro) and N.C. State struggling, it sure does help to have these two powers on separate sides of the bracket.

Q: Who takes the checkered flag in Sunday's Sprint Cup race in Vegas?

A: This is where I normally say Jeff Gordon, but thanks to him getting off the schneid last week, let's put our money on Kyle Busch.

Q: And the headline if he wins?

A: "BUSCH TAKES VEGAS."

Q: That's it?

A: Well, that's not the big Vegas story. The big one is this: "5-YEAR-OLD RUNAWAY ARRESTED AFTER COUNTING CARDS AT HARRAH'S, BLAMES BILLY HITE."

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