25 August 2008
Julio? You know what, I actually ran into Julio in the spring recruiting. I said hello to him and said, ‘I guess I’ll be seeing you at the end of August.’ Then he got out and got in his Escalade and drove off. That’s (being) serious. And then I went over and watched (Alabama freshman) Burton Scott at Vigor High School at the track over there, and Burton Scott was running around. He went and got in his Escalade out at track practice and drove off. So I’m familiar with those two guys.UPDATE: Koenning made an effort to clear the air (may be subscription content) this morning, but in this writer's opinion was unsuccessful. (Scroll to bottom for full update) Libel? Pretty close at least. In a conversation with half a dozen reporters, the Clemson coach accused two 18-year-old kids of participating in a fraudulent conspiracy with the University of Alabama. At best he gets the public figure defense. Libelous or not, it's pretty irresponsible for this guy to blow his patootie off in front of that crowd. If he's got the goods on somebody or something, he should lay his cards on the table. If he doesn't, he should shut his frickin' trap. Nor is Koenning rescued by his running down one of the reporters a few minutes later to say he was "kinda kidding." Is that like kinda pregnant, or kinda dead? How bout you kinda publicly apologize, and if you don't, how bout if Clemson kinda fires you? For the record, my money says he knows nothing and is just running his lip. I don't know about Julio's ride, but I do know that B.J. has been seen around town behind the wheel of a very non-Escaladesque vehicle. UPDATE A "visibly distraught" Koenning tried to downplay his comments this afternoon in a meeting with reporters, but fell short of taking full responsibility for his words, claiming that his words were "taken out of context." Koenning said he had already spoken with former Clemson, and now Alabama running backs coach Burton Burns, who expressed understanding, and with one of the players' former high school coaches, who "couldn't figure out why I would say something like that." "That's unfortunate. I feel bad for those young men," he said. "That's not fair to those two guys." "Asked if he had received any heat from Clemson's office of compliance or Athletics Director Terry Don Phillips for his remarks, Koenning replied, `Not that I know of.'" Later, in his response to a question about whether he was surprised about the response to his comments, Koenning replied, "Not knowing the way people are, especially in the state of Alabama… it was just a bad judgment on my part. I have to be careful now. Even if you say things in a joking manner, it can be misconstrued." Koenning implied that the episode had made him lose trust in the media: "It definitely damages relationships. That's too bad. You build up a trust and candidness." "We talk about trust on defense. We talk about always telling the truth. If you tell the truth, most of the time it'll be the right way to go." Clemson Head Coach Tommy Bowden also tried to downplay the incident. "It's such a surprise a big thing was made of it," Bowden said. "The guy made an off the cuff comment. I know they're looking for things to write about and talk about on the Internet." My take: Coach Koenning, you did yourself no favors by blaming the media or by referring to your earlier remarks as "telling the truth." And there was certainly no call for you to take another poke at "the way people are, especially in the state of Alabama." You said what you said, you said it to half a dozen reporters with their tape recorders whirring, and you've been around the major college football block often enough to know full well what that meant. Further, you made no indication whatsoever at the time that it was a joke. It's not the media's fault, and it's not the fault of all those weirdos in Alabama. Man up, take full responsibility, and apologize. Then we'll all be happy enough to move on. UPDATE 2 From al.com:
Meanwhile in Mobile, Vigor coach Kerry Stevenson was not amused, telling Press-Register columnist Mike Herndon that Koenning "better not come back on this campus." Koenning's visit to Vigor, Stevenson said, occurred around the time of the school's prom, and Scott had rented a sport-utility vehicle -- Stevenson said he believed it was a GMC Envoy -- to take to the dance. Stevenson said Scott's car, a 1980s-model Cutlass, got stolen during a visit to Birmingham since he's reported to Tuscaloosa. "That's defamation of character," Stevenson said. "He just outright lied."At this point, you've got to think Koenning has cause to be concerned about his future employment, even as to what his prospects might be beyond Clemson. College coaching can be a tough row to hoe. But you just can't allow guys to use the media spotlight to go blowing crap all over young kids like Jones and Scott and showering falsehoods over an important state institution like the University. Am I sympathetic if he loses his job and has his career affected by a mistake of the moment? Sure I am. But that doesn't matter. This is just one of those places where you have to stop, and you have to draw a line.
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