Oklahoma's 'Deep Throat'
It's safe to say most Oklahoma fans were shocked last week to find out quarterback Rhett Bomar had been part of a payroll scam at a local car dealership. It turns out some Texas A&M fans first heard about Bomar's transgression way back in January -- only at the time, they didnít believe it.
At 1:30 in the morning on Jan. 30, a fan using the Internet screen name of "aggiegrant06" posted a cryptic message on the popular fan site TexasAgs.com entitled "Is it legal???????" In it, he vaguely described how his girlfriend handled payroll checks at a "large dealership where we live" and "didn't recognize several of the names." He went on to say, "The checks were made out to football players of the local university, and even though they had never actually been to work there, they were receiving HUGE!!!! pay checks."
Unfortunately, aggiegrant's post was met with what can best be described as belligerent skepticism. "Dude, go away," wrote one person. "You and your thread are completely stupid," wrote another. Perturbed by the reaction, he went on to specify that "The School is OU, and the specific player is Bomar." After a few more cynical comments, the post was removed by administrators less than two hours after it originated. "We're pretty conservative when it comes to rumors that show up on the site," said Brandon Jones, owner of Texas Ags.com, who employs 20 volunteer "moderators" to monitor the site's 10,000 daily message-board posts. "Anytime you see an accusation like that show up on a bulletin board it almost seems too good to be true, so the natural reaction is this guy is making this up."
Apparently, he wasn't. Jones said when news of Bomar's dismissal broke last Wednesday, one of his moderators said it sounded familiar. After searching and locating the deleted post, they re-published it, quickly turning "aggiegrant" into a message-board legend. Fans have written more than 1,000 replies hailing him as a hero and apologizing for the initial harsh treatment. Besides a brief, gloating post the day the news broke, aggiegrant has stayed out of the fray. Jones said he's spoken with the source but that he wishes to remain anonymous, and understandably so, for fear of repercussions in Norman.
The story is just the latest example of just how powerful a role fan message boards play in college football. These sites have literally turned anyone with a screen name into a potential reporter -- albeit anonymously and with no accountability. From Peter Warrick's 1999 Dillard's spree to the 2003 Alabama coaching scandal, countless major stories have first broken on message boards. Unfortunately, they're often buried amongst other more reckless, unsubstantiated rumors. "This was the 1 in 20 that turns out to be true," said Jones.
But I'm also left wondering, as I'm sure many of you are, how it is that some random Texas A&M fan could have known about Bomar's arrangement more than six months ago, yet Oklahoma officials claimed to be unaware until recently. An Oklahoma spokesman said Monday that the school couldn't comment on details of the investigation -- such as when it started and what tipped it off -- due to the NCAA's involvement. Kenny Mossman, OU's sports information director, said he was unaware of the message-board post. "If people have information like that, it'd be a lot more helpful if they came forward with it rather than burying it on a message board."
No one's suggesting that OU's compliance office should have been monitoring a rival school's message board at 1:30 in the morning, but you've got to think in a town like Norman that rumors were probably out there in other forms as far back as January. As for Bomar himself, I said last week that he had to be pretty stupid to think he could get away with such a thing. In college football's Internet fishbowl, you never know who's watching you.