When honesty doesn't pay

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No sooner had it been announced that I was going to appear on a Champaign radio station than a friend informed me that D.C. Dude had posted a question on Illiniboard.com: "Who will be the first to ask Mr. Notre Dame about his love for the Irish," he asked.

I never respond to anyone unless I hear real names. The anonymity of the Internet has made belligerent people out of milquetoast people. If D.C. Dude gives me his real name and phone number, I'd be glad to have a conversation with him.

I do chat shows all the time, maybe 15-20 a year. I used to do 40-60 a year but now I'm on the road so much and doing my television show in New York. Most chat shows are national, not regional, and usually the callers are polite and want to know where their local kids are going or where their favorite schools are going to rank in recruiting.

On the Champaign show, almost all of the questions were intelligent. One guy asked about Notre Dame, saying something like "Lemming's on the take" and "Why doesn't he just work for Notre Dame?" My reply was that under Mackovic, Tepper and Turner, I was close to the Illinois staff and was considered a friend of the program at that time.

However, once the Zook regime took over, there was one assistant coach who while he was working somewhere else, we never got along and he has made the transition from Turner to Zook impossible for me. Zook spoke at my banquet in his first year. We haven't talked since.

But that isn't usual for this business.

The same thing happened at Notre Dame when Davie and Willingham were there, almost 10 years. One guy on each staff, the same guy, said I was anti-Notre Dame and they shouldn't talk to me. But I had a great relationship with Holtz and Cerrato.

The relationship with Notre Dame got so bad a few years ago that NBC, which carries Notre Dame football games, said they were thinking of dropping me from the U.S. Army All-American Bowl telecast because I was supposed to be anti-Notre Dame. But they never went through with it.

Like all fans, they don't want to her the truth if it concerns their school and it isn't what they want to hear. I tell the truth. I tell the truth about recruiting, who they are getting and aren't getting. And I rank players. Rankings of players and teams get people upset. If I don't rank them high enough, I am anti-Illinois or anti-Notre Dame. Ironically, I have ranked the last three Zook classes higher than Rivals.

I've been accused of being anti-Illinois and anti-Notre Dame and anti-Michigan by Michigan State coaches. Gary Barnett said I was tied into Nebraska because I went to school with then Nebraska coach Bill Callahan. But I went to Reavis, Callahan went to Mendel. I never went to college. I never knew Callahan until he was an assistant at Illinois under Mike White.

Long ago, I came to realize that this is part of the business. No one hates me who knows me. I am not a saint. But most fans haven't met me. I try to be honest. I tell the truth. That's the most important thing in this business. I can't worry if I say something that upsets somebody. Maybe they should try to walk in my shoes and see if they could do it any better.

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Dear Mr. Lemming:

I liked your column on "When Honesty Doesn't Pay". Honesty pays no matter what the consequences are. That is something that both many coaches and many young athletes need to learn and do.

Sincerely,

J. Wilson

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This page contains a single entry by Second Season published on January 14, 2009 4:17 PM.

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