This stranger-than-fiction Wake Forest University football story – “Wakey Leaks” as it is called – has astonished the college football world, including our part of it here in Mississippi.
For the uninformed: Wake Forest radio analyst Tommy Elrod has been fired after revelations he provided inside information to Wake Forest opponents to help the foes prepare for the Demon Deacons. Elrod, who formerly played and coached at Wake Forest, began working as a radio analyst in 2014 after he was not retained on the coaching staff of current Wake coach Dave Clawson.
The story hits home in Mississippi where former Ole Miss star defensive back Harry Harrison, former Mississippi State quarterback Matt Wyatt and former Southern Miss quarterback Lee Roberts handle the radio analyst duties at their respective universities.
An aside: When someone asked me, I laughed out loud at the very possibility that Wyatt, Harrison or Roberts would betray their alma maters in such a manner. All are intensely loyal.
That said, don’t you imagine the folks at Wake Forest felt similarly about Elrod, who not only played for the Deacons, but also served as a grad assistant there before joining the full-time staff?
As Wyatt put it: “For someone who has played the game and who has coached the game at his alma mater to have done this … For someone who as been a part of it and knows all the hard work, blood, sweat and tears that go into it, for someone who knows the knees that have been torn up and the concussions that have been endured, bones that have been broken, for someone that knows all that and still betrayed his own school, it’s just unfathomable to me. I cannot even imagine it. There has to be a complete absence of conscience at work there.”
Harrison agreed. “It just boils down to loyalty and integrity,” he said. “It’s a sad state of affairs, hard to imagine really.”
Roberts: “It’s crazy to even think about. We’re family here at USM. Our coaches treat us like family. We sit down and meet with both coordinators the week of the game. We know the plan, but there’s just no way. Could I help an opponent? Yes. Would I? Of course not.”
Depending on an analyst’s access to practices and coaches, there are many ways the announcer can help an upcoming foe.
Wyatt: “For one, you can’t underestimate how important it could be to deliver personnel information to an opponent. For instance, if I talked to Dan (Mullen) or an assistant on Monday and they tell me we are going to have a key starter out on offense or defense, and then that gets into the hands of an opponents with four days to plan for it, that’s an incredible asset for the opponent. There’s a reason why coaches try to keep injuries like that secret.”
No doubt. If a particularly skilled Bulldog cornerback was either injured or suspended for a game, and the opponent learned on Monday, surely it would alter the game plan. Same would be true with a key offensive tackle or wide receiver.
“That kind of knowledge is like gold,” Wyatt said.
And here’s another scenario. Let’s say Hugh Freeze puts in a Hugh Freeze special, a trick play the week of a big game against LSU: a double pass where the quarterback throws to a wide receiver behind the line of scrimmage, who in turn throws to another receiver down field. You’ve seen it, Rebel fans.
Harrison watches it work over and over in practice and mentions it to a friend on the LSU coaching staff.
Think that wouldn’t help LSU?
“Of course it would,” Harrison said. “But it would never happen. My loyalty is very, very deep to Ole Miss.”
Wyatt brings up another point, one that I don’t feel like is being talked about enough. It takes two to play this game. Elrod’s information wouldn’t have done anyone any good, unless someone accepted it. Louisville, we know for certain, did.
That’s what made Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich’s statement so laughable. Did you see it?
“Among the communication were a few plays that were sent and then shared with our defensive staff,” Jurich said in the statement. “None of the special plays were run during the course of the game. Our defense regularly prepares for similar formations every week in their normal game plan.
“Any other information that may have been discussed was nothing that our staff had not already seen while studying Wake Forest in their preparations for the game and the material was not given any further attention. I’m disappointed that this issue has brought undue attention to our football staff as we prepare for our upcoming bowl game.”
Louisville, the victim? Come on …
That’s the only thing remotely funny about all this.