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We'd love to have some excuse to really, really slam Tom Lemming for being Tom Lemming. He makes his life from watching high school football and hanging around guys who, in his high school days, likely would have poached the waistbands off his skivvies on a daily basis. We bet that for access to a blue-chipper Lemming would likely let a prospect do that to him today.

But reading the transcript of recruit Myron Rolle's testimony to the Knight Commission, we can't say that what Lemming did in THIS instance sounds all that scurrilous:

"He told me if I kept Notre Dame in mind, the NBC (TV) guy would interview me and they would showcase me during the game. He told me I'd have a higher chance of being MVP. I took it as having less of a chance of getting MVP if I didn't keep Notre Dame on my list."

True dat--NBC's the network that owns the ND television contract, and it goes to absurd lengths to sell the brand. ("Check out the special episode of Joey tonight where that hot chick from the Sopranos gets a crush on her babyfaced neighbor--Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn!!!") This makes enough sense on its own, and would signal that Lemming, though overstepping his bounds as a mere "analyst," was at least talking some cynical sense into recruits attempting to spin the process their way.

But Lemming refuses to be smart and instead categorically denies the whole conversation, turning the analysis into a kind of bullshit scoreboard: recruits (Myron Rolle, Lorenzo Booker) 2, Lemming 1. It's a game he can't win, and Lemming's descent from national prominence and a one-time ESPN gig will likely accelerate as a result. We'll pause as you wipe the tears from your bleary eyes.

Lemming: running off a cliff of dumb.

What has become undeniably clear here: Lemming may or may not be a Notre Dame shill, but he sure as hell is anti-FSU. Perhaps they denied him a spot at the buffet, or very possibly Lemming has a conscience and wants to warn recruits away from the Crayola playbook of Jeff Bowden. Either way he retains a sort of plausible deniability, since FSU has taken several high profile offensive talents over the Jeff Bowden reign and turned them into draft day turnips, a difficulty reflected in this year's recruiting. Would any sane recruiting analyst, pressed to advise a young man on his choices, declare them to be a good choice for an offensive player looking to make the NFL? And would any ethical recruiting analyst cross that line? Of course not, which is why "Tom Lemming" and "ethical" don't appear in the same sentence without irony or a prominent "NOT" in front of the adjective.

Addendum: we typed that first bit quickly, so we naturally forgot some salient points here (we swear we have a few.) First, fault on Lemming for being so cynical about scholarship offers.

We're as jaded as we can be, but there's a degree of contractuality to the process that shouldn't be erased by strategizing about exposure. We're still talking about money and large amounts of it, particularly in the case of a private school like Notre Dame. The dollar amounts floating in a VHT's head dreaming of NFL money obscure the immediate gains of a scholarship offer, but given cold numbers, the scholarship and offer of free, quality education is the only given they're granted.

And what did FSU do to piss him off, if he's not so much of a Notre Dame homer and more of an FSU hater? It can't be the lax academics, since we see Lemming here allegedly encouraging a recruit to pay lip service to Notre Dame to get exposure on television. If this helped you academically, we'd have happily streaked a Devil Rays game or two in our senior year to get into colleges, but we suspect football exposure is what we're talking about here. We posit that it's a very human blend of partiality to other schools, a distaste for the lack of offensive star production recently in Leon County's premier football program, and cussedness when recruits make up their own minds despite Lemming's warnings against attending FSU.

And finally: we'll never type this many words about Tom Lemming again. If he's pissed off ESPN and now USA Today, we can relegate him to virtual Adrian Karsten-land for eternity.
Tom Emanski and his drilling Nazi baseball midgets will have a higher profile than him in ten years, and for all we know Emanski's been sitting in a Cambodian jungle lair for ten years, eating fruit on a sandalwood divan and talking about being "a slug on the edge of a razor blade." If there's any balance in this world, we'll be talking about that kind of obscurity for Lemming. He richly deserves it.