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Pete Thamel and Thayer Evans of the New York Times pen a piece on Illinois' recruiting successes rehashing much of what everyone else is goggling about in regards to Illini recruiting; namely, open speculation about how a football Hades like Champaign-Urbana has managed to outfight major powers for some of the nation's top recruits. On first glance, it's mostly old hat, save the superb John L. "Slappy" Smith quote:

"If they had a winning program and all of that, it would be a different deal. If they had the greatest facilities in the world, then maybe they could sell them. But what are they selling?"

He added: "Where there’s smoke, there’s probably fire."

SLAP! The new wrinkle in the piece, though, is an odd bit of indirect accusation Ron Guenther makes against a major university competing head-to-head with Illinois in recruiting that's "not in the Big Ten. According to Guenther, this university leaked accusations about the Illini through "a web site," accusations Guenther addressed thusly:

"I take this stuff so seriously," he said. "I have an interest in the coach’s and the program’s reputation. It’s defamation of character, and it’s got to be challenged."

Illinois' gone as far as hiring an outside law firm to pursue the source of the rumors and the identities of the "leakers." Clenching our teeth around our pipe, relaxing with a copy of Four Quartets, and channeling the spirit of James Jesus Angleton as best we can, we triangulate the intelligence leak given what we know:

--Not a Big Ten university
--Competing head-to-head with Illinois.
--Big enough web presence to make a splash via rumors
--Motivated through Illinois winning potential recruits over

This all points to one place only: Notre Dame. Thank you, thank you. Well be in the study, trying to correctly identify the fifth man and enjoying a nice cognac.

***UPDATE*** The Washington Post has their own slice of pie: messages Benn received from former Notre Dame qbs coach Peter Vaas via text and voicemail. They're not defamatory or surprising, but they're another peek into the maelstrom of recruiting. A few choice ones:

Once Benn orally committed to Illinois, Notre Dame assistant Peter Vaas continued to pepper Benn with text messages and voice mails, some of which Benn provided to The Post:

"FYI, ILL is telling Robert Hughes that they will build their offense around him? Didn't they tell you that?

Coach Vaas," Vaas wrote Benn on Dec. 17.

Earlier that month, Vaas left this voice message on Benn's phone: "You don't want to do anything except bury your head in the sand. . . . I guess you're not tough enough to compete at the big level."

Vaas, who was let go as quarterbacks coach by the Irish after their 44-14 loss to LSU in the Sugar Bowl, did not deny leaving the messages.