Newsweek has a story about how Southern Cal was duped into promoting what turned out to be a thoroughly fictitious account of how Josh Shaw injured his ankles. Basically, it boils down to the fact that Shaw was meticulous in weaving his deceitful tale, staying on script through numerous interviews and enlisting family members to corroborate his story. From Newsweek:
For every question USC officials asked, Shaw had what appeared to be a credible answer. Moreover, his story never changed. The fifth-year senior cornerback had already related this tale to teammates, coaches and training staff. Now, on Monday, he was sitting five feet across from head coach Steve Sarkisian, or athletic director Pat Haden, or senior associate athletic director J.K. Mckay, looking directly into their eyes, and repeating the story.
This has to be the most eye-opening detail from the report:
USC issued a press release on its athletic website at 3:30 p.m. local time on Monday. Not long after, someone called to question the veracity of the report: Josh Shaw. In the story, since expunged from USC’s site, Shaw is described as landing on the pool deck and then crawling to the pool. Shaw phoned to say that such phrasing was melodramatic, that he had not crawled to the pool, suggesting that the phrase “made his way to the pool” be used instead.
Now that, folks, is dedication to the lie. It’s no wonder that, despite having some initial reservations about Shaw’s story (or so they say now), school officials eventually bought it hook, line and — especially from a PR standpoint — sinker.