Last week, 24 hours before Clemson's football team was ranked No. 1 in the country for the first time in the college's history, its president, Bob L. Atchley, attacked ABC-TV and the media in general.
Nov. 28, after a three-week delay, ABC aired a piece about the ongoing NCAA investigation into the Clemson football program. Originally, the network had planned to broadcast the story Nov. 7, the day the Tigers played North Carolina in a regionally televised game.
But the day before the game, Clemson Athletic Director Bill McClellan and Coach Danny Ford refused to go on camera to respond to charges made by two 1980 Clemson recruits, James Cofer and Terry Minor. The two players told ABC's Jim Lampley that Clemson had given them cash "Christmas presents" in return for signing letters-of-intent.
After McClellan and Ford refused to cooperate, ABC decided to hold the story until it could talk to more people. The night before the Clemson-Carolina game, McClellan told ABC officials that if the network had gone ahead with the story Clemson would not have played the game.
When the report finally aired, two things happened: first, the Orange Bowl committee attacked ABC, charging that the network, which will televise the Sugar Bowl, aired the report to hurt NBC's Orange Bowl ratings.
Considering that ABC planned the story long before any bowl bids went out, that charge makes no sense.
Then, speaking for the university, Atchley said that ABC was trying to influence the rankings and added, "It seems that ABC and the media are taking it upon themselves to find out what is going on."
But how could airing the story affect the rankings? Remember, Oklahama was the Associated Press' No. 1 team in 1974 when it was on probation the entire season.
Lampley, the reporter on the story, said that his office received more than 200 calls from outraged Clemson fans on Monday.
Some people believe that, along with scrutinizing the media in this affair, Clemson supporters might want to have a closer look at those who run the school and its athletic department, and question their roles in the institution's latest controversy.