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Maisel's Marvin Austin Quote: A Cautionary Tale [UPDATED]

See update at the end of the post.

ESPN senior college football writer Ivan Maisel set off a brief firestorm among Tar Heel nation when it was widely reported yesterday that he expects "good news for North Carolina on Marvin Austin". As the story grew, some were even saying that Maisel said Austin was "in the clear", which in turn grew to some message board fodder that Austin would, in fact, be cleared.

There's only one problem. That's not what Maisel said, or at least what he meant. In fact, he means quite the opposite. He does not expect good news for Carolina regarding Austin. He later tweeted the following clarification:

Hold on, Heels. Re Austin, I tried to say on ESPN Radio I don't expect good news for UNC before season. Maybe I swallowed the word 'don't'.

And therein lies the teachable moment regarding this entire NCAA saga. No one outside of the players involved and the NCAA (including our man on the inside, Marcus Wilson) really know what's going on. At best, Maisel is offering his opinion, and the mangling of just one word has seismic repercussions.

Much has been made, and rightfully so, of the frequent lightweight treatment this story has been given by the traditional media. But the traditional media is bound by standards of attribution and proof that bloggers and even ESPN senior writers on the radio are not.

In addition, there is so much confusion on this story and things coming from so many different angles that it has been hard to go to press with anything definitive. Ken Tysiac of the ChaRaleigh Observer & Observer made a comment in a recent online chat that because many of the paper's traditional reliable sources have been in contradiction, it has been difficult to print anything with any certainty.

In the end, the attitude adopted by Butch Davis and his staff seems to be the right one: at some point a decision will be made about Austin and Little but until then we just prepare to play football. It's pointless to fuel speculation one way or the other, and we're not ones for trolling message boards looking for hidden meaning from Larry in Lillington's post (and he must be right because he has 82,647 posts!). The teachable moment here is that even big time sports writers can get it twisted, so just wait it out and see what comes.

UPDATE: It seems people have spent the morning analyzing the Maisel audio like the Zapruder film. Apparently Maisel spoke awkwardly and people are trying to parse his syntax for the hidden meaning. Audio is here, you can decide for yourself.

As for what it all means, the answer is, absolutely nothing. Again, Maisel is stating an opinion (badly, it seems) and nothing more. If he had it nailed down, he would have written a story and it would be posted on the front page of and not a throwaway comment on a Sunday afternoon radio show.