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DE Recruit Casualty of Lazy Journalism

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By Jim Weber

By now you’ve certainly heard about South Carolina defensive end recruit Arden Key, who cited poor academics as part of the reason he decided to play in Columbia, as the story has gone viral on the internet.

Too bad it never happened.

It all started when the website Palmetto Sports posted a story on Sunday about why the rising junior committed to South Carolina. It read in part:

Key visited USC Friday and learned a a lot about the university and the football program. “The academic part, it’s like you have to try to fail,” Key said. “I love the coaches. They are always ready for something. And it isn’t far from home. It gives you a different environment. It’s in the city, but it’s also in the country.”

The quote itself is quite unflattering and gives off the impression that Key picked South Carolina so he could coast through classes. But if you read the 247Sports story in which Key was interviewed separately, Key said it slightly differently:

“It has a great vibe,” he said. “There wasn’t really anybody there, but you could tell when people are there what it would be like. It’s kind of a mixture of the city and the country. The academic part, they make it easy. In order to do bad at South Carolina, you’ve got to try to fail.”

“They make it easy” quite clearly means that the football program makes academics easy with all the tutors, study groups and other resources they have at their disposal for student athletes. I don’t know if Key added that caveat in the quote to Palmetto Sports, but the writer should have clarified Key’s true intention.

In fact, Key actually seems intent on taking academics very seriously if this tweet by the writer of the story on 247Sports, Wes Mitchell, is any indication:

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In this internet age where stories go up before publishers confirm facts independently and everyone is looking for a “Laugh Out Loud” or “What the F*ck?” story that will go viral and generate page views, Key suddenly became the Miss Utah of college football with this infamous  - albeit, misconstrued - quote.

The Big Lead picked up the story from Palmetto Sports, Yahoo! put it on the home page of one of the world’s most read websites and the story shot near the top of Reddit’s college football page.

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I’ll admit that I even posted the story onto this site after seeing The Big Lead’s post until people rightfully wrote in and pointed out the correct meaning of the quote.

On Tuesday, Key took to Twitter to clarify the situation:

Unfortunately, stories on the internet are like Pandora’s Box: Once they’re out, there’s no going back. As a result, Key has sadly already been stereotyped as another dumb jock with a myopic view on college when, in fact, it’s us in the media who should feel like idiots.

Jim Weber is the founder of Lost Lettermen. You can follow him on Twitter at @JimMWeber and @LostLettermen.

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