By now, you’re probably aware that USC and defensive back Josh Shaw have been caught with their pants down. Shaw was a figure of national admiration Sunday when the school revealed that his two high ankle sprains were suffered when he leaped from a balcony into a pool to save his seven-year-old nephew from drowning.
At least that was the story until, by Tuesday, USC was getting calls claiming the account was bogus. And the heat apparently got too intense by Wednesday, when Shaw admitted he made the story up.
According to reports, multiple sources at USC were skeptical of the tale Shaw told, but they were between a rock and hard place. As far as media covering the Trojans knew, Shaw was healthy and ready to start for them. Then he was going to show up with two high ankle sprains. There needed to be some explanation. And unfortunately, Shaw provided it.
What it reinforces: The coverup is always worse than the crime. And in today’s crackling, Twitter-Instagram-Facebook world, there are no secrets.
Washington fans with long memories will recall a yarn with strikingly similar details. Remember the Rashaan Shehee incident in 1996?
Some of the particulars are eerily the same. But there’s one big difference between today and 18 years ago — the time it took for the story to fall through. More than anything, that’s our times.
To refresh: This was in the middle of the Jim Lambright regime, and practices were closed to the media. After a bye week, the Huskies cruised past Stanford, 27-6, on Oct. 5, 1996. Shehee didn’t play in the game with what I recall being described as a foot injury (could have been an ankle) that Lambright said was sustained in practice.
The Huskies were going to Notre Dame the following week, and Shehee didn’t play (in reality, the impact was negligible because that was the season Washington had a guy emerge named Corey Dillon).
Anyway, as October wore on, I got a tip that the injury-at-practice story was false. But after poking around and asking some questions, I didn’t get anywhere until late that month. I got enough of a whiff from a source at Washington that the story was bogus that I finally confronted Lambright about it, and he admitted it was made up. He confirmed what I’d heard, that Shehee had gotten injured jumping off a second-story balcony at a party (it turned out to have been in Lake City), at which gunshots were fired. Shehee was merely trying to get out of the place.
So I wrote the story for Tuesday, Oct. 22 — which was probably more than three weeks after the balcony-jumping incident happened. I don’t think that story lies dormant for three weeks in today’s society. But then, no social media existed. I’m not even sure e-mail was in vogue.
I always felt sorry for Shehee, a good guy and anything but a troublemaker, somebody who I believe was caught innocently in the middle of a bad situation. In this case, unlike the one at USC, his coach was complicit, and the incident didn’t do anything to buttress Lambright’s standing late in his tenure, which ended in 1998.
Why would the Huskies have concocted the lie? Good question. I suppose, for recruiting purposes, they didn’t want Washington pictured as a place where your son was going to have to take extreme measures to escape gunfire.
The truth would have set them free. Funny how that works.