No, Boilermaker fans, there is no Jason Parker Smith or Jason Paul Smith. There are no Jason Smiths at all, at least as it pertains to Purdue’s basketball recruiting efforts.
On Tuesday afternoon, a few particularly gullible Purdue fans bought into a circulating phony story about a basketball recruit named Jason Smith. As the story went, Coach Gene Keady intended to sign 6-foot-6 blue-chip Yorktown (Ind.) High School star Jason Paul Smith, only to receive a signed letter-of-intent back from 5-6 geek Jason Parker Smith following a wacky mix-up.
The origin of the story is the newly created satirical Internet "newspaper" HoosierGazette.com, a spoof media outlet created five weeks ago in the mold of such national parody sites as The Onion (theonion.com) or SportsPickle.com.
Ordinarily, few people would have seen the story on the 5-week-old site, which clearly tabs itself as "Indiana’s first source for inaccurate news and commentary since 2003." But the story briefly went national when popular radio sports talk show host Jim Rome reported it on his show this afternoon.
Initially, it sounds as if Rome — known in his early days for an on-air scuffle with former Purdue quarterback Jim Everett, whom he repeatedly referred to as "Chrissy" — bought into the story.
"My firm belief when I heard it is that he was reporting it as true initially. I listen to Rome quite a bit at lunchtime, and it was sounding like he was reporting it as true," Purdue fan Lowell Bittinger said. "I think he did fall for it initially. He didn’t spend a huge amount of time bashing Purdue directly, just enough to make his point, as only Rome can do."
Later in the show, Rome is said to have backed off the story, acknowledging it was a spoof, saying that Purdue knew nothing of this kid and how things can be reported locally then go national quickly.
When asked about the report by Purdue officials, Rome’s producers suggested he knew all along the story was a farce. When told about the situation, Coach Gene Keady laughed it off.
While the story caused quite a stir among Purdue fans, it made for a wild day for 29-year-old social studies teacher Josh Whicker, who authored the story under the pen name "Ross Leslie." Whicker is the primary writer for the site, though he uses numerous different aliases to give the illusion of a full staff.
The story originally appeared on HoosierGazette.com, but was submitted to Fark.com — a clearinghouse for such humor sites — where it was posted and drew more attention.
Whicker wrote an apologetic e-mail to Purdue Tuesday afternoon, regretting the stir his article might have caused. He only chose to "pick on" Purdue in this case in the spirit of equal time. His site had just published a fictitious, and rather scathing, question-and-answer session with Indiana football coach Gerry DiNardo.
"The only reason I singled out Purdue for this story was we already had one about IU on our sports page, so I decided to use Purdue to spread it around the state," said Whicker, who ironically signed on to play football at Indiana out of high school. "I got the idea about the wrong guy signing a scholarship from my own experience in high school.
"When I was (in school), we had a day when everyone who was receiving scholarships — academic or athletic — was called up at an assembly and honored. One guy who barely met NCAA requirements got a full athletic scholarship, while several other people who had almost straight As got $500 or $1,000.
"It is funny thinking back on it, because I was one of the athletic guys who got the big check for football," Whicker added.
As for Keady, he’ll continue to seek a point guard in the spring and summer.
You can bet, though, that his name won’t be Jason Smith.
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