Since the story initially broke last night that former Wake Forest assistant coach Tommy Elrod “provided, or attempted to provide opposing teams with confidential and proprietary game preparations on multiple occasions,” Rob and Samurai wrote two articles that were nothing short of fantastic, pondering how one of our own could do this. I highly suggest anybody here go read those to get the pulse of the Wake fan base, and also a sense of how betrayed Wake fans and football players alike feel.
This article is not going to dwell on the “why”, or the “how”, but rather two more of the W words—-the “who”, and the “what (now)”.
There are many layers to this story and I am going to do my best from rampantly speculating about why Tommy Elrod did this beyond the most reasonable and logical assessment.
Barring a civil or criminal lawsuit we may never know what causes a man who has spent the last twenty years in Winston-Salem, working closely with Wake Forest as a student-athlete, a coach, and eventually a radio broadcaster to attempt to sabotage the work of hundreds of student-athletes.
Occam’s Razor tells us that the answer with the least amount of required specifics is usually the best one to rely on. Meaning that the simplest explanation is more often times than not correct.
In this case, Occam’s Razor points us to the fact that Elrod was not retained on staff when current head coach Dave Clawson took over in 2014. It also indicates that Elrod had an obvious way to obtain information, which he did according to Coach Clawson, getting unparalleled access to game film, practices, injury reports, and game-plans. The next logical step would be to assess who Elrod disseminated or attempted to disseminate this information to.
There are several coaches who worked with Elrod at Wake Forest who are still in the coaching business, conveniently enough, there were several on the Demon Deacons schedule the past three years. Brian Knorr was the defensive coordinator at Wake Forest with Elrod. He also coached at Indiana in 2014-15. Same for Ray McCartney, except he was the defensive line coach for Army in 2014-15. Same for Lonnie Galloway, who was on the staff at Wake, and now is the offensive coordinator for Louisville—the place that information was found that kickstarted this entire investigation.
Let me be clear here, I am not suggesting in any way, shape, or form that these three individuals accepted information from Elrod. I am pointing out that there are ties all over the place in the coaching world, and these three were the first to come to mind who worked on the Wake staff with Elrod and were on opposing schools the past three years.
Coaches help each other out all the time in terms of gaining information and looking for any edge possible. Whether it’s for advance scouting for teams that one school has already played, while another school plays them later in the year, or if it’s advice on what to look for in certain situations (say, maybe when to look for an onside kick). This is pretty much expected in coaching circles, and I don’t want to dwell on whether or not that baseline “normal” is unethical or not in coaching.
Based on the strong responses from both Dave Clawson and Ron Wellman, as well as the immediate firing and banning of Elrod from Wake Forest athletics and facilities, it indicates to me that what Elrod did went well beyond the “normal” decorum of the coaching world.
Until it is known what type of information was given out by Elrod to other coaches it is impossible to know the repercussions or consequences that Wake Forest could have suffered from the other team’s knowledge.
This is why it is extremely important that the ACC, NCAA, and the opposing schools that played Wake Forest in the past three years assess what exactly was known and/or accepted by their coaching staffs.
I know this entire situation is pretty funny to an outsider, and my Twitter feed has been filled with “why the hell would you pay for information to beat Wake Forest”, but there is a pretty dangerous situation here for multiple reasons.
If this were occurring at a bigger school, say Florida State, or Clemson, would it still be that funny? What if it had been Clemson that found private information at Louisville the day before their game? It’s not so funny when you plug in two teams that are competing on a national stage, so why would it be funny for a “lesser” school like Wake Forest?
It also brings up another angle to all this—-if Wake Forest is as bad as everybody is joking about (and to be fair, the past few years have been rough), and opposing teams were getting what would be determined as pretty “classified” information coming from the inside, then you sure as hell can bet they are getting it from teams that are “better” than Wake on the football field. Coaches aren’t accepting insider information for Wake Forest and declining it for Florida State/Clemson.
One of the most disappointing things to this whole case, beyond the obvious Elrod angle, is that in three years of “providing, or attempting to provide” information to opposing schools, not a single person from an opposing school said a damn thing. Not one person.
The only reason that Wake found out information was being given out was the pure negligence of somebody who had obtained the information from Elrod that sparked the investigation. If this is as bad as the Wake Forest administration is treating it, then it would seem to me that the coaches receiving this information knew how unethical and beyond “normal” this really is in coaching circles. That makes the receiver of the information almost as bad as the person giving out the insider information.
Do I think that the information Elrod gave out over the past three years changed the Wake Forest win/loss record in any way? I honestly cannot assess that without knowing what information was provided. My initial inclination based on the information currently available is probably not.
I do know that there was a very, very slim margin for error in terms of Wake making a bowl this season. The Deacs got in and I am extremely proud of them for that, but imagine the fallout had a ball bounced the other way, and 6-6 became 5-7. That’s literally a million dollars plus of revenue, exposure, and national television time that is lost for Wake Forest - not to mention the additional practices the team gains from advancing to postseason play.
ANY piece of information that was utilized by an opposing team is one piece too many. These student-athletes bust their asses on the field to represent their university, OUR university, in the best way possible, and there was one of our own selling them out (proverbially, and perhaps literally) for his own gain. The NCAA needs to make an example of out of this, and show that it is never okay for a coach to give or accept this type of information without severe consequences.
I am sure that should there be a trial, the defense will be that Elrod did not give out any more information than he normally would have through discussion with friends and/or other color commentators. There is certainly a fine line between friends and former co-workers discussing upcoming football games in terms of what can and cannot be disclosed, but this was pretty clearly not information that Elrod learned through third party observations,
Elrod allegedly used his position at the school as a radio commentator to provide information to other schools. If what the school is saying is true, there is no way that he could have obtained this information were it not for the access that he was given by Clawson and staff. This wasn’t a third party giving away information about how they prepared for a specific team who then passed that knowledge on to someone playing the shared opponent later in the season.
Any opposing coach who knew Elrod from Wake, or even knew what his role was in the Wake Forest radio booth would know pretty much right away that the information he was giving them went beyond just speculation, but rather information learned in a setting that was absolutely not meant for consumption for others outside of the Wake Forest football family. This is what blows the “everybody does it” excuse out of the water.
I am of the position that this case is far from over and is just getting started. It takes two parties for this type of situation to occur—-the giver and the receiver. We have found the mole in Tommy Elrod, and now it’s time to find who received and accepted the information.
That is the next step in this saga before it can be put to bed, and for the sake of the Wake Forest football staff, players, and administration alike, I hope the culprits are found and appropriately punished for their roles in it as well.
To share the sentiments of Rob and Samurai once again, I have rarely been more proud of a group of guys than I am today of the Wake Forest football program. My thoughts are with them, and although this will be hard for them to bounce back from a trust standpoint, they will be better human beings for fighting through the adversity.