Sometimes you get it right and sometimes you get it wrong. This time, Prep Rally got it wrong.
Earlier on Tuesday, Prep Rally posted a story about a Georgia defensive end named Arden Key who committed to play at South Carolina. The story was written largely to highlight a rather questionable choice of words that Key was reported to have said in announcing his commitment, namely the following: “The academic part, you have to try to fail.”
Prep Rally reported that quote based on what was attributed as a direct quote by Key to South Carolina news outlet Palmetto Sports. The quote was clearly attributed to Palmetto Sports.
Normally, that would be fine and dandy. The issue here is that the quote apparently was given to Palmetto Sports and other outlets. And, as it turns out, the quotes given to a reporter from 247 Sports were critically different from those on Palmetto Sports, which omitted a key phrase that changed the context of the quote (unless Key gave the quote completely separately twice in almost identical fashion, which is possible but seems fairly unlikely).
This is the original quote in its full context, at least according to 247 Sports:
“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.”
As noted by Lost Letterman (which also fell prey to Key's quote from Palmetto Sports), the key difference in the two quotes is “they make it easy.” The ‘they’ in this case is clearly the University of South Carolina, and more particularly, the school’s multi-million dollar Dodie Anderson Academic Enrichment Center.
Prep Rally noted that there was a possibility that Key was referring to “The Dodie” the entire time. That’s certainly a more legitimate point for Key to support, even if it does in turn raise questions about athletes and their own commitment to academics relative to the general student body.
As it turns out, Key may in fact be quite committed to academics. Earlier Tuesday, the 247 writer who initially posted a story about Key’s commitment tweeted out an additional quote, from an interview article he wrote shortly after Key’s initial visit to Columbia.
“I liked the academic center,” Key told 247 Sports’ Wes Mitchell. “The academic center makes you want to study.”
The issue, of course, was that not nearly as many people read Mitchell’s work on 247 Sports as read the Palmetto Sports story. That may be in part due to its rapid dissemination on other mainstream sports sites including The Big Lead, where Prep Rally first discovered Key’s remarkable (albeit apparently adjusted or misrepresented) quote.
As a result, the story snowballed, to the point where Key finally reached out on social media to clear up the story later on Tuesday. Using his personal Twitter account, Key addressed the quote in a series of tweets. You can read all those tweets directly below.
Naturally, the entire situation has become an unfortunate one, for us here at Prep Rally and for Key himself, with Prep Rally certainly partly to blame for that. We’re sorry for anything it may have done to his own academic reputation, whatever it may be. That’s not fair for Key, nor was it fair for to twist his words or misquote him in the first place, regardless of how that happened.
That’s not to say that such a twist exonerates Prep Rally, The Big Lead or anyone else from blame for using the quotes that originated at Palmetto Sports. We’re all in this blame together and the only one who should come out truly clean is Key himself. While it won’t make the prior stories go away, at least the promising defensive lineman has probably learned that he might want to stay away from declarations like “you have to try to fail,” in the future, regardless of context.