Planting positive message on message boards? Yup, that's one of the things that Maryland commissioned a PR firm to do after fans were upset at the school's move from the ACC to the Big 10 next season.
That's included in emails obtained by the Baltimore Sun via a Public Information Act.
So far, this is unfolding just as we expected," Brian Ullmann, the university's assistant vice president for marketing and communications, wrote in an email to deputy athletic director Nathan Pine on Nov. 18, one day after negotiations on the impending move were disclosed in the media. "We knew that in the absence of our messaging during this initial stage, most fans would react emotionally and negatively. That has occurred and clearly the message boards and comments sections skew heavily negative. Several of us placed comments on boards and media sites last night to help balance it out."
Who can you trust on internet message boards these days? Apparently no one.
In addition to that, according to the emails, Ullmann wrote that he would "engage professional assistance in helping to drop positive messages into the blogs, comments and message board sites. I will arrange for this service today."
Pine denied to the Sun that any of the things listed in Ullmann's email took place. The emails also stated that the university wanted ESPN's Scott Van Pelt, a Maryland grad, to serve as a liason of sorts to not only break the story but talk about how it benefitted Maryland. Which as you can probably guess, isn't the most journalistically ethical thing to do.
ESPN did break the story, but it was not under Van Pelt's name.
It's a fascinating look to how the athletic department operated in what can simply be defined as a viewer grab by the Big 10. Maryland and Rutgers give the conference an eastern footprint and millions upon millions of television sets to claim as "home territory," even if it's debatable how deep that footprint actually is.
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