Acting AG Matt Whitaker has been wrongly claiming he was an Academic All-American at Iowa

Acting AG Matt Whitaker (third from left) played football at Iowa from 1990-1992. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Acting AG Matt Whitaker (third from left) played football at Iowa from 1990-1992. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

United States acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker played football at Iowa.

That fact is indisputable. Whitaker was a tight end on Iowa’s football team from 1990-1992 and caught 21 passes for 203 yards and two touchdowns. Whitaker even caught a nine-yard pass in the 1991 Rose Bowl against Washington.

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Whitaker’s football career has been a central part of his identity as he has risen through the political scene over the past 20 years. However, according to the Wall Street Journal, Whitaker has been incorrect about a significant achievement while he was a member of Iowa’s football team.

Per the WSJ, Whitaker has listed on his biography, resume, and applications for positions (like a judgeship in Iowa) that he was an Academic All-American at Iowa. He’s not listed on the website of the group that determines what players are Academic All-Americans, and a spokesperson for the College Sports Information Directors of America said they had no record Whitaker being an All-American.

Barb Kowal, a spokeswoman for the awarding organization, also known as CoSIDA, said the group has no record that Mr. Whitaker was ever an Academic All-American.

After checking with the University of Iowa, Ms. Kowal said that it appears that Mr. Whitaker was given a lower-level honor, selected to an All-District honor in one of eight regions around the U.S. Those selected in the regions are put on the national ballot, she said. From there, a small number of student-athletes from each sport are voted to be given the coveted Academic All-American status every year.

To be an Academic All-American a player must have a GPA of at least 3.3 and play a significant role on his or her team. Players on the all-district list must then make a ballot for All-American status and then be voted onto the Academic All-American team. Whitaker was officially a 1992 GTE District VII Academic All-District selection, and Kowal told the Journal that “we know that people over time use terms interchangeably and innocently.”

Is that what Whitaker is doing here? Simply making a mistake and not blatantly misleading people? It’s unclear. Though it’s worth pointing out that lawyers can be sticklers for specifics and detail when they want to be.

Whitaker was named as the country’s acting attorney general after Attorney General Jeff Sessions was fired on Nov. 7. Whitaker’s term as interim AG will continue until the confirmation of a new attorney general. President Donald Trump nominated Bill Barr, who served as attorney general under President George H.W. Bush, as his next attorney general on Dec. 7.

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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.

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