No one is calling 17-year-old Alex Hermann a liar, but CBS Sports' "Bracket Manager" does make it impossible to verify that he correctly called all 48 NCAA tournament winners—and also makes it easy to forge a perfect score.
Skepticism has been quietly building ever since the story broke—and subsequently reached every news outlet in the county—that a teenager with autism had accomplished the lifelong dream of degenerate gamblers everywhere. (ESPN's bracket challenge has well over 1 million entries. The current leader has four misses.) Because he is 17, Alex did not enter one of the official CBS Sports contests, which are for money, and therefore closely regulated. His picks were entered in the "Bracket Manager," which is simply a tool for homemade bookies to keep track of their pools. CBSSports.com fully admits that they don't monitor or verify any of the brackets filled out there.
What's more, is that the Bracket Manager allows the person running the pool—in Alex's case, his brother—to change picks after games have already been played. Here's a few of the emails we already received about that:
I just tried it in a pool that I am the manager of, and games can be changed after they have been played. If you change the pick, save it, and refresh the page (or re-open it), it looks as if the correct team was the team that was picked from the beginning. Whether CBS has a log of all changes is something that I do not know. But, if I desired, I could change one of my brackets that I entered before the tournament started, and it would look like the one that Herrmann made. I don't want to insinuate that I think he did change his picks, but the possibility is there.
There is a definite possibility this bracket is complete garbage. If you'll notice from this link, from the FAQ of CBSSports.com Bracket Manager, it says, "At this time, only the pool manager can edit bracket selections." This implies that the manager of the pool has the ability/authority to change the kid's picks to those that have already happened. I am calling shenanigans. And not the kind of shenanigans that are cheeky and fun, the kind of shenanigans that are cruel and tragic.
I set up a group and here is a look at my real bracket: (yeah, it stinks!)
and here is my "perfect" bracket. All you do is click the team that won and then click save. Once you refresh the page the correct picks will switch to green.
[Click to enlarge]
Just to be clear, there's zero proof that Alex's family is lying when they say that the picks were unaltered. No one has accused them of that and there would really be nothing for them to gain by doing so, beyond a few nice newspaper clippings. But there's also no proof that his bracket was actually perfect on Thursday morning. Anyone could have created the same bracket themselves, at any point during the tournament, and passed it off as authentic. The mystery and mystique of the perfect bracket will remain just that, for now.