For the better part of a year, the Bylaw Blog gave a look inside the NCAA's arcane rules for punishing programs. Two weeks ago, the anonymous author was revealed as a D-I school's compliance officer, and promptly shut it down.
Launched in October 2009, the Bylaw Blog (blog now dead) provided an invaluable resource for those looking to understand the tortured rules that every NCAA program must abide by. It was occasionally critical, often supportive, and never dumbed down. It provided the kind of insider's take that made it obvious that the author knew his stuff.
There was good reason for it: the author turned out to be John Infante, assistant director of compliance at Loyola Marymount.
He started the blog not to expose the NCAA, but to try to explain why their investigations proceed the way they do.
"The pace of investigations into major programs was picking up," Infante says. "You had investigations opened at Michigan, UConn, Texas Tech, LSU, Minnesota, Arizona State, and now all the investigations into agent activity in the Southeast. On top of that Arizona's case was pending and USC was still out there.
"Despite all this, there was still a belief that the NCAA did not investigate or punish major programs, despite mounting evidence to the contrary. By shedding some light on the process and NCAA regulation generally, I hoped people would see that investigations take a long time because a lot of work goes into it."
It popped up at the right time, and the Bylaw Blog started becoming known on the national scene as school after school seemed to run afoul of the rules thanks to one party in Miami beach, and the involvement of professional agents.
Then, just as the Bylaw Blog began to carve itself out as a must-visit, Infante's anonymity was lost.
The outing was an unceremonious one, at the hands of a small LSU blog, Every Night Should Be Saturday Night. The proprietor, Ken Womack (or "Cap'n Ken") was asked by a friend if he could figure out who the Bylaw Blog's author was. It took him 35 minutes.
"Finding out the author was an exercise that came about when a friend who works in higher education said he was curious who the guy was," Womack says. "So this was a technical exercise to see how hard it would be to unmask him. Turned out it was easy to do looking at the site code and doing a little bit of research. And that was that."
The result was this: a blog post, revealing Infante as the brains and keyboard behind the Bylaw Blog.
The reaction was immediate. The next day, Infante wrote a short note, owning up to the site, and shutting it down. Commenters flocked to ENSBSN.com, most for the first time, excoriating Womack for having a hand in ending the short, glorious run of the Bylaw Blog.
Womack says he never intended for the site to go blank.
"I didn't expect that at all," he says, "and my intent was anything but that. I read his 'About' page very carefully before I published his name, and what I took away from it was he disclaimed that the opinions are his own, not that of the NCAA or his employer. In many industries, people who are employed somewhere maintain personal blog sites where they talk freely about all sorts of issues in their industry. They say their opinions are their own and that's that.
"Maybe it says a lot about the NCAA that you apparently can't do that when you work for an NCAA institution."
(Infante says his employers at Loyola Marymount were upset that they were blindsided by the news, but did not force him to take the blog offline. He insists that the decision was his alone.)
Anonymity is a tricky subject in the sports blog world. Michael Tunison lost his job at the Washington Post after revealing himself as one of the voices at Kissing Suzy Kolber. Jason McIntyre shed his anonymity, but only after The Big Lead became his full-time job. The Fire Joe Morgan crew announced their identities, for reasons known only to them.
But Infante's blog is a different story altogether. While the fact that he was writing about something directly related to his day job does create a potential conflict of interest, the real dealbreaker for most people is the fact that it wasn't his choice.
He always expected to be outed someday, he says, "though not this soon or in this manner." We put the simple question of "why?" to Womack, and he seemed to struggle to crystallize his own thoughts on the matter.
"It's sure not 'Woo hoo! Look at me! I'm shuttin' down a blog!' Womack says. "There's something about all the NCAA investigations that came out recently that just bothered me - this sense that they are trying to show a crackdown by investigating parties in Miami and making Mark Ingram get approval (and show receipts) to go out of town when the whole system is so exploitative of star athletes, omnipotent and terrifying and always as 'corrupt' as it is now that made me want to crack it a bit.
"To the extent that I thought anybody would see it, I believed revealing Mr. Infante would be liberating - bring a little light into that dark world. Clearly I was wrong about that."
The Bylaw Blog remains dark, and the NCAA's compliance laws remain public — and impenetrable. Infante, for his part, doesn't seem bitter.
"I don't have feelings about [Womack] at all," he says. "He did what he did for whatever reason he did it, and I have to deal with it."
All of us, Womack and Infante included, are worse off for it.