Book club: Dan Wetzel’s column

There are few columnists in the country that I respect more than Yahoo’s Dan Wetzel. He uses his platform not to pontificate because he loves to read his thoughts or thinks you must have them in order to operate in the world but to point out injustices

I believe that’s what he’s trying to do with this column, which has drawn some harsh criticism from Indiana fans.

Read it if you haven’t. I’ll be back to discuss it in a bit and hopefully spark some good conversation.

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My quick thoughts, because the discussion is already roiling: people like Wetzel need to continue to monitor the NCAA. As has been pointed out here, his anecdotal evidence might not quite add up to support his conclusion this time, but he certainly is onto something (and has been for a while, as he’s written about this issue before).

There needs to be reporters who have time to perform the essential watchdog role over the NCAA and its often bizarre processes. Mark Alesia of the Indy Star covers NCAA matters as well as anybody, but he’s got other duties, too. Writers from publications that focus on higher education (such as The Chronicle of Higher Education and Inside Higher Ed) also devote some time to covering the NCAA but probably not enough to ever truly grasp the stories as well as they need to.

It is not coincidental that some of the better writings about IU’s case came from people who seem to have legal backgrounds (here’s looking at you, ChronicHoosier and TacoJohn; John M has also done fine work dissecting the various issues that have arisen). It could be that those dudes are exceptionally smart (they are), but it certainly would have been helpful if they, say, spent at least three years studying law. They would have had to wade through all those detailed, oddly-phrased documents and also contemplate the very notion of justice. That’s good preperation for absorbing something like an NCAA case and making sense of it.

As media companies continue to lay off reporters and ask more of those who are left behind, I worry that we’ll fail to develop people with the sources and institutional knowledge to cover the NCAA (and many other complicated instituations, some that don’t even govern games). We’re probably already doing a shabby job, in genral, of prying open the notoriously secertive NCAA and explaining its inner-workings. If the discussion of Wetzel’s column has shown me anything, it’s that there’s a great deal of misunderstanding — by writers and readers — about how enforcement works (or is supposed to work.) And even though I’ve spent months and months dealing with this, I think I probably have more questions than answers.

Those are my general thoughts. As for the notion of whether IU was under-punished because it’s a big-time school . . .

I agree with what TacoJohn said at CannotFalter:

Here’s the untold truth about NCAA sanctions and powerhouse programs: it takes more to damage the program. If you want to deal the same blow to IU that you do to Indiana State, you need to be unfairly harsh toward IU.

I began to realize this in my early conversations with Kelvin Sampson. He was at once insistent that the sanctions he received for his actions at Oklahoma were 1) far too harsh and 2) hardly an impediment to his recruiting efforts at Indiana.

It took me a while to reconcile those facts. But it came down to this: Sampson didn’t like the hit his reputation took because of the committee on infraction’s ruling; the sanctions didn’t matter when recruiting to a place with the prestige and tradition of Indiana.

I believe Tom Crean said something like, “It’s Indiana” when he got here and then went out and proved it by recruiting a top 10 class for next year despite recruiting restrictions he repeatedly referred to as severe. Certainly it hurts the Hoosiers that they have one fewer scholarship to use this year and IU is still working to catch up with the 2010, ’11 , ’12 and ’13 kids, but this staff doesn’t seem like it will have trouble doing that.

Meanwhile, Kent State will be without Rob Senderoff’s recruiting for a full year (and he’ll be restricted for two years after that). That’s a much more severe punishment because Kent State relies mostly on bringing kids in through making relationships. It doesn’t sell banners or packed crowds or NBA greats. It can’t. What it can sell is the idea that it’s coaches care more, they were at more games, they made more visits, they got to know you better than the coaches at bigger schools who are mostly concerned with landing kids because they’re blue-chip prospects, not because of who they are.

43 comments

  1. All that comes to mind is something I once said to my dear friend, a Mr. Walter Sobchak. “You’re not Walter, you’re just an a$$hole.”

  2. Ok, so does Brand being the president of the NCAA mean that they went easier on us?

    Or does he mean the NCAA feels sorry for us because we had Brand as our president?

    I’m confused.

  3. Wow.
    I have long contended that the NCAA as a governing body fails to truly oversee the violations and impose proper sanctions against programs that cheat. The long and short of it here is that we cheated. And this piece is dead on. Our self-imposed sanctions, in conjunction with those handed down by the NCAA likely were sufficient. We hired a cheater, and had no right to be shocked when he cheated. We had every responsibility to acknowledge the problem, and on our own, take corrective actions immediately. And we did.
    For the NCAA to imply that we received preferential treatment because we anticipate a less than spectacular season this year is surely a violation of their own rules. But then, they don’t really catch the rules violations, do they? They wait on schools to report their own, or someone elses.
    Interesting process our old friend Myles has them operating under. I’d love to make that kind of money to half-@$$ my way through my job.
    I’m a Hoosier fan, make no mistake, but we screwed this one up, and we have to be willing to deal with the fallout. I think, as a program, we have done so with grace and humility, and there is a lot to be said for that. With one sentence, one person has twisted that around to make us look like we continue to do things in a less than upstanding way. They’ve made it appear as though we, the storied Indiana Hoosiers, need the assistance of the NCAA via leniency in their sanctions, to rebuild our program.
    We. Do. Not. Tom Crean has come in, and recruited, and rebuilt, without knowing what the final rulings would be. Because we are Indiana Basketball. And today, we have an air of the human. We made mistakes, we’ve owned up, and we’re moving forward from them. It doesn’t get a whole lot better than that. Go Hoosiers.

  4. i posted this on inside the hall yesterday–

    that article was disappointing. he gave a very one-sided argument. there was no mention of the fact that the “major” tag was questionable at best. we have been making the exact opposite argument of his – that iu was being picked on by the ncaa and myles brand.

    i thought that the article was a classic example of someone with a national readership taking advantage of the fact that most, if not all, of the readers outside of indiana don’t know the specifics of the circumstances well enough to call him out on his half-truths and partial facts.

    if he really wanted to make the case of major programs getting away with major violations he would have talked about usc (reggie bush and oj mayo) and florida state (60 “student-athletes cheating through an online course of all things).

    his point that major programs should get the same treatment as small programs as small schools is admirable, but his examples are disappointing. a simple google search reveals that texas southern got busted for paying student-athletes and playing a player under a different name because they were ineligible to play under their own. that’s a bit worse than making impermissible phone calls. st. augustine college was busted for playing 29 ineligible student-athletes over a four year span. again, more serious than impermissible phone calls. again, the point wetzel is trying to make is admirable, but he needs to come up with better examples before he publishes his accusations of unfair treatment.

  5. Where did Dan Wetzel go to school – he didn’t get his money’s worth – and how can you respect him so much – seems that his thought patten doesn’t work very well.

    The NCAA purpose for inflicting penalties on member schools that transgressed from the rules was to take away any advantage they gained by the transgression. They were not saying “Poor IU, they are down this year so we won’t punish them any more.” What they meant was “IU’s self inflicted punishment accomplished what the NCAA would have done and the result was the intended one.” Therefore no additional punishment was needed.

    The NCAA was not feeling sorry about IU being down, but saying that justice was served.

    Unfortunately, Mr Wetzel’s intent was not to tell the truth but rather resembled the tabloid personality. I always thought of the tabloid writers as slime bags. Mr Wetzel, if the shoe fits, wear it!

  6. I have always liked Dan, but it was obvious he was trying too hard to look at it from a negative angle. I quit reading after the part about Myles Brand. Anyone who knows the situation was actually worried Brand would be harder on IU. Dan suggest that Brand and the IU ties is why the NCAA went as he says, lighter on IU. Lost respect for him with this story.

  7. My old pal, Mr. Knight once said…”We all learn to write in 3rd grade, obviously, some better than others.”

    He was right.

  8. See, I read this differently than you guys did, I think. My interpretation of what I read was less about Indiana University, and more about the inability of the NCAA to be impartial when evaluating violations. Big name schools tend to get by with either a slap on the wrist, or even nothing at all “because no evidence of impropriety can be found” (unless, of course, you open your eyes) while smaller schools are actually handed out valid punishments for their crimes.
    This article could easily have been written with USC and Reggie Bush as examples instead of IU. The reality here is that college athletics is a moneymaker, and the NCAA sits atop the pile of cash. That whole bit the hand that feeds you thing? The NCAA is pretty darn good at just licking some palms.

  9. Juan, was it you that attended the SC/LSU game? I see lots of folks on this blog have picked SC over Iowa. I am all for Big 10 and hope Iowa wins, but I think SC def will shine vs. Iowa offense even though SC was blown out by Florida. What is your take? I just cannot see Iowa scoring on SC at all but maybe I am not giving Iowa enough credit.

  10. mop woman,

    I believe the quote to be more like this:

    “All of us learn to write in the second grade. Most of us go on to greater things.” – Bob Knight

  11. I had no problem with the article. Josephine Potuto said something stupid, and Wetzel was right to call her out on it. Had she not said what she said, this article doesn’t get written. Most of the aforementioned comments make sense, “Major” violations was probably a stretch, the NCAA does have credibility issues. However, I don’t think he was being unfair to IU and taking advantage of his readerships ignorance on the details of what happened. In fact, I think he laid them out quite fairly.
    Bottom line, we screwed up. We hired a Coach with little integrity and we paid the price. Josephine Potuto made a dumb comment, and unfortunately, people will assume that’s what the rest of the committee in fact was thinking, and maybe they are right. Wetzel is merely pointing it out.

  12. I posted a lengthy response at the Hoosier Report, but in short, this was a poorly considered column. My suspicion is that Wetzel has wanted to write this column for a long time, and tried to force the IU story into his narrative even though it didn’t fit. It takes some serious mental gymnastics to use IU’s status as the only major conference team found guilty of major violations in the last two year as evidence that the NCAA was biased in FAVOR of IU.

    Also, the Texas Southern case, which I discuss in more detail at the Hoosier Report, bears no similarity to the IU case. That comparison may be the most ridiculous part of a ridiculous column.

  13. When I read the article last night, my first thought was “great read”. I didn’t want to comment last night, I wanted time to think about the article. I have since read it again, and this is my take on it.

    Dan is not slamming on IU. He is attacking the NCAA for an absolutly IGNORANT statement to make when they released their final sanctions.

    What if these same infractions were created by St. Augustine Colleges or Texas Southern? If they set forth upon themselves the same penalties and actions that IU self imposed, would the NCAA treat them the same, or would they be made the example?

    The point he is trying to make isn’t against Indiana itself, infact I think he praises what IU basketball really is, by pointing out what Tom Crean is doing, and how strong the fan base remained during one of the darkest times in the programs history.

    Seriously, do you know how many programs would like to have the things that IU will have in the near future?

    Those of you who talk about that this could have easily been about USC or FSU and that they had no major penalties handed down. Yes they could have, but the difference would be that the IU program was found guilty by the NCAA.

    I don’t believe the situations at USC or FSU were ever directly tied to worng doing by the programs themselves.

    Before anyone starts, there is a difference between an athlete or group of athlete’s doing something wrong, and the programs they play for knowingly giving them the avenue’s to create these infractions.

    Regardless of that, if you are a top draw for the NCAA, they are going to look the other way, they were just dumb enough to make the comment about the “state” of the program when discussing IU, and setting off a powder keg.

  14. So, what punishment would Mr. Wentzel recommend for a school that hired a knucklehead who made several dozen phone calls that would have been ok, had he not previously made several dozen phone calls too many? Do we deserve a more draconian punishment than the self-imposed loss of a scholarship and recruiting restrictions? If so then other schools who don’t turn themselves in while they explicitly encourage cash payments to players and players’ families and facilitate academic fraud evidently should have their gyms and stadiums blown up and paved over. Methinks Dan had space to fill and time to kill and came up with this ill-conceived drivel to just rattle a few cages.

  15. I don’t have time to read all of these comments right now, but I will say that while Wetzel’s logic is sound, it’s also true that to punish the current coaches and current and future players for transgressions they had nothing to do with is quite difficult to justify. And when I read the NCAA’s summary release, the ‘condition of the program’ was only one of several factors considered; Wetzel’s column seems to indicate that it was the primary factor. And he doesn’t even touch on the harsh assessment the committee made of Sampson’s intentful flouting of his restrictions and willful withholding or distortion of info given to IU. So while I think Wetzel has a point to some degree, I think he misinterpreted the overall content of the NCAA’s decision.

  16. J Pat,

    Yes, it was me. I reside in Charleston. Been here for the past 7 years. I am buying season tix to the Game Cocks next year. No more trips home for Hoosier football. At least until a change is made. Go Cocks!
    As for the Iowa game, I think it all depends on the QB spot for Carolina. If Garcia plays well, I see SC winning a close game. At least Garcia can make plays out of the pocket. Smelley is just aweful!
    You’re right about the D. If Carolina’s offense can keep the ball and score a few points, their D will dominate.
    Carolina 23 – Iowa 17

  17. Juan, I agree with that. Smelley is bad. My buddies could not understand why they waited so long on Garcia. My sis lives in N Charl and my childhood friend is in Johns Island area. How is that sweet tea vodka? I cannot wait till it hits here in January. Good luck with the tix for SC football. My friend pays a 1,000 bucks just as a fee to get a block of 4 and then still pays ticket prices. Maybe one day IU will get there.

  18. Mike, I made the reference to the USC stuff. No, they were not found guilty. Thus the snide comment about them opening their eyes. Further, I cannot say that IU was “found guilty” as much as pointed out and admitted their own guilt.
    Before anyone starts, there is a difference between an athlete or group of athlete’s doing something wrong, and the programs they play for knowingly giving them the avenue’s to create these infractions.
    Yep, but turning a blind eye to the individual infractions makes you just as culpable, does it not? The actions of the individual impact the team. We could go way back to Steve Alford’s charity calendar, and subsequent suspension.

  19. Megan,

    I think you might be missing my point here. Go back to Alford, what he done was a violation of NCAA rules, as soon as Knight knew about it, he took appropriate actions.

    What the FSU players did, is a violation of NCAA rules, when the FSU coaching staff were made aware of this, they immediatly suspended those players.

    USC didn’t have any recourse against Reggie Bush, what happened with him came out after he left. All USC could do at that point is cut any and all ties to the person or persons that helped Reggie create those violations.

    Yes, all of these have an impact on the program, but none of these situations were fostered by those programs. At least proof to the public.

  20. But in making your point, dear, you are simply reinforcing my own. And I’m not even saying we are in disagreement over it, because I think we agree entirely- the NCAA does not apply sanctions to the “big teams” equitably when compared to smaller market schools.
    IU Basketball: Primary sanctions self imposed.
    FSU Football: Primary sanctions self imposed.
    USC Football: Pretended they didn’t know what anyone was talking about. What rule violations? Us? Tell me again that they didn’t know about it until after he left. That’s BS, you know it and I know it. Plausible deniability and all that.
    In all of the above, the actual sanctions from the NCAA were negligible, if they existed at all. That’s why the big teams continue to cheat. The risks are nearly non-existent. If the governing body fails in it’s role of oversight and corrective action, then no one learns. What the schools know at this point is if they make money and stay on top of the heap, the NCAA will let them get away with darn near anything.

  21. Not sure if this helps Megan or Mike here, but I will say that I know for 100% fact that the NCAA sent undercover agents to USC for every home game this year. The NCAA knows how crooked they are but they are too hard to catch. If USC had self reported and did a more thorough check into the whole thing after the Bush deal…WOW! When they are caught, they will be buried worse than IU bball can ever imagine.

  22. “USC Football: Pretended they didn’t know what anyone was talking about. What rule violations? Us? Tell me again that they didn’t know about it until after he left. That’s BS, you know it and I know it. Plausible deniability and all that.”

    While I agree with your point, and my opinion is they knew exactly what was going on, the timing of reports all played to USC’s favor, and USC being one of the best programs in college football, the NCAA wasn’t going to push the issue.

    So yes, we agree, the NCAA doesn’t go after the big money teams.

    Enjoy your afternoon, I am on my way to Texas Roadhouse!

  23. But the problem, Megan, is that you and Wetzel are making this argument anecdotally. Wetzel tells us that IU is the only major hoops program punished in the last 25 months, and no football team has been busted in the last 17 months. Well, the major conferences make up less than 20 percent of Division I. How many cases have there been in the last two years, period? Have there been facts that the NCAA gave a pass on to major programs that they then used to hammer minor programs? I don’t know, and Wetzel doesn’t know. Wetzel’s argument is A is true, B is true, and therefore Z is the conclusion, skipping many steps.

    I’ll throw an idea out there: is it possible that smaller schools cheat more? Is it possible that anonymous, non-affluent, desperate coaches toiling in obscurity are more likely to cheat than those who already have a comfortable Big Ten existence? Is it possible that they are less sophisticated and therefore not as good at hiding it? Yes, IU is one of the “haves” in college sports. But after reading the report about Texas Southern, I’ll take our dysfunctional administrators over TSU’s any day of the week. What happened at TSU was way worse than what happened at IU, and they deserved stronger sanctions. If there are better examples out there, then Wetzel failed in not finding them. If there aren’t, then his whole case is a sham.

  24. Josephine Potuto made an incredibly stupid statement. It was obvious when she made it how stupid it was, and for this guy to try to make an argument based on an incredibly stupid statement makes him look just as stupid. A riduculous article.

  25. J Pat,

    I am getting 2 tix in section 19 row 29 for under $500. They are good seats too. Her prices seem a little high.
    I live in West Ashley. I love it down here. Growing up in Brown County and going to IU games, I never knew what football was really about. Living in SEC country will sure open a Hoosier fans eyes.. Hell, I see more passion from fans @ Citadel games. No BS..

  26. John, don’t misunderstand my point of view- it’s not just that they are creating the impression that they are more lenient on the big programs. I realize that that has been the focus of most of my posts to this point, but the bigger, underlying issue here is that as a Sanctioning Body, the NCAA is a failure in general. Sure, it’s possible that smaller schools cheat more, especially given that they ARE smaller, and could be even more likely to fly under the radar. And if they have a more serious violation, the punishments handed out should be more serious. That’s common sense. The downside, I guess, when I look at it is this: a group who profits from the activities and actions of these programs should perhaps not be the same group who is responsible for overseeing their behaviors. It is in the best financial interest of the NCAA for the large schools with the big fan bases and bigger pockets to reach tournaments and championships. In taking those opportunities away from those schools, they are in fact reducing their own potential incomes. Not exactly sound business practices, huh?

  27. the NCAA is limited by its very nature. It’s not a governmental entity. It has no subpoena power. It exists only by the consent of its members.

    Cash cows have long been cash cows. Still, in the past, Alabama football, Kentucky basketball, Michigan basketball, Florida football (hell, the whole SEC), Kansas basketball, USC football, and many other prominent programs have been hit fairly hard. Again, I’m open to Wetzel’s argument (which seems to relate to a purported change in emphasis under Brand’s administration), but he has done a poor and dishonest job of presenting it.

  28. Fair statement, John. I’ll accept that, because in my own, slanted, biased, humble opinion, Myles Brand is quite possibly the root of all evil. 🙂

  29. The major problem I have with this article is that Wetzel is comparing Sampson’s crime at Iu and the punishment handed down, to what happened at Texas Southern..

    If you aren’t aware, Texas Southern’s Softball team gave a girl who was ineligable, someone else’s uniform and let her play as that player!!!!!!! And even worse, the Men’s Tennis team gave players gifts and money!!!!!!!!

    I mean come on!!! Sampson might have been a repeat offender, but there is absolutely no evidence, even during his Oklahoma days, of him doing things like what the Texas Southern coaches did. I dont even like Kelvin Sampson. As a matter of fact I think he probably shouldn’t coach at the college level ever again. But to somehow say that IU is getting off the hook easy, compared to small schools like Texas Southern, is a HUGE stretch. The crimes are not comparable.

  30. I remember a few year back, our Big 10 friends east of here (O$U) received 3 years probation in Football,Man’s Basketball and Woman’s Basketball for: Cheating in class, peers doing student athletes homework and recieving passing grades for not showing up in class. Also the men’s basketball coach, O’Brian, paid a recruit family. Yes, O’Brian was fired by O$U but they didn’t impose any other sanctions to the programs involved.

  31. OSU basketball did have a self-imposed post-season ban in 2004-05. Of course, they self-imposed it thinking the team wouldn’t be any good, and then turned out to be bubble-worthy and certainly NIT material (remember, they graciously ended the Illini’s undefeated regular season record on the last day of the season).

  32. Scott W, even if that was the case with OSU, and it wasn’t because they had a self imposed ban, then Wetzel should compare Texas Southern to OSU then.. IU’s “crimes” are nowhere near what happened at Texas Southern… They took a girl’s jersey who left the team and was ineligable, and had another girl wear her uniform!!!!! And the men’s basketball team was paid cash and gifts!!! Come on!!!

  33. Smitten and Megan,

    I notice Megan has, with amazing verbal dexterity and a keen wit, sidestepped your proposal. But Megan, just in case you were going to respond positively, I’d like to officially declare that your combination of smarts, wordsmithing, persistence and use of the word ‘dear,’ not to mention your encyclopedic knowledge of IU basketball, have affected me as they have Smitten Dude. I don’t even completely agree with you, but find myself nodding vigorously anyway. Wow.

  34. Ahh, the kind words and all. However, I will have to decline the proposals of marriage, as you all had the misfortune of proposing on my actual husband’s birthday. Seriously, thanks for indulging my ramblings and disjointed thoughts. It’s always nice to have good, sound conversation with fellow fans. (And, well, it always does a girl good to feel loved. 🙂 )

  35. “And even though I’ve spent months and months dealing with this, I think I probably have more questions than answers.”

    Somebody please prominently display this quote in Ernie Pyle Hall. Every good journalist should share in this exact thought upon concluding their assignment. Now that’s real. Good stuff.

    As for Dan’s doozy…

    Even the best shooters will throw up a brick every now and then. Wetzel’s column illustrates how the same holds true for journalists.

    Dan is one of the game’s premier shooters who’s known for knocking down the big shots. In his latest column, however, he chucks one from deep in the cheap seats (emphasis on cheap) and doesn’t even come close. AIRBALL.

    If he played for Crean, he’d be running stairs ’til spring break for letting this one fly. I’m sure it started as a good look. Who could argue with Wetzel’s contention that the NCAA is unconscionably ineffective, if not utterly dormant, in its rules enforcement? Too many players, agents, and runners have publicly admitted their dirty dealings for observers not to question the NCAA’s enforcement inactivity. Um, USC ring a bell, anyone?

    But no sooner than he loads the shot- “the NCAA had sympathy for Indiana in its major violations case (because) the Hoosiers might not field a winning basketball team this year”- you can tell it’s going to be short. He fails to put any leg into it when in immediately says, “It’s not that additional sanctions were necessarily needed.”

    As the shot takes form, you can tell all the mechanics are terribly off with this one. His entire argument is based upon a fatally flawed interpretation of four words, which effectively appear as passing notes in the COI’s report: “condition of the program.” The spin he puts on this ball takes it way off the mark- as TacoJohn illustrated well in Korman’s quote- and is better left alone here (besides, a deserving commentary on the condition of this program would take chapters to complete. Another day maybe.)

    The column whiffs the moment his fingers point to IU. Comparing Sampson’s calls and lies to the egregious and admitted infractions at Texas Southern and St. Augustine isn’t even close to comparing apples and oranges, he’s talking a-holes to elbows here. Sampson used his phone when he was grounded and lied about it. Texas Southern’s coach brought international players to his school with fraudulent scholarship promises, embezzled legitimate scholarship cash to prop up his fraud, and left his foreign athletes evicted and starving when it fell apart. With this analogy, Wetzel seemingly wants to make habitual jay-walking a capital offense. This one is officially out of the gym.

    THUD. Finally, this one crashes to a spectacular end as he tacitly implies Brand’s tenure as IU’s former president somehow influenced the COI’s conclusions and caused sympathy for IU. This may be the loudest brick I’ve ever heard in my life. Seriously, it’s a real clanker to suggest that Brand would influence the COI to show IU some love. We’re talking the guy (many would say “mercenary”) who fired Bob Knight and was burned in effigy by thousands of Hoosiers on his own front lawn in Bloomington- he and his wife had to be whisked away by campus police to a safe house during the incident. This is the guy who gives the speech, “Academics First: Reforming Intercollegiate Athletics.” Right. The COI’s decision to add and adjudicate the failure to monitor penalty, against its own enforcement staff’s recommendation, looks like an orgy of sympathy from here. The real message behind the NCAA’s decision wasn’t about lying to the NCAA, repeat offending, or hiring and monitoring offenders; it was just a wink and a nod to the big, powerful school where Brand used to work.

    Great shot, Dan.

    Most shooters will tell you about the one shot they wish they could take back, the one that haunts them. This column should be Dan’s “one”.

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