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Eamonn Brennan tweeted in mid-December that his story was unpublished from ESPN's website after quotes from the Oregon Ducks' website turned out to be fake. (Credit: Twitter)

ESPN’s Eamonn Brennan reported Dec. 19 that he had cited quotes that turned out to be fake.  Brennan also unpublished his original post with the fake quotes.

According to Brennan, in an earlier story from the same day, he reported quotes from Oregon Ducks coach Dana Altman that he found off the Oregon Ducks’ website.  Brennan’s posts were for ESPN’s College Basketball Nation blog. Altman is the men’s basketball coach for the University of Oregon.

But, it turned out the quotes were published on the site after the site was “compromised,” apparently by hackers. On Twitter, Brennan reported that Oregon spokesperson Chris Geraghty told him about the site being “compromised.”

Brennan described the quotes as “funny, rather harmless, but altogether out-of-character quotes.”  For example, one fake quote had Altman commenting on the Ducks’ pregame meal.

Brennan also published a screenshot of the quotes from the Oregon Ducks’ website here.  Brennan told iMediaEthics by e-mail that he received the link to the quotes on the Ducks website from a “couple of Twitter followers.”

He explained to iMediaEthics: “I read through the quotes and while they seemed a little strange — the complaints about the pregame meal were especially notable — they weren’t totally off the wall.  They could have easily been the product of a coach reacting to a tough, come-from-ahead home loss by blowing off steam, albeit uncharacteristically. What’s more, they were posted on the Oregon athletics site.”  B

Brennan added that “this wasn’t a fake page or a mocked-up design” so he “assumed, quirky as the quotes were, that they were real.”  Brennan also noted that hacking and publishing fake quotes on school sites “almost never happens” to school team websites.

Brennan tweeted about the fake quotes Dec. 19 as well, noting that “the team sites are usually really trustworthy.”  We asked Brennan by e-mail if he often uses athletics sites for information and if this experience will change the way he uses them. He told us that ” Not really, no. For one, I don’t use them all that often. They’re handy for video of postgame press conferences and obscure statistics, and sometimes, if you’re writing a recap remotely and need a quick quote, they come into play. But really, that’s pretty rare. This specific instance was more of an outlier in that regard, and the attention was driven by the silliness itself; otherwise, I wouldn’t have been there in the first place.”

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Further, Brennan added that “That said, transcripts on team web sites are not the kind of thing you instinctively double-check or cross-reference. This situation definitely reinforced the value of doing so even when you trust a source of information, especially on the web. It certainly never hurts. ”

Brennan noted that he “thought Oregon did a really nice job handling the issue” and that the school provided “solid updated information” about the hacking for his follow-up story.

“Compared to a coach having said some harmless but funny things in his postgame press conference, I thought that was far more interesting. It was certainly regrettable that it took us a first, ill-fated post to get there, and of course I wish that post had never gone up, however briefly. But I was also glad I was able to get a corrected post with the first confirmation of the hack from Oregon’s staff, and able to turn it around quickly enough that the mistake from the first post was minimized almost immediately.”

On Twitter, Brennan also  thanked OregonScout.com’s Chris Courtney for “pointing out the fakes” to him.  Courtney (@eDuckCCourtney) “was at the presser last night,” according to Brennan’s tweets.

We wrote to the University of Oregon athletic department asking for more information about these quotes and will update with any response.

UPDATE: 1/4/2012 3:40 PM EST: Added information from Brennan’s e-mail to iMediaEthics above.

UPDATE: 1/16/2011 7:45 PM EST: Read here our follow-up story on the hacking of the Oregon Ducks’ website with information from the university’s athletics department.

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ESPN Unpublishes Blog Post with Fake Quotes from Oregon Ducks Coach

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