On Nov. 25 -- The day known around the college football world as Black Sunday -- five coaches were fired. Tom O'Brien, the N.C. State head coach who had won 24 games the past three seasons, was one of the men at the major college level to lose his job. Less than three hours after the school announced O'Brien's firing via its twitter feed, the site FootballScoop.com tweeted:
Have confirmed that representatives from NC State have spoken with Mike Leach about their opening FootballScoop.com/the-scoop— FootballScoop Staff (@footballscoop) November 25, 2012
The report was re-tweeted over 200 times. The site that tweeted out the information, Football Scoop, has more than 22,000 followers. The bio on the site's feed: "Since 1999, the premier source for coaching job information."
Speculation of coaches being linked to other jobs or attribution by anonymous sources are commonplace these days, especially at this time of year. CBSSports.com, as well as other major media outlets, engage in these reports, too. All of this only adds to the feeding frenzy of what some around the sport call The Silly Season. However, just nine minutes after the Football Scoop report came a bizarre twist even at a time when the bizarre seems SOP.
CoachingSearch.com, a similarly framed site to Football Scoop that has 18,000 followers and bills itself as "the most trusted expert on coaching transactions," then tweeted:
I've confirmed the report about NC State reaching out to Mike Leach is 100% inaccurate. Coachingsearch.com for real news.— Pete Roussel (@coachingsearch) November 25, 2012
Football Scoop fired back tweeting:
Little brother should get better sources. We have confirmed with the people involved.— FootballScoop Staff (@footballscoop) November 25, 2012
Real life. Coaches send us info. We call the people involved to verify. We report.We don't speculate / guess / make things up— FootballScoop Staff (@footballscoop) November 25, 2012
The back-and-forth between two sites that are often cited by media members and fans at this time of year -- though the sites are frequently confused for one another -- raised plenty of eyebrows, prompting reactions like "@coachingsearch vs. @footballscoop feud is about to get real, y'all."
In truth, the feud has been very real for more than a year. The sites are owned and operated by two brothers from New Orleans, who each grew up as teammates and pals with the Manning boys. Scott Roussel, 37, runs Football Scoop. He played at Newman High with Peyton Manning. His little brother Pete, the 32-year-old who runs Coaching Search, was Eli Manning's receiver at Newman years later.
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Together, the Roussel brothers bought Football Scoop in 2008. Fueled by rumors and reports filed by football staffers from programs all over the country, Football Scoop had been around for a decade. The site was low on flash and long on industry gossip: A linebacker coach at a D3 school feuding with his head coach meaning a job in Pennsylvania might pop ... a strength coach at a 1-AA tired of the business . . . A special teams coordinator at a mid-major interviewing with some Big East program.
True or even partially true, the speculation was part of the fun. Coaches often made the site the first thing they moused over to when they logged onto their PCs in the morning. Most of the media, though, didn't know Football Scoop existed for years.
Keith Allen created Football Scoop in 1998 because, as he puts it, he had some free time. Allen had gone from being an on-the-field coach at what is now Louisiana-Monroe to be an administrator in the football program at TCU. Dennis Franchione was the Horned Frogs' head coach. The unwritten rule: no one left the football building till Coach Fran left. So with the help of one of those How-To for dummy books -- how to build a website -- Allen skipped a trip to Vegas with his buddies for spring break to create a website, Football Scoop.
"The neat thing about the Internet is once two or three people see something, it can really take off," Allen says, adding that it took about 18 months before Football Scoop became viable.
The site was a must-see among football coaches by 2000, and Allen was back on the field running the defense at Quincy University in Illinois.
Allen's first rule for posting anything was that the source had to come from the particular school where the information was about. But Allen admits he didn't have the time to vet much of what was going up on the Scoop. "Sometimes we'd post something that had no legs," he says. "We'd do a quick retraction and apologize for it."
Maintaining the site and managing the demands of being a college coach was tricky. In the midst of recruiting season, Allen would make his calls to high school coaches, to recruits, do his home visits and then -- before he went to sleep at night -- he'd update the site after perusing his email. His bosses knew that he was running Football Scoop, he says, even if no one else in the coaching world did.
In 2007, Allen landed the head coaching job at Division II Southwest Baptist in Missouri around the same time he'd become a father and he knew he needed to make a choice. "When I was a 5-year-old, I didn't say, 'I wanna run a website.' I said, 'I wanna be a football coach.'" That also happened to be the same year when Pete Roussel's own fledgling coaching career took a left turn.
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Just like his older brother, Pete Roussel attended Ole Miss. The younger Roussel got a job working in the Rebels' football office after, he says, Archie Manning called then-Rebels head coach David Cutcliffe. After graduation, Pete spent a year working in the football office at Stanford and then another season at Memphis as a graduate assistant before he was hired to be the special teams coordinator at FCS Samford in 2007. The Bulldogs went 4-7 in Pat Sullivan's first season at Samford. Pete says he was the best recruiter on the staff, reeling in seven players, including a guy who ended up as a four-year starter. However, one week after the season, Sullivan called Roussel into his office.
"This is probably gonna blindside you," Roussel recalls Sullivan telling him, "but I have to make room for Bill Clay. He's my best friend."
Roussel was floored. Clay was a long-time college assistant who had just come from Texas A&M.
Roussel says Sullivan pledged to him, "Pete, I'll work you for two months. You'll get another job." But Roussel just walked out of his office determined to take care of his own business.
Sullivan declined comment for this story.
"I haven't talked to the guy since," Pete says of his former boss. "And in the next year, I had 10 job offers. Oklahoma State offered me the chance to be their offensive quality control assistant. I turned it down."
Instead, Roussel had a different plan. The whole networking aspect of the football coaching world intrigued him. After all, he'd just experienced the process first hand. He'd been scouring Football Scoop religiously and was struck by something: "Why is nobody advertising on this when all these coaches are looking at it all the time?"
Roussel contacted Allen, Football Scoop's owner, and learned that the coach wanted to sell the site. Roussel asked brother Scott to put the money up to buy it. The Roussel brothers bought Football Scoop in March 2008 for "very low six figures," says Scott, who quit his job as the VP of mergers and acquisitions for The Shaw Group to handle the business side of Football Scoop. His brother would handle the site's content.
"I knew I could get the information because I had a lot of contacts," Pete says.
The Roussels spruced up the look of Football Scoop. Gone went the basic design for something sharper and more user-friendly. The site was updated throughout the day. Traffic surged. As did Football Scoop's platform. Thanks to the increased outlets of message boards and Twitter, information-starved fans -- and media -- began sourcing the site's reports giving Football Scoop much more traction. And, as is often the case in the reporting world, the more people who are talking about you, the more people talk to you.
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The merits of breaking news and scoops, which can often be gauged by the difference of minutes depending on sources, is debatable. How much do fans really care who had something first? Hard to say, although stuff like that does factor into whom people trust for their information. There is also a big difference between speculating and reporting. The former is more "we hear . . . " or "don't be surprised if . . . " as opposed to saying something more definitive. Football Scoop, under its new leadership, had taken to doing more of both since the Roussels took over. Clearly, the site was expanding its audience well beyond just coaches.
To help build the brand within the business, the Roussels would throw keg parties welcoming any coach who wanted to attend at the annual American Football Coaches Association conventions. The first year that they ran the site was a struggle, Scott Roussel says, adding that Football Scoop's audience went from around 4,000 unique visitors a month to 6,000 in the first six months. But that number more than doubled in each of the next two years. Since then, Football Scoop's traffic continued doubling by the year. But while the business was booming, the Roussel brothers' vision of how Football Scoop should be run was going into different directions. Things got so tense that one evening at around 10:30 p.m. in August 2011, Pete tried to post an article on the site but couldn't log in. He says his passwords no longer worked. "Something fishy is going on," he thought. He tried Football Scoop's Twitter account. No luck there, either. Then he tried their Facebook account. Same deal. All of the passwords had been changed, Pete says. He had been locked out.
Neither brother wants to go into exactly how things got so nasty. It didn't help that they never had an operating agreement in place, Pete says. He filed a lawsuit against his brother for a percentage of the business, and is still pursuing the suit. "We've had some differences to say the least," says the younger Roussel. "I'll never talk to this guy again in my life."
Scott doesn't want to elaborate on the origins of the rift beyond saying, "It's complicated. People want different things in life."
Some three months after getting locked out of Football Scoop, Pete launched CoachingSearch.com -- a direct competitor to Football Scoop. The look was quite similar, only instead of Football Scoop's primary color of green, Coaching Search was blue, and atop each page is a picture of a smiling Pete Roussel with a cellphone held up to his ear. The content of both sites often is similar, too.
The site cost Pete $1,400, he says. "In the first two weeks I had 4,000 followers on twitter. I broke the Ron Zook story of him getting let go at Illinois."
Talk to college football coaches, and you'll get varying answers about which site they think is the more reliable. But almost all of the coaches -- at least the ones under 50 -- admit to having checked out at least one of the sites. Each brother has hired additional staff to handle the increased work load as the sites expand to produce more original content to serve the coaching world. Pete has added two writers to post his reports while Scott has brought on two more reporters to pursue leads.
"We've had this thing almost five years, and there's been a massive jump in the last year," says Scott. "It's amazing how many coaches I talk to in a day."
Pete says he hasn't looked at his older brother's site in eight months but that he gets calls from coaches weekly about it. "They say, 'Your brother is copying your stuff.' It's comical.
"I'm on a different level. I'm sure he's got good traffic. Our brands are totally different. I have not asked one radio station, 'Can I come on your show?' I am the least self-promoting person. I have no ego. I don't have time for as many stations that ask me to come on. From November through February, I'll probably do 10-12 [radio appearances] a week."
He's also never shy about pointing out when his big brother's site is wrong. Like he did on Wednesday, Nov. 28 when he posted:
Western Michigan: You got to read this article about false information surfacing from another site.
The link went to a Kalamazoo Gazette story refuting a Football Scoop report that stated Western Michigan had hired Indiana State's Trent Miles as its new head coach. The WMU AD was quoted in the story saying, “That is not true whatsoever. I have not interviewed one candidate. How that information gets out and how they do it I have no idea, but it is not true. He is obviously a viable candidate, but we've done nothing at all yet. We haven't talked to anybody.”
Pete says since Nov. 15, 2011, he has only been wrong with stories that he has reported three times. "I'm real conservative in what I do."
Coaching Search is coming off its biggest month yet. The site had 250,000 "uniques" and 700,000 total visits this past November, Pete says. "Last Monday and Tuesday eclipsed the biggest days Football Scoop had ever had, and it wasn't even close."
The younger Roussel has also branched out to include the Coaching Search Consulting business, which he added last September. "I'm trying to help coaches with professional advancement," he says, adding that he charges $119 for drafting resumes. "I've had multiple coaches say, 'Pete, I should fire my agent and hire you.' I told them I can't do contract work."
Asked if he foresees a move to become an agent, Pete concedes, "That might be the next step." He estimates 80 percent of his work day is now geared toward the consulting business. "People are always calling me, 'Pete, what should I do?'" He says he feels like he's going to need to make a decision, perhaps by early spring of 2013, about which way he takes his business. He does miss coaching and says he hears from former colleagues who tell him where they think he would be had he stayed in that business. "They say, 'You ought to be where [Clemson head coach] Dabo [Swinney] is right now.' Maybe I could've, but I don't look back."
Pete Roussel says he's "not in the business of discrediting other reporters, just my brother. I can't let my business be 'coupled' with his. We're different. Very different.
"I have a business. I run a business. He runs a website."
Scott Roussel laughs when he hears that his brother is trying to make sure people don't get his business confused with Football Scoop, saying that when Pete went out on his own, his brother created a website that was an exact replica of Football Scoop, only with a different color. "I think he wanted to cause confusion.
"I think Pete just says a lot of different things to a lot of different people."
Even though the brothers no longer speak to each other, they now have taken to Twitter and their own sites to speak at each other. As they did on Black Sunday, as well as several other occasions once the Silly Season heated up. The following was what Football Scoop tweeted after Coaching Search reported at 5:55 PM on Nov. 30 that Georgia State was hiring Trent Miles as head coach:
If you are asked to wait until 6pm because a coach hasn't told his players, you wait. #DoTheRightThing— FootballScoop Staff (@footballscoop) November 30, 2012
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Keith Allen is impressed by how Football Scoop has grown and by what Pete Roussel has done with Coaching Search. Allen admits he didn't have the foresight to embrace the technology as the Roussels have, adding videos and producing more original content to provide insight into the coaching world. He laughs when he says, "I coded that thing myself. You know it's adapt or die, and I don't know how much more I could've adapted."
He's also aware of the feud between the brothers. First, he had heard from Pete. Then he spoke to Scott. Somewhere along the way, lawyers were involved.
"I have a good relationship with both of them," says Allen. "I went up to each of their little gatherings last year [at the coaching convention]. I met with both of them probably two minutes apart. I said, 'I'm glad the businesses are doing great, but y'all are still brothers. There's plenty of money to be made, and there's plenty of stories to break. You guys are brothers. Work it out.'
"I just hope for their sake at some point the relationship mends."