McIntire's book takes aim at Florida State, college sports

Through his stories for The New York Times, Ridgefield resident Mike McIntire is known to readers as a dogged investigative reporter focusing on national and international news.

His first book, however, focuses on college sports.

Published Sept. 5 by W.W. Norton & Company, Champions Way: Football, Florida, and the Lost Soul of College Sports, sprang from reporting McIntire did with a fellow Times journalist, Walt Bogdanich, for several stories on former star quarterback Jameis Winston and alleged crimes and cover-ups at the Florida State University football program. The stories were a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize award in 2015.

“Walt began the focus with an investigation of the Jameis Winston [rape] case, and how both the police and the university mishandled the case,” said McIntire, who got his journalism start at The Wilton Bulletin, a sister paper of The Ridgefield Press. “From there, it led me to look for more information into potentially a deeper issue at this school that could be addressed. For the book, the goal was to tell this broader story in a way that is engaging. It became a great way to tell the story through the lens of Florida State.”

A press release from W.W. Norton describes McIntire’s book as “uncovering the workings of a system that enables athletes to violate academic standards and avoid criminal prosecution for actions ranging from shoplifting to drunk driving.”

“At the heart of Champions Way is the untold story of a whistle-blower, Christie Suggs, and her wrenching struggle to hold a corrupt system to account,” wrote W.W. Norton in its press release. “Together with shocking new details about prominent sports figures, including NFL quarterback Jameis Winston and former FSU coach Bobby Bowden, Champions Way shines a light on the ethical, moral, and legal compromises inherent in the making of a championship sports program.”

“Florida has good public records, so it was easier as a journalist to find information,” said McIntire, who will speak and sign copies of the book at the Ridgefield Library on Monday, Sept. 25, from 7 to 8:30. “Obviously, Florida State did not want their image negatively affected, so a lot of people were not willing to give away information. Others, however, were very happy to have the issue be known and put out there.

“Florida State strongly disagreed with our stories for the Times, though they could point to no factual errors,” added McIntire.

McIntire’s book extends beyond Florida State to explore and discuss causes for why big-time college sports have become a ripe environment for ethical and moral failings.

“[McIntire] effectively weaves together emails, police reports, court transcripts, and interviews with whistle-blowers and victims,” said Publishers Weekly in an advance endorsement for the book. “[He] summarizes the history of college sports and the social and economic culture of football in American universities … convincingly arguing that these transgressions are widespread.”