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How Twitter Helped Find BCS Sign, Track It Down

On the night of the BCS National Championship game between Oregon and Auburn, Sports Illustrated’s college football reporter Stewart Mandel sent out a tweet that mentioned a hilarious sign he saw at the game.

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Photo by: Joel Smith

It wasn’t shown on television, but word of the sign, which was one of those large checks made out to Auburn’s star quarterback Cam Newton for $180,001 and signed by Auburn head coach Gene Chizik, made the rounds on the Twitterverse.

The next morning, Andy Gray, who runs the SI Vault account on Twitterposted a photo of the “check,” which was meant to be a jab at the biggest scandal in college football this year. Newton’s father allegedly asked for moneyfor his son to play at Mississippi State, though the NCAA never found any evidence that any money trail tied him to Auburn.

After I retweeted Gray’s shot, my tweet was seen by Nick DePaula, who works at Sole Collector magazine. DePaula was a friend of Joel Smith, who used to work in the sports video department at the University of Oregon and was in fact the man who made the sign and brought it to the game. Smith contacted me and told me the story about how he made the check:

“The Friday before the game, I made one of those golfer’s checks on my computer. I played around with the logos to make it look really official. I had it printed at a Kinko’s. I rolled it up and carried it on the plane and when I got off the plane in Arizona I bought foam board at an office supply store to put it on.”

“I put the value at $180,001 because I thought that if Mississippi State was supposedly pitched $180,000 for Cam’s services, Auburn must have paid $180,001. My wife and I went to the game to tailgate and we couldn’t get through the crowd. Everyone, whether they were Auburn fans or Oregon fans, kept stopping us because they wanted to take a picture of it. It cost me about $35 to make it and it was well worth it.”

Without Twitter, I would have never heard of Joel Smith's sign. I would have never commented on it and Smith would have never contacted me. Pretty amazing how much our world has changed.

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