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Taunting's a penalty in football -- and WFAA8 investigator Brett Shipp merits a flag

Frankly, this is conduct unbecoming of a topflight investigative reporter with an armload of prestigious national awards.

Or to use a football analogy, WFAA8's Brett Shipp has been to the end zone many times before. He should act like it. In that context, we'll get to his very ill-considered Facebook posting in just a few paragraphs.

Shipp weighed in on Tuesday's 10 p.m. newscast (delayed 20 minutes by President Obama's address) with his second report on the questionable ethics of Southlake Carroll's high-powered football program. And he added another heavyweight to this one -- defending 5A champion Euless Trinity. That school currently has an even higher profile than Southlake after its football team was ranked as No. 1 in the country by USA Today. So these are big fish. No doubt about it.

Shipp's report contends that both schools may have violated University Interscholastic League rules in Texas by letting some members of their teams scrimmage together in June while coaches appeared to be yelling out "sport specific skill instructions." The UIL allows only supervised "strength and conditioning" activities during the summer, with the use of "sport specific equipment" also prohibited.

Most football fans in North Texas know by now that Shipp reported at length last week on the questionable eligibility of would-be Southlake starting quarterback Daxx Garman, who transfered from Oklahoma. Because of the report, Garman was not allowed to play in the team's season opener, which it lost last week. An appeal hearing is scheduled for Sept. 14th, with Garman on the sidelines at least until then.

In the interim, Shipp has been using his Facebook page to help spread the word about Tuesday's second report. But he went way overboard with a Tuesday morning post (that was removed after this story appeared).

"Tonight at Ten on News 8: Forget the QB," he wrote. "Southlake's coaches are in hot water. What's more, see what happens when they invite Number 1 ranked Trinity into the hot tub with them. Sniff, sniff!!!! Is that the smell of two cooked seasons?"

No, that's the smell of a grandstanding taunt that makes Shipp look like a juvenile blowhard. And really, he's much better than that.

Tuesday's story in fact did not have the impact of the Garman investigation, even if both schools appear to have some further explaining to do. Neither head coach -- Hal Wasson of Southlake and Steve Lineweaver of Trinity Euless -- wanted Shipp and his cameraman around. But he stood his ground and questioned both of them.

Wasson initially was shown running over to Shipp and asking, "Who are you filming?" At the close of the story, he emphatically told Shipp, "We are supervising our facilities." Back live in WFAA8 studios, Shipp very audibly sighed in apparent exasperation before telling viewers that the UIL wanted to see WFAA8's story before looking into the matter. Penalties, Shipp said, can range from "reprimand all the way to suspension."

Lineweaver was approached by WFAA8 during a Trinity practice last week.

"Did you guys get permission to come out here?" the coach asked.

"No, we didn't," Shipp told him.

Lineweaver told him to go through a school representative first. When Shipp persisted, Lineweaver repeated, "Would you please go through proper channels? Thank you."

These are gut-grinding situations for all involved. If the coaches are knowingly violating rules, they damned sure don't want anyone else to know about it. And Shipp wouldn't be human if he completely relished these confrontations. They're part of an investigator's job -- and certainly not a pleasant one.

Shipp erred, though, in grinding his heel into the neck of both schools' football programs well before his report actually aired. It's one thing for him to use Facebook as a vehicle to alert potential viewers that Part 2 of his investigation into possible high school football irregularities is coming Tuesday night. It's quite another to write, "Sniff, sniff!!!! Is that the smell of two cooked seasons?"

You just don't earn points that way.

Here's video of Shipp's Tuesday night story: