In the few nanoseconds that followed the sucker punch by Oregon’s LeGarrette Blount against a taunting Boise State player and Blount’s subsequent meltdown in the arms of Boise police offers, security personnel and his own assistant coaches, the whole incident was instantaneously transmitted via YouTube, Twitter, and even became an instant Wikipedia entry.

We all instinctively appreciate the power of New Media, but it takes an incident of this magnitude to reinforce how quickly these new tools can instantly build or in this case, destroy a reputation. The calls for Blount’s suspension and or dismissal from Oregon’s team came fast and furious on Twitter with 80 or more updates every few seconds. Anybody and everybody who had an opinion was firing tweets into cyberspace.

What message does this send to high-visibility athletes and performers and the organizations that they play or perform for? The answer is that carefully massaged image building and branding can be wiped out in seconds. The notion of ultra-cool Oregon with billionaire Uncle Phil (Knight) paying the bills for their fancy duds and facilities has been drastically altered by one nationally televised meltdown.

Is it fair?

Is life fair?

 It is what it is.

To those New Media agnostics, they should be thinking about becoming evangelists. New Media can very quickly tear down an image… can just as quickly build a brand and sell a product, such as a world class university. The University of Oregon will recover in time, but this one will hurt and will not be forgotten anytime soon.