Seeing through ‘The Blind Side’
NCAA’s Thompson sets the record straight on Oher interview
The Academy Award-winning movie The Blind Side got it wrong when it came to NCAA investigative practices, and NCAA assistant director for enforcement Joyce Thompson set the record straight in front of an audience of nearly 30 journalists during the Enforcement Experience on Tuesday in Indianapolis.
Thompson, an NCAA investigator for nearly a decade, was portrayed in the 2009 movie as the hard-nosed, humorless and intimidating Jocelyn Granger. The Enforcement Experience was a day-long session that provided media members with a behind-the-scenes look at the complex task of holding institutions, administrators, coaches and student-athletes accountable for NCAA rules that are intended to promote education and fair play.
Thompson’s name wasn’t the only thing that was given literary license in The Blind Side. The actress’s portrayal of the personable and engaging nine-year NCAA veteran was as much fiction as the setting for the scene.
Thompson first met Michael Oher (a football player who was the subject of the movie) at his home with his legal guardian, Sean Tuohy, present. She interviewed Oher, then a high school senior, as part of the NCAA’s Top-Prospect Program, which is designed to identify and monitor the recruitment of elite high school athletes.
In the movie, Granger, played by Sharon Morris, interviews Oher alone in a sterile conference room, asking Sandra Bullock’s character, Leigh Anne Tuohy, to wait outside. Oher, a homeless youth, was taken in by the Tuohys when they discovered his dire situation.
As Granger paces the room, Oher becomes visibly nervous. “What do you want, ma’am?” he asks as Granger looms over him.
“I want the facts! I need the truth,” she responds.
A flustered and intimidated Oher says, exasperated, “I didn’t lie!”
“The way we interview student-athletes or prospects is completely different from how it was portrayed in the movie,” Thompson said in an article that appeared in NCAA Champion magazine. “I didn’t like the fact that the investigator came off as intimidating. I try not to be that way.”