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Stimulus Saves First Lady’s Brother?

We figured that people would recognize this latest chain e-mail for the hoax that it is. It makes a ridiculously false claim about Craig Robinson, who is the head coach of Oregon State University’s men’s basketball team and First Lady Michelle Obama’s older brother. But judging from the number of times we’ve been asked about this since the beginning of March, we were wrong. The author of this bogus e-rumor must be suffering from a different kind of “March Madness” than that which is currently sweeping the rest of the nation.

How do you reward a second-year coach who has led his team to the most wins it has had in back-to-back seasons in almost 20 years? According to this e-mail’s “unnamed source,” you fire that coach. Thankfully for Robinson, the school’s athletic director doesn’t feel the same way.

Chain E-mail about Michelle Obama’s Brother, Craig Robinson

Well now, isn’t this special…ONE JOB SAVED AND WORTH EVERY PENNY.

Some have said that the stimulus hasn’t saved any jobs, but here is a case where at least one job was saved.

According to an unnamed source, Oregon State University Athletic Director Bob DeCarolis was considering firing their basketball coach, Craig Robinson, after an 8-11 start (2-5 in the Pac 10 conference).

When word of this reached Washington, Under Secretary of Education Martha Kanter was dispatched to Corvallis with $17 million in stimulus money for the university.

The source now says that Craig Robinson’s job is safe for this year.

For the record, Coach Robinson just happens to be Michelle Obama’s brother.

Yes, after their first 19 games of the 2009-2010 season, the men’s team had amassed just two conference wins, and eight wins overall. But OSU Assistant Director for Athletic Communications Michael Collins told us the university wasn’t contemplating showing Robinson the door because of it. In fact, nine games later (with a 7-9 conference record, and a 13-15 overall record), the university announced that Robinson had agreed to a two-year contract extension that would keep him on the sidelines in Corvallis, Ore., through at least 2016. The reason for the extension, the university said, was the basketball program’s resurgence under Robinson:

OSU statement, March 2: In just his second season at Oregon State, Robinson has started a remarkable turnaround that has seen the Beavers win 31 games since his arrival. The 31 wins is the most over a two-year period for Oregon State since the Beavers won a combined 36 games during the 1989-90 and 1990-91 seasons.

In his first season at Oregon State, Robinson led a turnaround that culminated in the Beavers capturing the College Basketball Invitational tournament title with a best-of-three series win over UTEP. With the championship, the Beavers captured the first postseason men’s basketball title in school history.

Despite those accomplishments, according to the chain e-mail, Robinson’s saving grace was a $17 million federal stimulus check made out to the university courtesy of the Obama administration. But that theory is seriously flawed. First, there is no record of Education Under Secretary Martha Kanter being "dispatched to Corvallis" with federal money. Second, the $17.8 million that the university actually received via the federal stimulus bill, and that this e-mail refers to, had been awarded to the school by Sept. 30, 2009. The men’s basketball season, however, didn’t get underway until Nov. 13, 2009. Either the Obama administration figured the men’s team would struggle early and sent the money in advance, just in case OSU Athletic Director Bob De Carolis got any crazy ideas about letting the president’s brother-in-law go, or this e-mail is just flat out wrong. We’ve been in this game too long to believe the former.

Update, March 24: After we published our wire item, Oregon State University released a statement calling the e-mail’s claims "false" and "baseless."