You get the feeling that The Cats Pause, the fan publication for UK sports, would do almost anything to get an exclusive on the Wildcat basketball coaching situation. That includes repeating unfounded rumors, or, maybe even making stuff up.
How else to explain how a message board rumor turned into a news story picked up by legitimate media outlets like the Courier-Journal. Cats Pause GM Darrell Bird, in a C-J story, said the “rumor” his site reported wasn’t meant to be picked up as a new story. Right.
The headline was “Blockbuster Deal Done” and the story that included terms of a contract, based on Bird’s unnamed sources. It probably sold a few subscriptions for the Cats Pause website and no doubt pushed the site’s traffic figures.
It’s amazing how the folks who write about sports wander off the path of honest journalism, especially when presented with an opportunity to be first to report a college basketball coaching change. Imagine if reporters on the news side tried to post such a rumor about, say, the Mayor.
They forget the principles of journalism, the simple stuff like checking facts and confirming sources, in the rush to publish on the Web. It’s all about getting the story first, and that kind of competition is good. But the quest to get the story, especially in reporting college basketball coaching changes, must be grounded in some fact. What’s more irresponsible is the legitimate media outlets who report the rumors, citing some rogue blog as its source.
There’s plenty of blame to go around for this one, starting with the UK athletic director. Mitch Barnhart, from the moment Tubby Smith departed for Minnesota, holed up in his office and refused to talk to reporters. Contrast that with Louisville’s Tom Jurich, who always seems to control media reports during high-profile coaching searches.
During the period in which Barnhart was hiding from reporters, Jurich held a press conference hours after learning his women’s basketball coach was leaving, and completed the new hire and introduced his new coach as a press conference.
By taking a proactive approach to personnel changes, Jurich squashes the unfounded rumors that UK seems to attract. I’d bet that in each sport, Jurich has a short list of replacements should his coach leave. It was obvious that when Bobby Petrino left that Jurich had done some groundwork with Steve Kragthorpe well in advance.
So while Jurich goes to his Rolodex, Barnhart has to hire a search firm. While Jurich always seems to get his man, Barnhart seems to lack personal relationships in the athletics fraternity. And he feeds the media beast by refusing to talk.