Last week as college basketball fans felt the heat of the tournament rise as the Final Four drew near, a situation arose out of West Lafayette that took away much of the attention that should have been focused on Butler, VCU, UConn and Kentucky. Amidst all of these storylines coming out of what would be one of the best Final Fourâ€™s in recent history came some sour news out of West Lafayette, Indiana. Purdue head coach Matt Painter was apparently MIA and the media circuit blew up with allegations and unchecked facts as it was rumored that he would be leaving the Boilermakers for the head coaching position at Missouri.
Monday night, Dick Weiss of the New York Daily News posted this on his Twitter account:
From there, I think itâ€™s safe to say that all hell broke loose. Weiss is a trusted name in college basketball news considering heâ€™s been covering the sport for over 40 years, so when he posted this information, I felt there had to be some legitimacy to it. No journalist, in my opinion, wants to start a media storm of facts denying facts and contradicting stories that just turn into more drama.
That is, until Jeff Rabjohns of the Indianapolis Star posted this memo on his Twitter account later that night:
So basically you have two well-respected journalists with contradicting reports putting information out there that no one could attribute or back up. It was an absolute free-for-all and made the credibility of a number of sports journalists decline significantly at that moment.
At this point in the week, the Indy media should have been heavily focusing on churning out stories about Butler and their back-to-back trips to the Final Four. Iâ€™m not saying Purdue/Missouri chose this time to create controversy that eventually would amount to nothing just to take attention away from Butler, but it sure didnâ€™t help. And really, you canâ€™t just blame the media for the contradicting reports and information swirling out of control during this entire ordeal. That information has got to come from somewhere and itâ€™s obvious that the Purdue athletic department screwed up big time in what information got out last Monday.
From what I understand, after those first initial reports on Monday that Painter was going to Missouri in a seven year, 14 million dollar deal, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch confirmed that it was a done deal Wednesday morning. Thatâ€™s funny, how would you be able to confirm whether something is happening without getting the official word from the people involved? Apparently Painter was on vacation with his family in Florida when this report surfaced and was not returning calls to either Missouri or Purdue denying or confirming the report. I understand this was probably considered the â€œbest PRâ€ move in his situation, but it just prolonged the irritability of reports contradicting other reports and really made both athletic departments and the media outlets that confirmed the hire not credible.
Word of what Purdue was doing in scrambling to keep Painter got out over the internet and I was shocked to hear that their athletic department sent out a pretty angry email to their boosters stating that their lack of participation in several alumni events and the fact that they were not as supportive as the athletic department would have liked is the entire reason that Painter was leaving. Wow. I understand they were trying to get their alumni to fork up some cash on the spot to give Painter a counter offer, but that was not the way to go about it.
Even more pathetic was the â€œKeep Matt Painterâ€ rally in which eleven students showed up. I donâ€™t think I even need to go into details as to how bad that sounds for the Boilermakerâ€™s image.
However, low and behold we were ALL wrong about the situation as Indianapolisâ€™ FOX59 broke the official story late Wednesday afternoon stating that Painter did indeed get back into touch with Purdue officials and was staying at his alma mater through 2019 and would be starting off with a salary of 2.3 million dollars a year. That is the end of it, â€œsources confirm.â€
I tried to think as a journalist and someone who covers sports what I actually learned from this situation. Clearly a lot of journalists need to get the story and support from the center of the situation (in this case Painter) before they start putting information out there on sites like Twitter that are very hard to take back.
While the back-and-forth media reports made for a slew of false information, both athletic departments are at blame, too, for not taking charge of the situation and coming out with a statement at any point during this ordeal explaining Painterâ€™s status. This has to be one of the most embarrassing situations for both parties and the media as the lack of fact checking and reckless reporting caused for a whirlwind of false information that discredited a number of sources.
Itâ€™s true that the media should keep up to the minute information on whatâ€™s going on instead of waiting until the end of it all to report something, but itâ€™s extremely frustrating when certain reporters and media outlets, like Dick Weiss and the St. Louis Post Dispatch, print information that isnâ€™t correctly attributed and comes back to slap them in the face. In my opinion, until the words came out of Painterâ€™s mouth or a statement was released from either university, no source had the real scoop.
And with all of that over and done with, itâ€™s time to get back to the most important topic in college basketball: The National Championship game between Butler and Connecticut.