As you know by now, Rodriguez opted out.
ESPN, the self-proclaimed Worldwide Leader in Sports, also said that Shula's job was firmly in tact. Then they put Rodriguez's mugshot up with a big Alabama logo announcing his apparent hiring. That anyone associated with that monstrous organization would then turn around and criticize Alabama's conduct of the search is despicable.
Reporters have been fooled and/or lied to by sources, but the last thing they want to do is deliberately mislead anyone (opinion columnists are another story altogether.)
Coaches and agents can lie and it's a part of the business. Agent types seem to be the ones who have the most to gain from this. Their reputations are made on the football field and at the negotiating table, respectively. Reporters reputations are made on whether what they say is accurate or inaccurate, and most act in good faith.
Alabama Athletics Director Mal Moore hasn't been talking. That might have hurt him in perception (and maybe in reality?) in this search, but in a way it is honorable that Moore is not spinning (read: lying) his keister off in the media to increase his perception, and perhaps his negotiating position.
It's not like you can take the words of the candidates, or rumored candidates, at face value any more. Nick Saban, undoubtedly a smart individual, fox-trotted around a flat denial of interest in the job for a month, and on Thursday finally made a statement that seemed to withstand parsing, but would anyone really be shocked if he wound up at Alabama?
Jimbo Fisher mounted a Dennis Kucinich like campaign for the job, but that seems to have finally faded into background noise. Mike Sherman, too, hopefully.
The only thing anyone can do is rely on his eyes and ears, good judgment and those he trusts the most. The most pragmatic fans have refused to believe anything until someone is standing behind the podium in the Naylor Stone Media Suite accepting the position.
Media types don't have the luxury of waiting that long, however, and there's too much money at stake for coaches or agents to shoot straight. It's no wonder this is such an unclean process.