That's what it comes down to if you are a coach. I've been in sportswriting for 31 years. I've seen reporters used by coaches and I've seen coaches used by reporters. And, I've watched things develop in two arenas, Arkansas and Oklahoma, and seen who coaches trust, how they use them and who is trusted by readers and why. I've laughed a bit when I've read about how OH wouldn't have written the stories Scott wrote. Maybe he wouldn't have, but I'm not sure. He never had to cover an NCAA investigation.
I used to listen intently as a youngster in the back seat as my father and Coach Broyles talked in the front seat. I was always trying to decide sometimes who was using whom. You could see the information passing back and forth as each tried to help the other form an opinion on what he should do. And, I mean it went both ways, the information that was going back and forth. Was Frank trying to leverage his position with my dad on certain subjects to have things slanted a certain way? Yes. Was my father trying to work his way into a scoop on a delicate issue? Yes.
But, when it came time, my father did step up to the plate and criticize if he thought it needed to be done. Ask Frank if he was ever ripped by Orville Henry? Yep, he got hammered quite a few times. Was OH a homer? Yep. Did he ever make a hard decision and step to the plate with objective stories on his favorite people? Yep. He could do that because he had the trust of his readers, and from the coaches. If he was critical, then everyone knew that the criticism was deserved. He had a track record, and that served him well when he wanted to step away from his role as homer and rip the Hogs or the coaches.
Was OH ever hammered by fans (Razorback fans and non-Razorback fans) for being a homer for the school? Yes, quite often. I still hear it.
It's interesting, when I was a freshman at the UA, I sat in a dorm full of classmates one night in September (I'd been at school just two weeks) and listened to two fellows from East Arkansas rip my father to shreds for being an old man that didn't know anything about anything and was only a cheerleader for Frank Broyles. I listened to it for about 20 minutes, then excused myself from the gathering with six words as I stood at thd door, "He's my father, go to hell!" Those guys turned out to be good friends, and formed different opinions after they met my father and also began to study what he wrote and why he wrote it. They had formed their previous opinions from listening to their fathers' thoughts, and those were not from Razorback fans.
One thing I will say is that we are comparing something that's never been out there before. My father never wrote about NCAA investigations or Frank's roles in possible sanctions because there has never been one like this before. OH has no track record on what he would or wouldn't do in this situation. After talking to him this week, he was not surprised to read the stories in the Democrat. He expected them to appear long ago and wondered aloud to the reasons why the stories did not run until now ... possibly because Wally has a love for Houston that is probably similar to my father's love for Frank. We do know that Wally does not have that same relationship with Frank, and these stories hammered at Frank, not Houston.
I also studied intently as a young reporter at the Tulsa World as these kinds of situations developed. Bill Connors, the late sports editor, had the same relationships with coaches in that state that my father had with Frank at Arkansas. Bill was loved, respected and admired by readers and by the coaches he covered. He did things in much the same manner as my father. His main approach was NOT to do something that was bad for the community, and that sometimes meant not running a story.
But, when Oklahoma State, Bill's alma mater, was found guilty of cheating, he was the one who blew the whistle. Does anyone remember the Jim Stanley era at OSU? Stanley was found guilty of establishing a slush fund fed by boosters. Bill was given letters written by Stanley that detailed the slush fund. It was on OSU stationary. Bill blew the whistle. That was something that Bill didn't want to do, because it meant passing guilt on a good friend, Stanley, and his alma mater. Did it hurt OSU? Dad gum right it hurt OSU. And, Bill didn't like doing it, but he knew it was what was right.
Many are upset because these stories appeared when a recruit was on campus, and another star recruit is still undecided. I do know that the Democrat expected the recruiting to be done by the time these stories appeared. They didn't just write them on Thursday and Friday. They wrote them for days, and then held three pages for them. I'm guessing that it would have caused a real problem to pull those stories with three empty pages when they learned on Friday that recruiting was still not done.
The stories were timed to come out after the NCAA's LOI arrived and the date that was given was Friday. They wanted to have their work done and deliver the best information they could on the subject.
One thing that has been interesting during this entire recruiting process has been the interest among Razorback fans on the investigation. I've been trying to keep those threads off this board during recruiting as to not impact recruiting in a negative way. I've deleted perhaps 50 threads or potential threads on the investigation. People continue to ask me on the street about the investigation. People continue to call our radio show to ask about the investigation.
The folks asking these questions are not the enemy. They are Razorback fans asking questions about what is going to happen, what was done, and what the UA is doing about it. I'm asked about it daily, and often more than once. That was before the Democrat stories.
What does that tell you? It says that Razorback fans want to know what is going on with their school. The interest is there.
We can all wish this away, and want it to be kept under wraps, but that's not going to happen.
And, as far as the trust matter, that is for each coach to decide. Some reporters are trustworthy. Others are not. It upsets me to see some of our coaches used blatently by reporters and sports editors when I know these men have proven to be unreliable. And, I've seen our coaches use these reporters to further their goals and missions. Sooner or later, you will be burned.
There is nothing more important than your name. Once it is ruined, there is nothing you or anyone can do to change that fact. It's gone forever.
Poster Dottie on HI.com's Insider's Board is right. Coaches have to decide who to trust. And, they are the ones who deal with the reporters each day and they are the ones who must decide which reporter they can trust and who they better not trust. And, just because a reporter works at the biggest paper in the state is no reason to trust them.
Houston Nutt has a tough job to do now. He must decide where he must place that trust. Will it be with Scott Cain? Will it be with Wally Hall? Will it be with Otis Kirk? I have a feeling about what he will do. But, I'll leave that for another day.
Clay Henry, Publisher, HI.com