MULE': Appreciating Accurate Reporting

When LSU was looking for a new coach to replace Charlie McClendon in 1980, Times-Picayune columnist Pete Finney was sitting in Paul Manasseh's office.

In an off-handed way, Finney asked the Tiger sports information director, "Who do you think it will be?''

Manasseh said he had no idea, that AD Paul Dietzel was keeping things extremely close to the vest. Then the SID added, "You know, though, if I were betting it would be on a young, rising coach . . . someone like maybe Bo Rein, who has started something at North Carolina State, a place that has never been much of a presence in football.''

Within days of that conversation, Finney was the first among a fevered state media corps to bring up the name of Rein in print, saying he would be named – which turned out to be yet another in a long series of coups for the dean of Louisiana sportswriters.

The point is, if it turned out after careful checking there was no substance to the story, Finney would have gone on to finding the next viable candidate. But pointed in the general direction, he nailed the story.

One of Finney's traits as a newsman is knowing there's nothing wrong with listening to what knowledgeable people have to say, then checking things out and seeing where they lead you.

It seems so different than now, where you get the sense that some "newsmen'' come up with a theory, toss it out there, and if it's refuted, go on the internet and find someone who agrees with the theory – then take that as a confirmation.

Of course, the Rein scenario is in direct contrast to the erroneous Les Miles-to-Michigan story that seemed to take on a twisted life of its own.

This is not to say that newsmen, even the redoubtable Finney, can't make mistakes. They can and do.

But once it's realized, you pick up, work harder and get it right. Which was not only not done in this case, but it was as if no one wanted to admit conventional wisdom was dead wrong.

Kirk Herbstreit of the Worldwide Leader in Sports initially broke the story the morning of LSU's appearance in the SEC Championship Game, not knowing Miles and LSU had already agreed to terms of a contract extension the night before.

So he screwed up. He shouldn't be executed because his timing – and sources – were off.

What is almost unforgivable – given they were trying to prop up a limp-at-best story – was the cover the national sports media tried to provide.

ESPN wouldn't own up to the error for days afterward, parsing Miles' words practically every day, noting he said "I'm going to be the coach at LSU,'' but not actually saying he was not going to be the coach at Michigan next year.

Detroit columnist Mitch Albon self-righteously said Miles' angry tirade at the initial report – hours before LSU's title game – was "disingenuous'' and masked Miles' double-dealing with the two schools, although Miles and LSU came to their understanding before the coach publicly called out Herbstreit, a fact Albon chose to ignore.

Skip Bayless (and does this guy ever get anything right?) on a panel on ESPN's "Take Two,'' hosted by vacuous Dana Jacobson, who constantly reminds a disinterested public that she is a Michigan grad, essentially called Miles a liar.

The Detroit Free Press printed a story days after later that Miles was again a candidate for the Wolverine job, then provided no proof or substance of such a claim. The core of the story was that Miles recently talked to the Michigan AD and president, which was true. Except the call was to give them some of his insights on their search, which is what he said on the morning of his scolding of the media in Atlanta that he would gladly would do if they wanted his help.

Dennis Dodd on, along with several other national other national internet "experts,'' said Miles was holding up the two universities.

Three of the four-man panel, consisting of John Saunders, Mike Lupica, Bob Ryan and Jeremy Schaap, on ESPN's The Sports Reporters was asked for a show of hands on who believed Miles would be a Michigan next season. Three raised their hands.

It's a sobering to think that these are the conduits of sports opinions and analysis these days.

For that sports fan in your life, think about a subscription to The Morning Advocate, The Times-Picayune and Tiger Rag.

They might appreciate accurate reporting on their football teams.


Marty Mule' can be reached at

Tiger Blitz Top Stories