COMMENTARY: Seeking clarity from Q13

THERE ARE A ton of football heavyweights in Paul Wulff's corner these days. Jim Walden, the venerable old coach, and Bud Withers, the grizzled old football scribe, are with him. So are Ryan Leaf and Paul Sorensen, a couple of former All-Americans who've spent time in the coaching ranks themselves.

There's also Jim Harbaugh, Chip Kelly, Rick Neuheisel and Mike Stoops, Wulff's Pac-10 coaching brethren who have each opined in recent weeks that Wulff's rebuild at WSU is working.

And then there's Aaron Levine, the 29-year-old sports anchor at KCPQ-TV (a.k.a. Q13 Fox) in Seattle. He says Mike Bellotti will be WSU's coach come season's end unless the Cougs win a couple games and/or the Minnesota Golden Gophers beat them to Bellotti's doorstep. CF.C talked with Mr. Levine on Monday, curious about the timing of and research behind his editorial comment on Sunday suggesting Wulff's ouster and Bellotti's elevation "is closer than you think."

Mr. Levine sounds like a nice young man. He's bright, friendly and very well spoken – much as you'd expect from a Stanford man who cut his teeth professionally as the radio voice of the Cardinal women's volleyball team.

The "Moos-wants-Bellotti" notion isn't exactly the cutting-edge, revelatory thinking you might expect from a graduate of the Harvard of the West, but it is what it is no matter how rudimentary.

The questions for Mr. Levine were pretty straight forward:

1) Why now, and why this topic (as opposed to, say, Washington's mega-hyped season gone bad)?

"There was no motive behind the timing," Mr. Levine said, it was based on a couple of conversations he had recently with sources he views as reliable in Eugene and Pullman.

2) You imply that it's definitive Bill Moos will "make a move." What gives you the confidence that a decision has been made or is forthcoming?

Definitely not saying anything is definitive, Mr. Levine is quick to correct. He is just opining that Wulff needs to win games down the stretch to stay safe.

3) Did you notice the seeming contradiction in your commentary – that Wulff inherited a mess and the Cougs are showing steady progress, but he still needs to be fired? Explain the thinking here?

Levine personally believes Wulff should return because the cupboard was bare when he arrived at WSU, the team is young and inexperienced, and they're getting more competitive each week. But one source tells him that the issue "has to do not with being competitive but winning games." Moreover, he says, Bellotti is a proven commodity who may want back in the game.

4) What do you know about the relationship between Moos and Bellotti? Are they close? How do you know Moos would want him?

"Their roots go deep at Oregon," says Mr. Levine. "They're friends. They built something together at Oregon."

5) Was Moos the one who hired Bellotti as head coach at Oregon?

"I don't know. I haven't done that research," Mr. Levine said.

(Editor's note: Bellotti was already head coach when Moos became Oregon's AD.)

6) Jim Sterk hired Wulff. Do you know who chaired the search committee that recommended he hire Wulff?

"I don't know," Mr. Levine said.

(Editor's note: Bill Moos chaired that search committee.)

Those last two questions speak to the nuance of an issue. They're the types of factoids that can add meaningful context to a topic. They may not change the view of the world, but they certainly suggest that situations aren't always black and white. There's a lot of gray in this world.

As talking heads go, Mr. Levine is solid. Probably even better than most. The guess here, based on this one piece of commentary, though, is that if he tried to slip it through the Murrow College back in the day, the likes of Glenn Johnson, Tom Heuterman and the late great Chuck Cole would have sent him home in a trail of red ink.

A commentary is personal opinion, yes, but Mr. Levine's piece on Sunday just came out of the blue and with no stated underpinnings attached other than the obvious scarcity of wins. He told CF.C his underpinnings were unnamed sources. Yet they weren't alluded to in his commentary.

So who are these people? How do we know they're credible? Are they in positions to really know anything? Do they have a personal agenda to advance? What's their motivation for spreading rumors? Have they ever spoken with Bill Moos?

This is not a run-of-the-mill issue. This is a very high-profile and delicate topic. It deserves more than two sources, unnamed at that, dictating what goes on the air.

Just because Mr. Levine finds them credible doesn't mean they actually are credible.

What we have here, really, is just speculation from folks who happen to live in the 509 and 503 area codes.

Alas, we live in the age of drive-by broadcasting. When you look at much of the nonsense that passes for legitimate discourse on TV and radio these days, it's enough to make a soul cringe.

So to that end, Mr. Levine is but a product of his era, doing what so many others do – shoot from the hip without enough digging, without questioning of motives, without looking at the nuances and analyzing the history. The aim, clearly, is just to get people chattering, or tweeting, or whatever it is that broadcast "news" tries to do these days.

Mr. Levine himself volunteered that the objective of his commentary is singular: "to stir up discussion – that's what we're creating with it."

For that, you don't need to do much digging or analyzing. You just need someone whispering something in your ear that can be turned into an editorial that will be get people's attention.

Mr. Levine's thoughts are especially curious at this point in time when you consider the experience and expertise of those who back what Wulff is doing, and who have come out in his corner in recent days and weeks.

To that end, don't misunderstand me. I'm not here to say Paul Wulff must return for a fourth season. Though very much warm to the idea, I'm not qualified to make that call. I can tell you that I have talked one-on-one with Paul for a considerable amount of time over the last three years and have always come away impressed. The plan he has put forward, the type of athletes he's recruiting and the progress we're now seeing on the field also have impressed me favorably. But at the end of the day, I'm more arm-chair QB than athletic director.

However, when it comes to media, which I have been in and around in various capacities over 30 years, I believe I am exceedingly qualified to fire up an opinion. And on that count, I believe Aaron Levine -- nice guy, bright guy notwithstanding -- ought to think long and hard before offering up innuendo, masquerading as wisdom, to the masses.

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