Washington and the mediaMalamute, 23 May 2008
University of Washington football coaches have
complained about the media for some time now. Even some prominent
boosters have added their two cents, such as Roscoe C. “Torchy” Torrance
some fifty years ago.
Current UW coach Tyrone
Willingham feels that much of the media nowadays is making news rather
than reporting it. He worries about reporters getting their facts
straight and how mistakes in reporting can affect his players. Except
for the first 25 minutes, Washington’s practices, by and large, are closed to the media.
Occasionally, reporters are allowed to attend scrimmages.
Torrance and the slush fund revelations:
In 1956, former Washington football coach John Cherberg took to the
airwaves and exposed a slush fund run by Torrance.
Although the local press had known about the slush
fund all along, it backstabbed Torrance, treating it as a breaking
story. Sports writers, who had been friends with him for years, left him
twisting in the wind.
In his biography, Torrance wrote, “There was
nothing devious about our organization. The leading citizens in our
community contributed to it, and it was general knowledge to the
newspapers because Charles P. Lindeman of the Post Intelligencer and
Bill, Jack, and Frank Blevins of the Times all contributed to it…There
were 75 or more individuals involved at one time or another. Some gave
money; some provided jobs or both.
“The Times came out with stories about the slush
fund as if nobody knew about it, and the Blethens had been contributing
to it for years. I was terribly disappointed in Royal Brougham whom I
had known well since 1919. When The Times started to tear me apart, he
did nothing in the P-I to support me, and he didn’t even call to give me
a boost when he knew that many things being written were untrue.”
Willingham and the media:
The following quotes by Tyrone Willingham were
taken from the transcript of a meeting of the
National Football Foundation and the Football Writers Association of
America, held on May 15, 2008.
“My wife in her early career was a newscaster, and
about the time that we had children she made a decision, one, because we
had children to take care of them, but the other one was because the
media at that time was changing. It was changing in the media what we
thought, and we talked about it in our home, that it was changing from
reporting news to making news, and to me that's a huge distinction
between those two.
“...So therefore I don't have quite
the trust in those that are making news as opposed to reporting news.
“But I do limit practice. I limit practice for
this reason. In many cases, the error that is often reported by our
reporters is not an error by the individual that they reported on. Some
days my receivers drop a lot of passes, and yet it'll be written that
our quarterback had a terrible day, okay, didn't have completions,
didn't do this, and I'm the one that has to go back in there and build
my quarterback back up when he's had that public embarrassment about
what happened that day, and the accuracy of what is being reported is a
problem with me. So therefore I limit that aspect of it, and then I can
answer to what did or didn't happen at practice, et cetera.”
Don James and the Fruit-Basket scandal
During a recent interview, a reporter asked former
UW coach Don James whom he blamed for what happened with respect to the
"Fruit basket" scandal, the specifics of which were exposed in 1992. The
severe sanctions leveled against Washington by the Pac-10 conference
forced James’ resignation.
“Well for starters, I think it’s the Seattle
Times,” said James. “I live in this community and I watch them beat up
everybody, not just the football program. I’ve watched them beat up on
Boeing and Nordstrom and all the great industries and businesses in this
community. They all get beat up by the local press. Maybe that happens
everywhere. But I have lived in a lot of places and I haven’t seen it
When James resigned the Washington Job in 1993, he
had this to say, “I have decided I can no longer coach in a conference
that treats its players and coaches so unfairly. We have suffered for
nearly 10 months from media character assassination. By looking at the
penalties, it appears we are all guilty, based in large part upon
statements of questionable witnesses."
Neuheisel and what he perceives as a Seattle Times
vendetta against him, according to Matt Hayes
A controversial four-part series, entitled "Victory
and Ruins," recently found the front page of the Seattle Times.
Published eight years after the fact (January 2008), it describes what
the Times now regards as a winning-at-all-costs mentality associated
with the 2000 Husky team that won the Rose Bowl in 2001. The Times
alleges that Neuheisel and former AD Barbara Hedges accepted most of
what was a "disturbing level of criminal conduct and hooliganism by the
players on that team."
Recently, Matt Hayes of the Sporting News contacted
Neuheisel to get his reaction to the Times series. ("Neuheisel's
take on Seattle Times' series on Huskies.")
Hayes quotes Neuheisel as saying that "he refused
comment to the Times on the investigation because he still feels the
newspaper has a personal vendetta against him. He told me (Hayes) the
same thing four years ago when I went to Seattle to write about his
lawsuit against the NCAA and Washington."
During the gambling imbroglio, Neuheisel said the
media has "created an image of me that I can't recognize…I wouldn't wish
what is going on in my life to happen to anybody. It hit like a tidal
wave that you can't get out from underneath."
Willingham's take on
"Victory and Ruins"
On May 22, Dennis Dodd of CBS Sportsline
interviewed Tyrone Willingham and asked him what he thought of the Times
series on the 2000 Rose Bowl team.
(Reference the Dodd interview, "Q
& A with Tyrone Willingham," for the questions that elicited the
was embarrassed. I was embarrassed for all of football. Football has
long carried a black eye for that type of behavior. It was embarrassing
for the university.
"Why would someone not have trust for the
media? Whoa, pretty easy.
"I'm still puzzled at what it accomplished. It did not help any of
"One of the stories that came out of that was never quite looked at was
the one about Curtis Williams. Curtis Williams has a little girl that
had to read that story. Nobody ever told her that her that her father
was a (a bad guy).
"There were some things in there that weren't quite right. No one ever
ran a correction. Yet, coaches are supposed to be open and accessible
and spill their souls to people.
"I've never dodged one question that's never been aksed