AN IRREVERENT LOOK AT ALL THINGS SAID, CONSIDERED, TWEETED, POSTED, PHOTOGRAPHED, PLAYED AND OTHERWISE GONE AMUCK IN COLLEGE SPORTS
This is a first in my 35-plus years as a journalist--a "For the Record" issued by a restaurant.
Calhoun's is a top-drawer eatery in Knoxville, home of the Tennessee Volunteers, and a must-stop for visiting reporters on a big city expense account. Calhoun's is known for its smoky, drippy barbecue ribs and catfish that tastes like it jumped off the hook onto your plate.
I never dreamed the proprietor would get hooked. Last Saturday, however, the eatery had to post a semi-retraction to a news story it "broke," a report suggesting Jon Gruden was sighted at the restaurant with Peyton Manning. This would be huge news given Tennessee is looking for a new coach and Gruden would be on any Rocky Top list to replace him.
Granted, this is not like Wolfgang Puck's in Los Angeles scooping the L.A. Times on the Dodgers' new manager. Knoxville is a small\big college town, with a huge stake in Tennessee athletics, so it doesn't take long for news to get from the hostess stand to your computer screen. But, as any journalist knows, you have to get the story right or go through the painful process of saying you're sorry.
The Washington Post once had to retract a (phony) Pulitzer Prize winning series authored by Janet Cook.
Hey, look, her name was "Cook." No wonder she got it wrong. Here's a snippet of Calhoun's mea culpa statement from last Saturday: "Tonight we received word from our management team that Jon Gruden was dining at our restaurant with Peyton Manning. We got excited. We posted something about it. Afterwards, a staff member notified us that they weren't so sure it was him. This is all we know at this moment. We apologize for the misunderstanding."
So how wrong was this? An ESPN upper-management type issued his own tweet saying Gruden, in fact, was in Seattle on Saturday preparing for the Monday Night Football Broadcast.
Maybe it was just Petyon Manning goofing on everybody by dining with a Gruden impersonator.
When it comes to journalism, though, restaurants need to stay in their drive-thru lanes. "Who, what, when, where and why" is our version of "the customer is always right." Getting a story wrong in our business is like a restaurant getting a visit from the health department to investigate vermin infestation.
How about we make this deal, Calhoun's: you make sure my beer is cold and my steak is warm, and not the other way around, and we'll take care of the coaching searches?
There's enough craziness in this world, so I don't need these kind of headlines:
--"Home Depot Reports Breakthrough in Middle East Peace Talks."
--"New Burger King Study on Climate Notes Slight Fluorocarbon Change."
--Jiffy Lube says 'unhappy' Justin Verlander Seeks New Deal to Stay in Houston."
--"ESPN Confirms Verlander Looking For a New Deal and an Oil Change."
Do we have a deal, Calhoun's? Now, if you don't mind, I'd like to see the dessert menu.[membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]
Don't Mention It
Kirby Hocutt report: Each week we try to gauge the D.B. Cooper-type disappearance of the Pac 12 by going through College Football Playoff ranking transcript. It is provided by ASAP, a transcription service, after the Tuesday ESPN broadcast show. Hocutt, the AD at Texas Tech and current chair of the selection committee, briefs reporters on a conference call.
This week's mentions of the Pac 12 Conference: Zero
Mentions of Pac 12 schools: One. The words "Southern California" were coaxed from Hocutt's mouth while answering a question about Notre Dame's prowess as a two-loss team. "An impressive win over Southern California," Hocutt responded.
There was a tangential reference to the Pac 12 when Hocutt mentioned No. 23 "Boise State" in a review of the ranking's lower regions.
Hocutt: "That's a team that's playing very well right now...Boise State is a team that has won seven straight."
And how is that Pac 12 related?
One of Boise's two losses came back in September, when the Broncos blew a 21-point, fourth-quarter lead at Washington State.
What the Hail?
San Diego State Coach Rocky Long went on a rant this week about the continued lack of respect for Group of 5 football.
Long is notably miffed about the lack of respect afforded Rashaad Penny, his star running back, who happens to lead the nation in rushing with 1,824 yards.
Mind you, San Diego State has played one home game this year in which its stadium lights went out, and another (last weekend against Nevada) that was rendered unwatchable in the fourth quarter when a fog bank rolled through the football team's off-campus stadium. It looked like "Late Night Spooky Theatre."
From what we have been able to see of Penny, well, he's looked terrific.
Long's larger point about ESPN is an old yarn that Easterners would dismiss as sour Cabernet grapes. My friends back east would argue that West Coast schools (and star running backs) could get more attention if they didn't start games at 10:30 p.m. in Hoboken.
Pac 12 fans, and others, would argue there is a bias within the Power 5 that favors the Southeastern Conference. And oh what fodder they received this week when three-loss Mississippi State moved up two sports to No. 18. The Bulldogs resume seems to hang on close home loss to Alabama.
Otherwise, there is really no explaining it, although Hocutt tried. "The Selection Committee has been extremely impressed with their tough schedule," he said of Mississippi State.
Tough schedule? Hail State has played Brigham Young, Massachusetts, Louisiana Tech and Charleston Southern.
"The Selection Committee was impressed with the way they competed against No.1 Alabama," Hocutt said.
Hocutt did not mention that Mississippi State DID NOT compete in its other two defeats, losing to Auburn and Georgia by 67 combined points.
Mississippi State's "tough" schedule is ranked No. 46 in this week's Sagarin Ratings.
Here are the Sagarin SOS rankings of the three-loss teams ranked behind Mississippi State in the latest CFP ranking: Michigan State (4), Oklahoma State (18), Northwestern (35), Stanford (30), Michigan (45).[/membership]