Complaining about an announcer or reporter’s bias is as American as debt and, perhaps, no one over the past decade or so has been on the receiving end of more accusations than ESPN’s resident screamer (sorry Stephen A.), Richard Vitale. Today, Sports Illustrated writes that Jay Bilas and Vitale talked about how they avoid being unfair during telecasts and Vitale says that his support of Duke and Carolina is purely because they’ve earned it.
Ok. Whatever you say, Dick. The most interesting part of the story, though, is that Vitale tells a story of what he considers to be one of the toughest intances of being fair in his history of broadcasting, which happened to include Duke and Kentucky. At the time, Vitale’s buddy, Eddie Sutton, was in the public crosshairs and Vitale went on air and said he should be fired. Here is the story (courtesy of SI’s awesome archives), which illustrates Vitale’s point that he has journalistic integrity….while also proving he loves Duke. Maybe not the best example, Dick, but still a cool history point.:
There’s a clause in Sutton’s contract stating that any violation of NCAA or league regulations “shall be cause for termination.” It’s not an uncommon provision in college coaching contracts, and was at the root of a comment by ESPN provocateur Dick Vitale as the broadcast of Saturday’s game got under way. “The perception of Kentucky basketball is at an alltime low,” Vitale said. “And something has to be done. They need a new fresh breath of air. They should have made a change when Mr. Hagan went to the sideline and resigned. The president should have asked for the resignation of the coaching staff as well.”
Vitale had agonized over whether to make that remark and had wanted to tell Sutton of his intention to do so. He couldn’t reach the coach on Friday, but he found assistant James Dickey at the hotel the day of the game and told him of his intentions. Then, just minutes before the tip-off the next afternoon, Dickey waved Vitale over to the Kentucky bench, indicating that Sutton wanted to speak with him. Sutton pleaded with Vitale not to go on the air with his opinions and argued that in light of Vitale’s influence, his remarks would have outsize ramifications. Sutton asked Vitale whether he still intended to call for his resignation. Vitale said yes, and an agitated conversation ensued. “Eddie was upset,” says Vitale, who after the final buzzer hurried off with a police escort to catch a flight.
Having Vitale on his case may be just what Sutton needs to generate sympathy among the Wildcat faithful. But the plight isn’t Sutton’s so much as Kentucky’s, and it’s Roselle’s opinion, not Vitale’s, that counts. No one will turn Kentucky into another Duke; in Durham they think Prop 48 is an antique airplane. But Roselle is committed to making changes that go beyond merely finding a new overnight-delivery service. He admires how Krzyzewski runs his program and, however disingenuously, can’t understand why the Wildcats can’t run theirs the same way.
Go Cats. Beat Miami. Charlie Coles smells like stale french fries.