As anyone who reads this site knows, I've never been much of a fan of Terry Hutchens, who has been the Indianapolis Star's IU beat writer since the late 1990s. I've never thought he added all that much to the IU coverage that is available, and generally has seemed a day late and a dollar short compared to Peegs and the guys at the Herald-Times. I thought about responding to Travis's piece at Hammer & Rails a few weeks ago, which tried to tie the Star's financial failings to its pro-IU bias. I don't necessarily buy that premise, although I don't dispute that IU gets a larger quantity of coverage in the Star. If the Bloomington paper were a Gannett rag, then I presume that IU would get the same treatment as Purdue, however, in that there would be no dedicated IU beat writer. For now, however, Hutch is the man, although I'm not sure that keeping him on the beat for 15 years says much about the Star's commitment to the quality of its IU coverage.
Hutchens irritated me the most back in my pre-blogging days, when he served as Mike Davis's unoffficial "Baghdad Bob" style apologist, constantly dissembling for Davis and scolding IU fans for their archaic notion that IU was an important program. Here's a taste:
Now, I know Indiana fans want to believe that the Hoosiers are still this great, desirable basketball mecca but do you really think that's the case? And more to the point, do you think it's the case to the point where the Hoosiers can beat out top prospects when the other final choice is Kansas, Duke, Connecticut or North Carolina?
Yes, Terry. We did believe it, do believe it, and will always believe it. And we were right. Unfortunately, I don't have an original link to Terry's article on that point. It exists only as a block quote on my site. But if you click through to the linked article, you will note that I quote Terry on that point in the context of his defense of another mediocrity, Bill Lynch.
This isn't Mike Davis all over again. Not even close. Mike Davis had never been a college head coach. He wasn't an Indiana guy. He was in the right place at the right time, and he never looked completely comfortable on the IU sideline. All of that is different with Lynch.
Again, what slayed me at the time and still does today is that Hutchens could use the term "Mike Davis all over again" as a pejorative, when he spent the entire Davis era chiding IU fans for thinking that IU could do better. As the commenter to that 2007 story said, it appeared that Hutchens was the typical "company man," not a rare breed among beat writers, who would always defend "the coach" until he was "the former coach." I agreed with that take on Hutchens.
Yet, in the past few months, Hutchens has been in the odd position of taking on both IU's basketball and football coaches. I don't think he has picked his spots well. As was discussed here in detail a few months ago, Hutchens took a petulant approach to demanding a scholarship for Matt Roth, a player who never had been promised a fifth year at any time by any coach. Still, he has outdone himself today.
Now that I have written the world's longest introduction, it's time to turn to today's article in the Indianapolis Star, headlined "Indiana football coach Kevin Wilson receives vote of confidence from athletic director." Of course, it makes sense that Fred Glass would be behind his football coach. He's been at IU for 16 games. He was hired by Glass after a national search. He has put together what appears to be a pretty good staff. Of course he is behind him. Hutchens then decides to dredge up off-the-field incidents. As always seems to be the case with these articles, the only two incidents cited are the run-in Wilson had win an RA at McNutt Quad during his first few weeks as coach, and an argument he had with since-canceled radio host Jack Trudeau and some other guy after they made fun of IU football. Both of those incidents occurred before Wilson coached a game at IU. The Trudeau interview actually was pretty well received.
Hutchens then discusses IU's 3-13 record, the defections, etc., and then, if you can believe it, quotes the termination provisions of Wilson's contract. This is just goofy. The purported justification for quoting this provision is "the dreaded vote of confidence."
Some may see that as the dreaded vote of confidence. Many more coaches seem to lose their jobs than keep them after similar comments from their boss.
Wait. What? I'm going to assume (and I think it's a fair assumption that Glass didn't plant this article) that Glass made these comments because Hutchens asked him about it. A Google News search doesn't show these quotes in any other article, so I'm going to assume that they weren't made at a press conference, but were made because Hutchens asked Glass for comment. This is some serious through-the-looking-glass nonsense. When asked, Fred Glass says, a more polite form of: "look, you drooling moron, I hired him and he's been the coach for 16 games. Of course he's not in any trouble." (Again, paraphrase. Not an actual Fred Glass quote, although I wish it were). And then, having elicited the vote of confidence, Hutchens decides that the "dreaded vote of confidence" is news itself. Yes, I suppose it's true that such statements are more often than not followed by a termination. That's because most reporters are smart enough not to ask the question unless a coach's job is actually in jeopardy.
Perhaps Hutchens should try the same trick with Dave Brandon, Michigan's AD (interview and dialogue fabricated):
Hutch: "Dave, is Brady Hoke's job in jeopardy after the losses to Alabama and Notre Dame?"
Brandon: "Are you mentally ill? He won the Sugar Bowl in his first season. He's a great guy. I wish we were 4-0, but Brady is going to be our coach for a long time."
Hutch: "Dave, do you wish to comment on why you decided to give Brady Hoke 'the dreaded vote of confidence'?"
Now, of course, Kevin Wilson's record isn't as good as Brady Hoke's. It isn't even as good as Jerry Kill's. There are plenty of reasons to question Wilson at this point, but no legitimate reason to believe that his job is going to be in jeopardy before, oh, 2015. Yet, here it is, apparently on the front page of the Star's sports section.
This is a manufactured story, manufactured by the very writer who wrote the story. So, Purdue fans, you wish you could get more publicity in the Star? Be careful what you wish for. Sometimes I think I'm paranoid when I write things such as: "many in the local media already have their claws out for Kevin Wilson," but you aren't paranoid if they really are out to get you.