We’ve written a lot in the last few weeks about blatantly wrong speculation and even reporting about college coaching vacancies, and now we’ve got another striking example.
On Friday, Houston announced it had hired offensive coordinator Major Applewhite to be its next head coach. That must have come as a surprise to the numerous credible outlets—USA TODAY, SEC Country, 247 Sports and NFL Network among them—that had already reported the Cougars would hire Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin.
BREAKING: Houston has decided on Lane Kiffin, president to OK the hire at a Thursday meeting, @USATODAY has learned https://t.co/DhTeueFIU5
— Dan Wolken (@DanWolken) December 8, 2016
BREAKING: Alabama OC Lane Kiffin will be the next Houston head football coach
— SEC Country (@SEC_Country_) December 8, 2016
From what I'm hearing, I expect Lane Kiffin to ultimately get the Houston job.
— Shannon B. Terry (@sbterry247) December 5, 2016
Source tells me Kiffin to Houston is a done deal barring any last minute setbacks.
— Andrew Groover (@APGroover) December 8, 2016
A big problem here is reporters sharing information that’s heavy qualified but presenting it as firm fact. For example, Wolken oversold his report in that tweet. When you read what he actually wrote, you see that he never asserted that a deal between Houston and Kiffin was a sure thing.
After several days of negotiations and leverage plays on both sides, Houston athletics officials are meeting Thursday night with school president Renu Khator to finalize plans for naming their head coach. Two people with knowledge of the situation, who spoke to USA TODAY Sports on the condition of anonymity because the deal is not official, said Kiffin was expected to get the job pending Khator’s OK and any final negotiations.
The issue with reporting an agreement like this before it’s final and packaging it (on Twitter, at least) like an all-but-done deal is that if it falls through you have egg on your face. Similar thing with Shannon B. Terry, who hedged his bet with three different qualifiers in a 14-word tweet but still looks silly for getting it wrong.
As for Andrew Groover…
I'll stick to being an assignment editor from now on. https://t.co/HfBUCyUfZt
— Andrew Groover (@APGroover) December 9, 2016
As we talked about with regards to Tom Herman and Ed Orgeron, this seems to be a combination of experienced reporters filing too quickly in the rush to be first and people who shouldn’t really be reporting breaking news doing so anyway.
Reporters are of course under no compulsion to wait around for official announcements—if they have credible information they should report it—but if they’re going to be so easily led astray, maybe some patience would be valuable. Better to last and right than first and wrong, at least in theory.
When we have an announcement, we'll announce it!
But maybe we shouldn’t throw rocks from a glass house. Turns out even we at Freezing Cold Takes are deeply fallible.
@DanWolken @USATODAY Great job on the break, Dan. (Serious)
— Freezing Cold Takes (@OldTakesExposed) December 8, 2016
Live and learn, live and learn.