PEORIA — Charley Steiner was on the phone at 8:30 a.m. Arizona time Saturday. And for a while before that.

That isn’t the usual Saturday-morning spring-training scenario for Steiner, the radio voice of baseball’s Los Angeles Dodgers and perhaps the most illustrious communications graduate of Bradley University.

Then again, Bradley athletics officials rarely prohibit reporters from talking to their men’s basketball players and coaches. But that’s what happened Friday to Journal Star reporter Dave Reynolds.

The banning, the result of stories the BU braintrust found unfavorable, was rescinded Saturday afternoon. But it didn’t sit well with Steiner. Or a lot of his associates, apparently.

“The phone hasn’t stopped for the last hour and a half,” said Steiner, whose name graces Bradley's School of Sports Communication.

“It is so sad on so many levels,” he said. “Speaking only as a guy who went to Bradley and had a career in journalism and sports communication, this whole episode goes against the grain of everything I believe in.”

The sadness contrasts with how Steiner felt last weekend, when Bradley upset its way to the Missouri Valley Conference tournament championship and an automatic NCAA tourney berth.

Steiner said he watched the Valley final on television in his Los Angeles-area residence.

The Braves’ comeback from an 18-point, second-half deficit to Northern Iowa was stirring, even for someone who’s covered thousands of games as an impartial professional.

“I’m cheering, I’m pumping my fist, and I forgot what the joy was of being a fan,” Steiner said. “It was fabulous.”

The afterglow dissipated as Steiner prepared for bed Friday night and read about Reynolds’ censure.

“I see online this story from the Journal Star, and I’m dumbfounded,” he said. “And I’m saddened. I’m going to be 70 in July. Fifty-two years of my life, I’ve had something to do with Bradley. It’s part of me.

"I don’t pretend to know what happened, but the optics of this are brutal. You’re not always going to get along with a subject. And the subject isn’t always going to get along with the writer or broadcaster.”

Steiner recalled a similar situation he underwent in 1986, when he was a broadcaster for the NFL’s New York Jets. An assistant coach overheard an off-the-record comment Steiner made to a colleague about a player.

That coach told Jets head coach Joe Walton about it at halftime of a playoff game. Afterward, Walton read Steiner the riot act.

A few days later, the Jets’ general manager sat with both men and told Walton he owed Steiner an apology.

“Now that’s how you handle it,” Steiner said. “The upshot is that kind of thing has happened. It shouldn’t have. But when it did, he cleaned up the mess in a hurry.”

Steiner remains well connected to Bradley. In addition to financial donations, the former ESPN anchor plays host to a symposium every November on campus.

The symposium attracts major figures from the sports and entertainment fields.

In 2017, legendary interviewer and Steiner friend Larry King pledged to donate $1 million to the university. King has accompanied Steiner on multiple visits to Peoria.

Steiner suggested it’s too early to tell how this situation might affect his future relationship with Bradley. But he did say the incident diminishes the pleasure of the impending NCAA trip. Among other things.

“My name is attached to all of this,” Steiner said. “The school of sports communication includes journalism, ethics, what’s right and wrong.

“I love the university. I love the institution. It’s been a part of my life for more than a half-century. That doesn’t mean they’re always right. And in this case, I don’t think they are.”

 

Nick Vlahos can be reached at 686-3285 or nvlahos@pjstar.com. Follow him on Twitter @VlahosNick.