Bradley University can’t bring itself to rescind the honorary degree it gave entertainer Bill Cosby, a convicted sex offender.
But Bradley had no problem banning Dave Reynolds, one of the nicest guys in sports reporting, from interviewing its men’s basketball players and head coach. Just as he has with distinction for the Journal Star the past 29 years.
What embarrassing, hypocritical, translucent-skinned nonsense this entire episode has been.
During a weekend that should be focusing on the Braves’ biggest basketball accomplishment in years, we entered “Through the Looking-Glass” territory instead.
During a weekend in which Bradley coach Brian Wardle and athletic administrators should be focusing on getting ready for the NCAA tournament, they appeared more concerned about semantics, perceived slights from reporters and petty vengeance.
The tone-deaf statement of defense the BU basketball program released late Friday/early Saturday on Twitter only exacerbated things. The Bradley sports-communications program should use it as Exhibit A in how not to handle a public-relations problem.
By Saturday afternoon, the public outcry had become too much for Wardle, university President Gary Roberts, athletics director Chris Reynolds and the rest of the red-and-white lily-livers to withstand.
The BU athletics department issued a statement that heralded Dave Reynolds' return to good graces, at least as far as access to the basketball team is concerned.
Not long thereafter, Roberts' office issued a statement, too.
"Going forward, all employees of Bradley University will be informed that it is Bradley’s policy that all members of the media are to be treated on a non-discriminatory basis when it comes to access to information and people," Roberts' statement read, in part.
The third statement was the charm, but it never should have come to this point.
The crisis-communications disaster began Friday afternoon, when Reynolds attended a regular, brief media scrum Bradley conducts before it practices.
Jason Veniskey, the Bradley assistant director of athletic communications, told Reynolds he was not welcome. He could not interview anybody, and he was asked to leave.
Reynolds’ most grievous offense? He didn’t promote the Bradley brand, Veniskey told him.
Promotion is Veniskey’s job, not that of a three-time Illinois sportswriter of the year who is among the public’s conduits to the BU program.
That Bradley was practicing Friday was quite an accomplishment, warranted by its Missouri Valley Conference tournament championship won last weekend in St. Louis. The title gave the Braves automatic entry into the NCAA tournament, which begins Tuesday.
Wonderful, Cinderella-like stuff, something of which anybody involved with Bradley should be proud.
Such a title appeared unlikely back in January, after Bradley lost its first five Valley games. Another low point befell the Braves late that month, when they lost by 18 points in a not-that-close effort at Missouri State.
Reynolds didn’t travel to Springfield, Mo., for that game. Instead, he traveled to the Bullpen Bar & Grill in Peoria, where he interviewed Bradley fans who were watching the defeat on television.
They told Reynolds they still had faith in the team and in Wardle, whose coaching reign at Bradley began with an ignominious 5-27 record in 2015-16.
But the headline on Reynolds’ column Jan. 26 — “Fire Wardle? Not with these Bradley fans, who smiled through a dismal day” — was enough to cause the vapors in some Hilltop executive offices.
Thus began in earnest the freezeout of Reynolds that culminated in what transpired Friday at Renaissance Coliseum.
Those who don’t work in sports journalism might not realize how uncommon Bradley’s actions are. Stuff like this happens on occasion, but never during such salad days on the court as what the Braves are experiencing.
No doubt Duke officials don’t like every word written or said about their basketball program. But you don’t see Coach K banning reporters. Bill Self doesn’t shut the media door at Kansas because of wisecracks about his alleged toupee.
Norm Stewart, the volatile former coach at Missouri, was called “Stormin’ Norman” for a reason. But no matter what we wrote about him or his teams when we covered them in the 1980s, he still talked to us.
Then again, Bradley basketball in the modern era often has considered itself a bigger deal than it really is. This seems a classic case of hubris, but simultaneously a classic case of insecurity.
If communications-specialist Veniskey believes overreaction to adjectives is admirable, he’s better off in another line of work.
If Wardle believes his behavior in this sad affair won’t be noticed by future employers if and when he seeks a job at a more prominent program, he should think again.
Chris Reynolds was cloistered this weekend because of his duties on the NCAA tournament selection committee, so maybe he should receive a little slack. Not sure about Roberts.
In his statement Saturday, Roberts said he knew there had been issues between Dave Reynolds and Wardle and believed those had been resolved. He also pleaded ignorance about what happened Friday and about any possible censure policies.
We'll take Roberts at his word. And his words were good. But it still isn't a good look, and the chaotic 24 hours at Bradley perpetuates a pattern.
Roberts’ tenure has been marked by unforced errors, including the Cosby decision and his impertinent comments regarding sexual harassment.
Just this week, Bradley had to walk back a job description for an assistant director of diversity and inclusion that required candidates to access buildings that aren’t compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
That ignited a social-media tempest. Now this. How can people with such purported intelligence be so dumb?
The Braves find out Sunday where and against whom they'll be making their first NCAA appearance since 2006. But thanks to the decisions of a clueless administration, they might as well be partying like it’s “1984.”
NICK VLAHOS writes "Nick in the Morning" at pjstar.com. He is a Bradley University graduate and has worked more than 30 years at the Journal Star, including more than 20 in the sports department. He can be reached at 686-3285 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @VlahosNick.