That Tommy Tuberville's talks with his bosses at Auburn go on without resolution ... and seemingly without urgency ... has caused plenty of anxiety around the Auburn fan base. Then again, so have media that have gotten things terribly wrong.
Since the first rumors started linking Tuberville, Auburn's coach, to an anticipated opening at Texas A&M, Auburn fans were told it's "time to panic" by The Sporting News. ESPN.com's Andre Ware (what's his journalism background?) told them that Tuberville was the No. 1 candidate, and there was no No. 2.
Two of this state's major papers told Auburn fans this week that Tuberville had agreed to a contract extension. They were told, via Arkansas TV stations and internet sources Thursday night, that Tuberville had all but signed on the dotted line at Arkansas.
As of Monday, Texas A&M hired Mike Sherman ... three days after Dennis Franchione resigned. As of today, Tuberville is returning early from his annual hunting trip to Arkansas, presumably to resume talks with his boss ... at Auburn. No, there has not yet been agreement. And, as of this writing, no one at Arkansas has even sought permission to talk to Tuberville.
Tuberville could have avoided this weeks go, with strong statements about his commitment to Auburn. He and athletics director Jay Jacobs could have avoided this by not avoiding the myriad beat writers that cover Auburn since contract negotiations started Monday.
Tuberville made very thoughtful, would-be-calming statements on his radio show Thursday night (see my blog below), but they came too late. Many Auburn fans heard about the reports out of Arkansas before hearing his words.
If Tuberville and Jacobs were going to pause negotiations after Tuesday, then why couldn't they have had an impromptu sitdown with beat writers then, at which time Tuberville could have said everything he said on radio Thursday night? It might have spared Auburn fans a lot of anxiety, say nothing of beat writers.
Then again, sports journalism in the jumpy new media environment sure has sunk to shameful levels on this. It seems to me that journalistic skepticism, caution and responsibility should be timeless, even as new media manned by people without journalism backgrounds comes on line.
It's simple really. Never know better than what you tell the public. And if there's doubt, then don't publish or air it.