U of L pulls Meiners from its broadcasts, events
Strange day in local sports media.
University of Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino confirmed to the C-J’s Rick Bozich in New York today that he is taking a year off from his television show on WHAS-11. Pitino told Bozich that while he was unhappy with certain aspects of WHAS coverage with the Karen Sypher extortion trial, that is not the reason for his taking a year off. (He added that he was unhappy with certain aspects of The Courier-Journal’s coverage, but still talks to the paper.)
It’s an unusual move, to quit your own television show. And it should be noted, that half of Pitino’s base salary is devoted to media, marketing and public relations duties, a total of $1.25 million in the coming season.
Here’s the clause of his contract concerning that:
These sums shall be compensation for the Employee’s personal participation in public relations, fundraising, arena development, pre- and post-game radio programming, one weekly radio and television coach’s show during preseason, regular season and postseason. . . . Employer assumes responsibility for negotiating said programming, and shall retain all talent and expense fees. Employee shall make himself personally available for all programming negotiated by the Employer pursuant to this Contract. Employee and Athletic Director will mutually agree that said programming will not conflict or cause undue hardship with direct duties relating to coaching the sports team.
By my calculation, if there are six “marketing and media” components under that $1.25 million payment, then Pitino’s TV show appearances are worth $208,333. Wonder if he’ll forego that?
U of L sports information director Kenny Klein says the Pitino show will be replaced by a magazine-type U of L basketball show to be hosted by Drew Diener.
Secondly, WHAS radio host Terry Meiners has confirmed that he has had some cold relations with U of L since publishing a piece critical of the university’s ticket distribution in the new arena, and won’t be involved in the various U of L broadcasts and events that he has been in the past.
I’ll have more to say about this in a blog coming soon, but want to hear what Terry has to say about the matter.
Pitino told Bozich today that relations between the two friends are fine. But I’ve been watching criticism Meiners has had of U of L in recent months, and can’t say the move is a surprise.
I saw some opinions that U of L athletic director Tom Jurich is trying to “control the local media.” In this situation, that isn’t exactly the case. In this situation, he’s trying to control the message coming out of his own in-house media. As with any of us, if you criticize your employer in public, you’re probably not going to last long.
Still, it’s a move that in the end does more harm than good for Louisville. A certain amount of criticism comes to anyone in public life. It’s the criticism that actually validates the praise when it also comes. If all you get from a person is praise, then that person’s opinion of you over time becomes discounted.
Meiners felt strongly about the ticket issue, and his point was valid.
Meiners was in as difficult a position as anyone in the Louisville media throughout the Sypher trial. To his credit, he didn’t back away from the subject in his afternoon radio show on WHAS, and he has continued to speak out on issues he feels important to U of L fans and his listeners, particularly the ticket issue in the new arena.
While a lot of people pointed to strange exchanges between him and Pitino in his halftime interviews of games televised on WHAS, many of those were the two of them just trying to generate talk and, for want of a better term, just messing with people.
UPDATE: Meiners said on his show today that his relationship with Pitino is still friendly and that he remains a U of L fan and financial booster, but that he ruffled some U of L feathers with comments he made about arena ticket distribution. He said he didn’t agree with Pitino’s decision to take a year off from his television program, but said he believes that decision has nothing to do with him. About the only shot he took was introducing and finishing his segment on U of L with clips of songs by Tom Petty, clearly a poke at Jurich — although, as Meiners pointed out, today is Tom Petty’s birthday. Conveniently. More to come . . .