Clarion-Ledger versus Mississippi State officials (plus burning football questions for the Dawgs and Rebels)

No, State did not name a new AD on Oct. 18

Mike Bonner is the Jackson Clarion-Ledger’s beat reporter for Mississippi State athletics.  I think Bonner does a darn good job. Of course, partisans of MSU, Ole Miss or any other school never think beat reporters are as positive as they should be towards their team. On Wednesday, Oct. 12, Bonner, citing unnamed sources, reported Bulldog head baseball coach John Cohen would be named athletic director the next week, on Oct. 18, to replace Scott Stricklin who has moved on to be AD for the Florida Gators. MSU officials were very upset with the report and the Clarion-Ledger. President Mark Keenum issued a very strong statement criticizing Bonner and the newspaper. MSU spokesman Sid Salter, a former Clarion-Ledger staff member himself and political columnist, quickly went on the state’s leading sports talk radio show to deny Bonner’s report that a decision had been made. Rick Cleveland is also a former Clarion-Ledger sports editor and columnist. Cleveland, who I think is one of the best, if not the best ever Mississippi sports columnist, promptly wrote about Bonner’s controversial report in his syndicated column. He also wrote that Hugh Kellenberger, the newspaper’s sports editor, backed Bonner.

The bottom line:

Should Bonner have contacted Dr. Keenum for a comment before his news article stating baseball coach John Cohen would be named athletic director on Tuesday, Oct. 18? Absolutely. There is a difference between a request for comment in

a news story than in an opinion column or editorial. If Bonner had contacted Dr. Keenum or other MSU officials, he may have been told the search process was still ongoing, there were others to be interviewed, received a denial that a decision had been made or just received a simple “No Comment.” Could he have then proceeded to write his story that Cohen would be named AD? Certainly, if Bonner felt confident with his sources. The fact is he didn’t ask State for an official comment, and that is not good journalism. Did Bonner’s story muddy the water of State’s selection process for a new AD? Certainly it did. If Cohen or strong supporters of Cohen had anything to do with Bonner’s report, it certainly did not have a positive impact for Cohen, clearly one of the favorites for the job. Another thing is certain.  Bonner wrote State would name Cohen as AD on Oct. 18. That clearly didn’t happen. Cohen was named AD on Friday, Nov. 4. Maybe Bonner had some pretty good sources after all despite the MSU denials two weeks ago. Bonner’s story may have muddied the selection process in other ways as well. Some might suggest other reasons for the delay in State naming a new AD and weave a conspiracy aspect into the delay. Despite all the controversy between the Clarion-Ledger and MSU, I am confident that Dr. Keenum, in naming Cohen, selected the person he thought was the best to lead State’s athletic fortunes. Let the hysteria end.

Burning SEC football questions:

(1) Will this question be asked to athletic director candidates at Mississippi State: “Will you fire Dan Mullen if you are named AD?”

(2) Mississippi State “upset” Samford last Saturday although the Bulldogs from Birmingham piled up over 600 yards of total offense. Will the Bulldogs now finish the season 3-9?

(3) With Ole Miss 3-5 overall and 1-4 in the SEC, has the “I Stand With Coach Freeze” organization lost members?

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