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All That and a Bag of Mail

It’s Friday, rejoice, the mailbag is here!

And what a mailbag we’ve got today.

First, here are my Friday Sweet 16 gambling picks:

Clemson +5 vs. Kansas

West Virginia vs. Villanova, the over 152.5

Duke -11 vs. Syracuse

Texas Tech +2 vs. Purdue

Okay, on with the mailbag:

Let’s start with the question I’m getting the most, what do you think about the UT document drop yesterday which tells us everything about the coaching search and how former athletic director John Currie bungled it? 

So here we go with my thoughts on the UT coaching search, many of which you’ve heard before, but now is officially confirmed via texts and emails.

First, Tennessee believed they had Dan Mullen set and ready to go. And they did, until Chip Kelly bailed on Florida and took the UCLA job. The Gators believed they had Chip Kelly and when they didn’t they fell back to Dan Mullen which meant John Currie panicked and made an atrocious attempted hire, Greg Schiano.

Second, don’t believe the media when they say, “Nobody wants this job!” That’s lazy and dumb. There were plenty of people who wanted the Tennessee job, which was why Vol fans were so upset by the Schiano hire. There were at least three sitting head coaches in power five conferences that lobbied for the job in John Currie’s DMs: Mike Leach, Paul Johnson, and Dave Doeren. That’s not counting whatever behind the scenes calls Currie may have fielded. This was a job a lot of sitting head coaches wanted.

Third, the reason I always tell you to read media aggressively is because I know how the sports media sausage is made. When the national media began to attack the Tennessee fan base I told y’all that John Currie was stroking media members behind the scenes to get them to make the case for him. And now we have direct, tangible evidence of USA Today’s Dan Wolken cheering on John Currie and then agreeing to do PR on behalf of the Schiano hire.

I mean, look at these text messages.

This is beyond pathetic. What grown man sends another grown man a smiley face emoticon and writes LOL in the same conversation? Wolken ought to get kicked in the dick over and over again by Smokey for this.

As if these text messages weren’t bad enough Wolken attacked Vol fans and me on Twitter and in his columns, claiming to be an unbiased paragon of incorruptible fairness standing up to the Vol Twitter mob. Seriously, read this column after Wolken agreed to do PR for Currie and explain how this is a remotely fair opinion piece. When, as the text messages clearly show, he was just doing PR for John Currie so he’d keep getting his text messages returned. If I’m USA Today this is tough to defend.

Look, you can criticize me for a ton of my opinions — as happens every day on Twitter — but I’ve always been straightforward with you guys, I tell you exactly what I think and I tell anyone I’m texting exactly what I think too.

I talked to some of the same people Dan Wolken did during the Schiano mess and I told them exactly what I told you guys, that it was an awful hire. You can certainly agree or disagree with my opinion, but I’m not advocating my position to try and curry favor with anyone or ensure they return my emoticon text messages.

Again, much of what happens in sports media, when you really break it down, is about preserving access, not being honest.

I’ve made a calculated decision over the past several years to be as honest with you guys as I can be and that sometimes restricts my access. There’s a reason why I’m banned from ESPN and CNN, because I’m too honest

Hell, if you listened to the radio show this morning you heard my producers say that it’s common for newsmakers to refuse to come on my show because they know they aren’t going to be coddled. Even when, as happened with John Calipari, his publicist requests to come on all the Fox Sports Radio shows, he’s scheduled, and then he sees my name and says he won’t do it.

That’s always fantastic, when some PR flunky schedules something and then a coach backs out once they see my name attached to it.

Now, that can also work the other way too, some people want to come on the radio show because they know the audience is massive and I’ll ask the tough questions, but that way they don’t get accused of dodging anything. Go back and listen to our long form interviews with guys like Derek Dooley, Hugh Freeze, and Lane Kiffin. All three guys did Outkick and it benefited them enormously.

My goal with Outkick is to do more and more of these interviews such that we become the location for long form discussions in the world of sports. But I’m not going to pull punches in those interviews. My pitch to all these guys was, “You come on Outkick, talk to me for an hour, answer all my questions, and when you’re done, people will respect you much more than they did before you came on.”

And I think all of them would say that’s been the case.

Now, look, I talk and text with people all the time and let them make their case to me. And sometimes I agree with them and sometimes I disagree with them, but I always come into every story with an open mind. I’m willing to consider that I’ve got things wrong.

But in this story? I think Dan Wolken looks awful. Ultimately when you are in the opinion business all you have to share with your readers and listeners is your honesty. And can you read that text exchange and believe Dan Wolken was being honest with his readers?

I can’t.

Chris writes:

“I’m a Kansas State alum, and I could barely get to sleep last night from the excitement of the big win over Kentucky. However, this morning I woke up and was immediately gripped with fear at the thought of Sister Jean working away on her scouting report, my team’s Final Four hopes squarely in her crosshairs. My sister in law said we needed to start praying, but isn’t that just what she wants, for us to come at her where she knows she’s got an unbeatable advantage? Is there anything that can stop this woman and the team she loves? I know she’s dunked on you so hard you may not be thinking straight yet, but we K-State fans will take any advice we can get.”

I’m rooting for Loyola of Chicago to win the NCAA Tournament now because it makes Tennessee losing to them in the round of 32 hurt less. The more people they beat the less bad I feel about losing.

This is stupid fan psychology, but it works.

For instance, if I’m a UNC fan this morning and I just saw Texas A&M lose by 22 to Michigan, I’m even more upset that A&M waxed us because it confirms my worst fears — that we should have won and just played like total shit. Whereas if some team gets hot and beats everyone else too, it means your team was pretty good they just couldn’t quite get the win.

So I hope Sister Jean and Loyola of Chicago win the title because then I’ll convince myself that it could have just as easily have been Tennessee. Even though, realistically, I totally expect to die without Tennessee ever having won an NCAA basketball title.

As for Kansas State, props on the win and, yes, you’re screwed.

Sister Jean gonna Sister Jean.

If I’m a Kentucky fan this morning I am cursing John Calipari to the high heavens. Not only did you lose to an inferior team, you lost to an inferior team that only scored 61 points. And you only scored 58 points despite attempting 37 free throws.

There are several additional things that would infuriate me about last night’s loss. Among them: If you have better talent why don’t you play a faster pace if you’re Kentucky? The inferior team wants to slow things down. How could you not score inside with five minutes left and Kansas State having no big men? Kentucky should have been able to, and did somewhat, play volleyball at the glass. Just put it up at the rim and keep getting boards until you score. Finally, the two possessions at the end of the game were total garbage.

Why is Kentucky trying a three on the next to last possession? Overtime is great for Kentucky here. Kansas State is fouling out its entire team. You want to go to the basket there and draw contact. Refs were calling everything as a foul. Why settle for an outside jumper?

The yellow brick road to the Final Four was wide open for Kentucky, maybe the widest it has ever been open, and the Wildcats choked in front of a home crowd to an inferior opponent. That’s tough to shake.

Andrew writes:

“Don’t you think Michelle Beadle got $5 million because if she actually got what she was worth (less than a million) the SJWs would lose their minds that the only woman on “Woke-Lite” show was getting paid way less than her male counterpart? Blood bank guarantee they would my friend. Keep it up. Love your show.”

I think she got $5 million because ESPN has lost its mind. They paid Michelle Beadle $5 million a year when I’m not sure there is any other media company in the country that would pay her over a million right now. In general I am in favor of everyone in our industry making as much as possible, but this contract figure to me was just jawdropping.

Because it’s not justified by any existing market reality.

Now the way they justified it was by saying that she has multiple jobs and her agent did a great job maximizing her pay for those multiple jobs, but if I’d been running ESPN I would have kept her in her existing jobs and taken one of the younger girls at ESPN, Maria Taylor or Laura Rutledge, and put them on the morning show. Or I would have made a big run at Kay Adams who was already hosting a morning show on the NFL Network.

All three of these girls would have been just as good as Beadle and much cheaper. (ESPN wanted to have a girl on the show, which makes sense).

And you guys know I think Charissa Thompson is an absolute rockstar so I would have paid Charissa whatever you had to pay to get her to take this job.

This isn’t about not liking Michelle Beadle, she’s fine at her job, it’s just about ESPN bidding only against itself to keep talent.

The other thing about Beadle’s contract, and one of you emailed me this, is Beadle screwed ESPN because when she left for NBC no one followed to watch her show. So this further convinced ESPN that what mattered wasn’t the talent, it was the network. This has been ESPN’s hypothesis for years, that they make the stars not vice versa.

Partly as a result of his hypothesis ESPN let Colin Cowherd and Skip Bayless leave for FS1.

Now you can argue that Cowherd and Bayless are overpaid, but that’s an insane position to adopt because both men brought big audiences with them and hurt ESPN. Cowherd has the most listened to daily radio podcast in the country and Bayless tripled the audience FS1 had in that daypart. Both these guys brought substantial parts of their audience along with them, something that Beadle didn’t do at NBC.

Now that morning show has a $14.5 million budget just between Mike Greenberg, Jalen Rose and Michelle Beadle. That’s the biggest takeaway that most have as this show prepares to launch, that it’s insanely expensive. That $14.5 million is also tough to swallow if you’re one of the hundreds of ESPN talent who were laid off.

Benjamin writes: 

“Please settle this debate for us once and for all.  If we’re friends and hypothetically you call me at noon, don’t leave voicemail, and I don’t see it until 5:00 what are the call back requirements?  After five hours if there isn’t a repeat call and/or text I typically won’t call back because I feel like whatever the reasoning was for the call is no longer important.  My friends are always calling me out because I never call them back, but I tell them leave me a voicemail if it’s important or, brilliant idea, just text me and I’ll respond when I can. Am I being the shitty friend or do they just need to grow up?”

I call people back if I see I missed a call.

That’s even if it’s much later in the day.

But I almost never leave voicemail messages and it’s even rarer that I actually listen to a voiemail message. If I call and someone doesn’t answer, I follow up with a text and say give me a call when you get a second. Sometimes, if I know a particular person is really busy, I don’t even try the call, I just send the text message.

I almost always have access to my phone, but my schedule is wacky so my biggest communication issue comes when people text me around midnight and then I see it four hours later when I wake up. I’m usually in a rush to get my show prep done so it’s not uncommon for me to forget to respond to those late night texts until the afternoon, when my day finally slows down and I remember receiving them beforehand.

But the biggest takeaway here is this — friends don’t leave friends voicemails.

Okay, I’m off to the beach for the next week for the kid’s spring break. (Don’t worry, I’m doing the radio show from 30A).

Keep your emails coming and have great weekends.

Written by Clay Travis

Clay Travis is an author, radio show host, lawyer, TV analyst, and the founder and lead writer of Outkick (formerly known as Outkick the Coverage).
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