Fun with microphones

This time of year is crazy busy for sports announcers. (Which is why I’ve been posting infrequently recently.)

Consider my own recent and anticipated future schedule:

  • Feb. 11: Boys regular season game, scheduled several times due to weather.
  • Feb. 12: Girls regional quarterfinal game. (In my mother’s hometown while my parents were where I live.)
  • Feb. 13: Women’s basketball tournament game in Menomonie, four hours north. (By bus, which rolled back into town at 1 a.m.)
  • Feb. 14: Valentine’s Day? No, regular season boys finale.
  • Feb. 15: Girls regional semifinal.
  • Feb. 16: All day broadcast of the state individual wrestling tournament.
  • Feb. 18: Girls regional final game in La Crosse.
  • Feb. 19: Boys regional quarterfinal in La Crosse, same high schools. (Which should have been a doubleheader, but I’m sure some Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association rule prohibits that.
  • Tonight: Girls sectional semifinal game in Madison. (Don’t tell Paul Soglin.)
  • Tomorrow night: Boys regional semifinal game.
  • Saturday: If the local team wins tonight, a girls sectional final game in Elkhorn in the afternoon, and whether or not that game takes place, a boys regional final game somewhere.

Maybe this kind of overscheduling (which gives the lie to the phrase “part-time”) leads to bad judgment reported by Sports Illustrated:

A high school basketball announcer in Indiana has resigned after ruthlessly criticizing a player who dunked in the final seconds of a game.

The incident occurred on Friday night in a game between Fort Wayne’s Homestead High and Norwell in the small town of Ossian. The Homestead Spartans, the visitors, were well on their way to victory when senior Trent Loomis dunked in the final seconds. He hung on the rim for just a moment and was given a technical foul by an overzealous ref. That’s when the announcer went off.

“Loomis gets two, but then he gets tech-ed up for being a jackass,” the announcer said. “Stay classy, Homestead. May you lose in the first round like you always do. Typical Homestead attitude. No class whatsoever. What else is new? Congratulations, you didn’t even cover the damn spread.”

Wellscountyvoice.com, the site that broadcast the game, apologized for the outburst and said the unnamed announcer had resigned his post.

The whole thing is just so absurd. How could an adult ever think it was OK to go off on a kid like that, especially for something as mundane as hanging on the rim for half a second? Judging by the last line, maybe he had a little money on the game. Do they really have spreads on high school games in Indiana?

SPEAKING OF ANNOUNCERS BEING JERKS

A Kansas radio host is in hot water after he was seen on camera at Monday night’s Kansas-Kansas State basketball game taunting a Wildcats player by pointing to the box score.

That’s Nate Bukaty, announcer for Sporting KC and host of The Border Patrol on 810 WHB. The moment quickly became a widespread meme and his co-hosts showed him what it’s like to be on the other side.

Bukaky later tweeted that (1) he was watching the game as a fan and not a broadcaster and (2) he “thought I was having [a] bit of fun, but that’s not how it came off,” and he apologized.

The unnamed former announcer evidently figured out he’d gone too far since he resigned two hours after the game ended. It looks like a classic case of an announcer getting too wound up in the team he’s announcing. In such a case, the announcer is serving neither his listeners nor his employers (and by extension advertisers who pay money to sponsor the broadcast.)

To the southwest of Presteblog World Headquarters Iowa football and basketball announcer Gary Dolphin has had an interesting year, starting with this:

Longtime Iowa radio broadcaster Gary Dolphin has been suspended from calling the team’s next two men’s basketball contests after critical comments that were inadvertently aired during Tuesday’s Hawkeye win over Pitt.

The announcement was made by Learfield Sports Properties, which broadcasts Hawkeye sports events.

Dolphin, in his 22nd season as the Hawkeye play-by-play announcer, apologized on air after Tuesday’s game when it came to his attention that his words during a commercial break were heard by radio listeners.

Dolphin was talking with his broadcast partner, former Hawkeye player Bobby Hansen, about how well Pitt’s freshmen guards were playing in the first half.

“How do we not get anybody like that?” Dolphin said. “It’s just year after year after year. Go get a quality piece like that. Just get one! They’ve got three or four.”

Hansen, who was not suspended, seemed to agree with Dolphin, echoing: “Go get a key piece like that.”

But Dolphin compounded matters by singling out Iowa junior guard Maishe Dailey. Dailey had four points and one turnover Tuesday.

“We get Maishe Dailey,” Dolphin said in a tone of disgust. “Dribbles into a double-team with his head down. God.”

After the game, Dolphin told the Register: “We want them to win so bad, sometimes we get frustrated when they’re not playing well in certain stretches.”

Iowa rallied to beat Pitt 69-68 and remain unbeaten on the season. The No. 15 Hawkeyes open Big Ten Conference play with a 7 p.m. home game Friday against Wisconsin before traveling to Michigan State for a 5:30 p.m. game Monday. Learfield will announce Dolphin’s replacement for those games later.

Iowa athletic director Gary Barta was made aware of Dolphin’s comments during the game and had a statement ready to be issued as soon as it was over saying he would “evaluate the comments” after listening to the audio.

In a news release Wednesday, Barta said: “Gary knows we are extremely disappointed in the comment he made about Maishe Dailey and the impact his remark had on our players and staff. The two-game suspension is a result of those comments, as well as some ongoing tensions that have built up over the past couple of years. This time away from the microphone will allow a chance to work through some of these issues. I truly appreciate the time and energy Gary puts into promoting Hawkeye athletics.”

Dolphin is also the play-by-play voice of Iowa football. He hosts the weekly in-season call-in shows for Hawkeye football coach Kirk Ferentz and men’s basketball coach Fran McCaffery.

“We unfortunately encountered a technical error at our network broadcast operations center that allowed off-air comments to be aired during a portion of the first-half commercial break,” Learfield Vice President-Broadcast Operations Tom Boman said in the news release. “We thoroughly reviewed the situation here at our Broadcast Ops center to ensure this doesn’t happen again, and we’ve also been communicating closely with Gary Barta and his administration, the entire broadcast team and our local Hawkeye Sports Properties staff.”

That led to the speculation that there is a feud between Dolphin and Hawkeyes men’s basketball coach Fran McCaffrey, and that that feud led to this:

Back in November, Iowa Hawkeyes’ multimedia rights holder Learfield suspended long-time Hawkeyes’ radio announcer Gary Dolphin for two games after remarks of his criticizing the team’s recruiting and the play of some specific players (guard Maishe Dailey in particular) were picked up on a hot mic. That proved controversial, though, as one Iowa booster even launched a radio ad criticizing Dolphin’s suspension. Well, Dolphin’s now been suspended again, for the remainder of the season this time, and what’s at issue is what he said about Maryland player Bruno Fernando after Tuesday’s Hawkeyes-Terrapins game, comparing him to King Kong. Here’s audio of that via Chris Hassel (the former ESPN anchor who now works for CBS Sports HQ and Stadium):

Hawkeye Sports Properties, the multimedia rights manager for University of Iowa Athletics, today announced it has suspended play-by-play announcer Gary Dolphin indefinitely through the remaining basketball season. The decision follows an inappropriate comment made by Dolphin during Tuesday’s broadcast of the Iowa men’s basketball game against Maryland.

Gary Dolphin issued the following statement: “During the broadcast, I used a comparison when trying to describe a talented Maryland basketball player. In no way did I intend to offend or disparage the player. I take full responsibility for my inappropriate word choice and offer a sincere apology to him and anyone else who was offended. I wish the Iowa Hawkeye players, coaches and fans all the very best as they head into the final stretch of the season. I will use this as an opportunity to grow as a person and learn more about unconscious bias.”

For the remainder of the basketball season, Jim Albracht and Bobby Hansen will serve as the radio announcers for Iowa’s men’s basketball games.

Dolphin may not have meant anything related to race with his comments, but comparing an Angola-born basketball player to a gorilla-like monster is obviously going to take some flak, especially considering the long and troubled history around references comparing black people to primates (something that cost Roseanne Barr her TV job last year). And while Dolphin has a lot of supporters from all his years calling Iowa athletics (he’s in his 22nd year calling the Hawkeyes’ football and basketball games), and while many of them are insisting that this couldn’t possibly be racist, someone who’s been broadcasting this long probably should know better than to bring up primates. (But, he also should have known better than to say “jigaboo” in 2011.) To Dolphin’s credit, his statement does recognize that his remark was inappropriate, and his desire to learn more about unconscious bias is positive. But that doesn’t suggest that he didn’t deserve punishment here.

Whether the rest-of-the-season suspension is appropriate can be debated a bit more, and there’s no clear guideline for just what punishment is appropriate for racially-associated remarks. Those have sometimes led to suspensions and sometimes led to job losses, but other times, an apology alone has proven enough for the employer. And something noteworthy here is that Iowa athletics director Gary Barta is again not offering much comment; Barta was criticized the last time Dolphin was suspended for referencing “ongoing tensions” in a release and then declining all further comment, and the Hawkeyes have now put out a statement attributed to no one, with Barta again declining further comment. Here’s that statement:

“The University of Iowa athletics department supports Hawkeye Sports Properties decision to indefinitely suspend radio play-by-play announcer Gary Dolphin.

The University of Iowa athletics department values diversity and is committed to creating a welcoming environment for all members of its campus community.”

… In terms of the overall cultural and broadcasting landscape at the moment, it definitely seems reasonable to suspend Dolphin for these comments, and he should have known better than to make this reference. Whether a suspension for the remainder of the year is appropriate can be debated, but there’s no clear answer there. But it is disappointing to see Barta and the Iowa athletics department again doing everything they can to avoid really commenting on this or answering questions. Yes, this decision was supposedly made by their radio partner, but it’s unrealistic to think that the athletics department wasn’t involved or at least consulted. And they should be willing to defend their position here. Instead, we just get an unattributed statement and a “No further comment,” and that’s not the best way to handle anything, much less a sensitive broadcasting situation.

The Des Moines Register then reported Wednesday:

Longtime Iowa broadcaster Gary Dolphin will return from his suspension for Iowa’s spring football practices, and will be on the mic for both football and men’s basketball games next season, Hawkeye Sports Properties announced Wednesday.

Dolphin was suspended from men’s basketball broadcasts twice this season, most recently after referring to Maryland star Bruno Fernando as “King Kong” following a Feb. 19 game. He has been replaced by Jim Albracht for the remainder of this basketball season. …

Dolphin accepted his punishment, saying in a university news release: “During the broadcast, I used a comparison when trying to describe a talented Maryland basketball player. In no way did I intend to offend or disparage the player. I take full responsibility for my inappropriate word choice and offer a sincere apology to him and anyone else who was offended. I wish the Iowa Hawkeye players, coaches and fans all the very best as they head into the final stretch of the season. I will use this as an opportunity to grow as a person and learn more about unconscious bias.”

But the decision did not sit well with a large portion of the Hawkeye fan base. Nor did Barta’s refusal to speak about the reasoning for it. That unease has remained for five days.

Dolphin was previously suspended after making disparaging comments about Iowa guard Maishe Dailey during what he assumed was a commercial break in a November game. …

“When one of our own attacks one of our players the way he did, it’s inexcusable,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said after that episode.

McCaffery has not spoken about the latest suspension. The No. 21 Hawkeyes are 21-7 after a loss at Ohio State on Tuesday, with three regular-season games remaining.

McCaffrey may have declined comment because he’s got his own issues, as the Register also reports:

Iowa men’s basketball coach Fran McCaffery has been suspended for two games following his post-game tirade directed at an official.

Iowa announced the suspension on Wednesday afternoon, shortly before athletic director Gary Barta was expected to appear in a media availability. Those games include Saturday’s home finale against Rutgers and the March 7 road game at Wisconsin.

The release said the Big Ten supported Iowa’s decision and that University of Iowa would also be fined $10,000 as a result of McCaffery violating the league’s sportsmanship policy.

The Toledo Blade’s Kyle Rowland and others observed McCaffery cursing out an official following Iowa’s 90-70 defeat against Ohio State on Tuesday. McCaffery was heard repeatedly shouting expletives and calling the official a “cheating (expletive)” and a “(expletive) disgrace.”

In the prepared release, Barta said, “Following the basketball game at Ohio State, Coach McCaffery made unacceptable comments to a game official in the hallway headed to the locker room. Fran’s comments do not represent the values of the University of Iowa, Hawkeye Athletics, and our men’s basketball program.”

“Fran immediately accepted responsibility for his comments and understands the severe implications of his remarks. Fran fully understands this suspension and penalty imposed by the Big Ten Conference. Fran continues to have my full support moving forward.”

McCaffery said in the release, ““I am in total agreement with the suspension by Iowa Athletics and the fine levied by the Big Ten Conference. My comments directed toward a game official were regretful. I apologize to Big Ten Conference officials, Iowa Athletics, my players and staff, and the tremendous Hawkeye fans. This behavior is not acceptable and I take full responsibility for my inappropriate comments.”

Both events came together during the Wednesday afternoon press conference reported on by KWWL-TV:

Hawkeye Sports Properties announced today that it will reinstate play-by-play announcer Gary Dolphin beginning with coverage of football spring practice. Dolphin will also return for the 2019-2020 football and men’s basketballs seasons.

Dolphin has served as “Voice of the Hawkeyes” since 1996. Dolphin was suspended on Friday through the remainder of the men’s basketball season for an inappropriate comment during the February 19th broadcast of the Iowa men’s basketball game against Maryland.

Dolphin and University of Iowa Director of Athletics, Gary Barta, [held] a press conference at Carver-Hawkeye Arena this afternoon.

In the news conference, Gary Dolphin said (despite rumors) there hasn’t been any attempt to get rid of him as an announcer. Barta says he will remain the Hawkeyes’ announcer because “he would never intentionally hurt someone.”

Barta told those at the news conference that he apologizes for the department’s delay in talking about the suspension. He said there were many conversations over the weekend and they delayed media until today to not take away from the team’s game last night.

Barta said the program can move forward and use it as a teaching moment. He says he recognizes that Dolphin’s comment (whether intended or not) can be offensive, especially in the eyes of a black athlete.

Dolphin said he did ask for a shorter suspension and he was unhappy but he doesn’t think it’s unfair to sit out the rest of the basketball season. He said he’s focused on looking forward.

Dolphin said he has a “good” relationship with head coach Fran McCaffery. Dolphin said he apologized to McCaffery Thursday night per a phone call for “being a distraction to the program.”

Coach McCaffery apologized during the news conference saying his emotions got the best of him. He said he was defending his players and he won’t stop defending them.

 

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