Twitterpretation March 11, 2012
Admittedly, I’m already behind on the coaching search. Much like I was for the football search in December. I’ve been on an extended weekend vacation both times, and each time I tell myself that scrolling through Twitter obsessively looking for coach tidbits instead of sitting on the beach will one day give me high blood pressure. So the majority of the following opinions will likely be wildly misinformed. But that’s kind of the point of blogging.
I was totally lost with the whole “the Illini will turn down an NIT bid” thing yesterday. I saw the Twitter furor (OK, I didn’t spend the WHOLE day lowering my blood pressure), I saw several articles, and as best I can tell, Mike Davis tweeted that the Illini would turn down an NIT bid and several writers believed him to have inside info. Do I have that right?
I also saw that Paul Klee said on the radio that many Illini players wanted to turn down the bid. Can we even do that? And if a school could do that, do the players really get to vote?
My takeaway – and again, I’m wildly uninformed yet too lazy to research – is that this was much ado about random tweets. Which means it will act as a precursor to the next few weeks, where Twitter will both break the story AND be the source of the first 14 false rumors. I can’t wait. I’ve been polishing my Twitterpretation skills for 3 solid years now. I believe I have the skill set to sort through the morass and find the truth. It’s my time to shine.
My Sources Say
I probably shouldn’t say this, but I’m in a good mood because dawn is breaking over Illinois Basketball and I can’t contain my excitement. And every time I’m in a good mood, I say things I probably shouldn’t.
I’ve read a lot of rumors so far. I’ve had people email things to me claiming that their neighbor’s cousin’s aunt works in the DIA. I’ve seen national writers tweeting opinions. And it’s my honest opinion that 88% of what I’ve read so far is completely fabricated.
Smart has told close friends that he would not take the job. Stevens has informed Mike Thomas that he is interested. Anthony Grant passed out at 31 flavors last night. 88% of it completely fabricated. I’m not shooting the messengers (read: keep those emails coming, folks!) I’m just saying that it’s one big game of telephone, and by the time it’s reaching me, most of it is too jumbled to be true.
As I said above, Twitter will both break the story and provide every false rumor. And because of that dichotomy, writers and bloggers and fans are increasingly comfortable running with a 50/50 rumor that they can simply cover later on. Here, I’ll give you an example.
On Friday, Dan Wolken, a national sportswriter for The Daily, Tweets the following:
Sounds like Shaka is going to take Illinois or is leaning that way, from what I hear.
This sets off a bit of a Twitter furor (including a retweet from yours truly), and so he hedges.
Illinois fans, just remember this stuff is fluid, changes by the day. I’d bet today Shaka takes it, but tomorrow? Who knows until it’s done.
See how that works? Make a statement (“Shaka is going to take Illinois”). But if it gains traction, hedge that statement (“but tomorrow?”). And that’s it. You can use Twitter to both run with so-so information AND cover your bets.
And please note that I don’t have a problem with Wolken doing this. If I have the same information (I won’t), I’ll likely run with it on Twitter (with a hedge). It’s how things work in 2012. The days of needing something firmly sourced, at least for everyone not tied to something in print, are over. It’s now up to the reader to filter the rumors (88%) from the facts (12%).
So keep the rumors coming, Twitterverse. I can’t refresh my screen fast enough.
In Thomas I Trust
I’ve seen several opinions floating around claiming that Mike Thomas isn’t making any friends in Champaign. And they’re always supplemented with “and not just because he fired three coaches – he’s done other things”. My reaction: Hallelujah.
Seriously, there’s nothing that excites me more. Every time I hear it I worry that it’s not true. It’s what I’ve wanted for years.
Leadership isn’t nice. Change doesn’t happen with everyone agreeing. When an athletic department is struggling – and the last 7 years of basketball and the last 20 years of football would suggest we’re struggling – the changes will be ugly. There will be tears and anger and uncomfortable press conferences galore (Megan Weber’s expression on Friday made me sick to my stomach with sadness). But a leader with a purpose will pause to grieve and then return to the tasks at hand. Which, for Mike Thomas, is to return Illinois athletics to national prominence.
In doing that, he will certainly ruffle some feathers. In doing that, he will sometimes be the least popular guy in Champaign. But he’s very much like a parent in this role: it’s not his job to be the best friend and make sure everyone gets want they want. It’s his job to guide and inspire and lead. I’m thrilled of reports of ruffled feathers. I’m thrilled with nearly every move he’s made with the athletic department, from outsourcing media rights to firing Ron Zook and Bruce Weber.
Illinois should not be in the lower tier of athletic departments. We should not be behind Minnesota in athletic department revenue. We should not spend the smallest amount of any Big Ten school (NW doesn’t report) on our football program as we did through the 2000′s. In a Big Ten Network revenue world, nearly every Big Ten athletic department needs to be taking advantage of the network windfall. With the decisions he’s made thus far, it appears Mike Thomas is planning to do just that.
But those plans will involve ruffled feathers and fired coaches. Hallelujah.