Home ‘Fringe media’ speculation on ‘source(s)’ for today’s news about Tony Bennett, UVA

‘Fringe media’ speculation on ‘source(s)’ for today’s news about Tony Bennett, UVA

Chris Graham
uva tony bennett staff
Photo: Mike Ingalls/AFP

“Sources,” the headline to the story from Times-Dispatch sportswriter Mike Barber published on Tuesday tells us, are saying that UVA and Tony Bennett are working on a long-term deal.

The story itself then cites a “source,” singular, as in, one, confirming that “the school is hopeful it will have a new, long-term extension in place with Bennett in short order.”

My favorite part of the story from Barber: “While fringe media in recent months has made much ado about Bennett’s contract status, multiple sources told the Richmond Times-Dispatch, it’s much ado about nothing.”

Now, maybe this is just me looking at things from the perspective of being a card-carrying member of the “fringe media,” but, which is it?

I mean, it’s sources, then it’s multiple sources, then a paragraph later, it’s “sources close to both.”

Sounds like we’re all on the up and up to me.

Eye roll.

You know, instead of having to go to your stenographer to clean up the mess, the folks at UVA Athletics could have just addressed me straight up when I first reached out to inquire about Bennett’s contract status way, way back on May 6.

Here was the email that I sent to the media-relations contact for men’s basketball:

There has been quite a bit of speculation, which I assume is uninformed, on the contract status of Coach Bennett.

The word circulating on social media is that he has two years left on his contract, and declined to sign an extension.

I’m writing today to see if you can address these bits of speculation.

This was the response:

FeiAny questions you have regarding Coach Bennett’s contract status need to be submitted through FOIA. The email address is [email protected].

So, I did as I was told, and sent a request to the UVA Freedom of Information Act Office to get a copy of Bennett’s current contract and any extensions that had been offered or were pending.

The response, a week later – Virginia FOIA law allows public agencies five working days to respond, and the good folks at the FOIA office used them in full, to the minute – was a copy of Bennett’s contract, and word from the FOIA folks that there was no evidence in the records system of any extensions.

What I did next, as any good member of the fringe media will do, was report on what I found, that the contract dated to 2015, with amendments in 2017 and 2019, with an end date of April 30, 2026.

I then submitted FOIA requests for the contracts of the assistant coaches, and found that Isaiah Wilkins and Johnny Carpenter are year-to-year, Jason Williford and Orlando Vandross are signed through April 30, 2026, and one – Ron Sanchez – is signed through April 30, 2027.

Those are all facts.

The only speculation from my fringe of the media was to speculate aloud about why the guy who gave up a head-coaching job paying $650,000 a year for an assistant job paying $450,000 a year was under contract for a year longer than anyone else on the staff, including the head coach.

At this point, two weeks into my digging on this, I reached back out to the media-relations folks at UVA Athletics, on May 22, to request the chance to interview Carla Williams, the athletics director, and Bennett.

Both declined.

It’s now three weeks since Williams and Bennett declined to address the reporting based on public-records requests, and five weeks since I first asked the simple question that could have been given a simple answer, and the plan to deal with the fallout is an apparently planted story quoting “sources,” a “source,” “multiple sources,” and a nugget attributed to Times-Dispatch sportswriter David Teel that Bennett told him at the ACC spring meetings last month that he “has an extension offer.”

Odd, that the story that Teel, literally a Hall of Fame sportswriter, filed about his conversation with Bennett at the ACC spring meetings, published on May 17, didn’t include mention of Bennett talking about an extension.

Seems that might have been newsworthy, given that I’d filed the first of several stories on his contract status four days earlier, on May 13.

But what do I, mere fringe media, know about newsworthiness?

Yes, I’m going to have a polo shirt made up with a new Fringe Media logo to wear to games.

Chris Graham

Chris Graham

Chris Graham is the founder and editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1994 alum of the University of Virginia, Chris is the author and co-author of seven books, including Poverty of Imagination, a memoir published in 2019, and Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, and The Worst Wrestling Pay-Per-View Ever, published in 2018. For his commentaries on news, sports and politics, go to his YouTube page, or subscribe to his Street Knowledge podcast. Email Chris at [email protected].