Not humbled in the slightest by his brief 11 month tenure at AOL Sports (“Real Talk is a must-read for any hardcore football fan. No one in America writes more provocatively and intelligently about football than yours truly. Football is in my blood”), Jason Whitlock made his Fox Sports online debut the other day, and predictably, spent much of it dismissing someone else’s claims of racism.
Last week I spent six hours in a law office with Big John Thompson, John Thompson III, Ronny Thompson and a lawyer. They tried in vain to convince me that Ronny Thompson, Big John’s youngest son, quit as Ball State’s basketball coach after 15 months because he worked in a racially hostile environment. They wanted me to write the story that they later got my friend Mike Wilbon to pen in Tuesday’s Washington Post.Wilbon is one of the most skilled sports journalists in America. He’s extremely fair-minded. And I have a great deal of respect for him as a friend and a man. However, his column on Ronny Thompson was irresponsible, filled with blatant inaccuracies told to him by Thompson and an embarrassment to The Post. The column painted Muncie, Ind. and Ball State as a hotbed of seething racial animosity where no black coach could hope to survive.
Thompson bombed because he was too immature, too soft and too arrogant to deal with working in a poorly run, dysfunctional athletic department. My alma mater hired a horrible athletic director, Tom Collins, shortly before Thompson was hired as basketball coach. Collins has no leadership skills. People within his own department don’t respect him or like him. I’ve met the man. He’s unqualified for his job.
My first meeting with Ronny Thompson was terrible. He was aloof and short with me and three of my former teammates ” all black ” inside a restaurant on campus. Two weeks later, Thompson saw me filling in for Wilbon on Pardon The Interruption and he called me enthusiastically, kissing my rear end and asking me to wear a Ball State basketball jersey the next time I was on PTI.
Did he experience some racial tension at Ball State? Yes, probably. You can find it anywhere in America where the races work together. Any black man in a position of authority is going to have to weather a certain amount of racial backlash. You think Tubby Smith didn’t have thick skin at Kentucky? As a sports columnist and media personality, do you think I (or Wilbon) haven’t endured some vicious name-calling, threats and petty office politics?
Thompson’s whining about racist notes left under a door and an associate athletic director allegedly making disparaging comments about Thompson and his staff sounds like a kid who wanted to take his ball and go home.
Thompson’s 2007 Ball State team was 9-22. However, a rebuilding program having a poor year in no way precludes the possibility the racially hostile enviroment Thomspon describes was very much 4-real. Though Whitlock doesn’t go as far as say Bill Burt, and claim Thompson is just making shit up, perhaps Big Sexy would have a tad more credibility in this instance if his personal grudges were left out of this. Which is the bigger offense on the part of Thompson ; that he’s a friend of fave Whitlock target C. Vivian Stringer (aka “C Vivian Womandela”), or that he neglect to kiss Jason’s ass the first time they met?