Donovan to Kentucky Rumor Grows Wings
Posted Mar 27th 2007 3:12AM by Ryan Ferguson
The rumors swirling around Billy Donovan's potential departure from Florida to Kentucky seem to grow stronger and swifter, like a river of doubt bursting free of its weakened levee.
With late-breaking news on Monday night -- still coming from unsubstantiated sources, mind you -- indicating that via a bizarre media screw-up, details of Donovan's pending contract with Kentucky were either accidentally or intentionally leaked, it is starting to feel as though there must be something to the rumor.
And when television stations run the story, you have to wonder if it isn't a rumor at all.
WLEX-18, Lexington's NBC affiliate news station, reports the following as of 12:52 AM EDT:
CatsPause: UK Ready To Name Donovan
According to Darrell Bird of CatsPause.com, UK is poised to name Billy Donovan its new basketball coach after Florida's final game in the NCAA Tournament.
According to CatsPause.com, the reported package is a seven year deal worth $3.5 million per year. The report further states there is a $3.5 million loyalty bonus if Donovan completes all seven years.
There are some important things to note here:
1. Catspause.com, the popular Kentucky fan site, is the source of the story. While I'm not suggesting that Catspause is an unreliable source, it is a far cry from the Kentucky athletic department or some other source which can make an official announcement regarding Kentucky's head coaching vacancy. Catspause is on very thin ice here; the site's trustworthiness as a news source hinges upon the validity of the story. If the "news" turns out to instead be a rumor, Catspause would become the laughingstock of the Rivals network. In theory, Darrell Bird would be aware of those potential pitfalls before running the story.
2. The news comes on the heels of Donovan's Monday afternoon television appearance on ESPN's PTI. In his interview with Mike Wilbon and Tony Kornheiser, Florida's head basketball coach did not do a very good job dodging questions about Kentucky. Donovan used the phrase "right now" seven times:
Tony Kornheiser: "Are you going to take a look at Kentucky?"
Donovan: "No, right now I'm going to focus on our team, Tony. Right now, that's the most important thing. Uh, my opinion is, we've worked so hard, and have had to deal with so much this season, that right now my only focus is our basketball team and this opportunity to play in the Final Four and to play against UCLA. And I really haven't given anything -- other than -- any, any other thought -- I, I can honestly tell you that in my opinion, when it comes to those situations, Billy Donovan or any coach is not the decision-making factor in those things. My focus right now is just totally on Florida."
Tony Kornheiser: "But down the road, in a few weeks, if someone comes knocking, would you at least answer the phone, or open the door?"
Donovan: "Well, my, my thing right now is that I just want to focus on our team. I'm happy at the University of Florida. I love our kids. I love our program. I love the administration. I love what's been able to take place here. But right now, I'm not going to sit there and forecast two weeks from now, a week from now, ten days from now. My total focus right now is UCLA and the University of Florida."
Matt Jones from Kentucky Sports Radio is, as usual, right on top of it:
I normally dont post multiple times in one evening, but lots has happened in the last hour. I must say, the Kentucky news media is abuzz about the Cats Pause story tonight that Billy Donovan and UK have reached a deal that will make Donovan the new coach at Kentucky. The news has been reported on WAVE in Louisville, WLEX in Lexington (which went with the story at 11, the same time the Cats Pause report came out, suggesting it was intentional) and is now common knowledge. We here at Kentucky Sports Radio have found out that the folks at Florida, including the Athletic Director have been made aware of the story and it is now will become the top talk of tomorrow's sports day.
The question is whether this is good. From now until Monday, Billy Donovan will be forced to answer questions on the subject from not only the news media, but also likely his team and the university. What was before today a "wait until the season is over" story has now, thanks to the Darrell Bird story, become a "we have to ask you now" story. When you say a deal is done, folks want to know if the deal is done. That means that Billy Donovan and the Florida Gators are in for distractions aplenty.
I'm calling it right now: thanks to this report, whether it's a leak, malicious sabotage, or the God's honest truth, the Gators' chances of winning it all for the second year in a row have been severely compromised. Unless this is cleared up as a nasty and baseless rumor on Tuesday (and if that's what it is, heads should roll at W-LEX and Catspause.com's publisher should be forced to post a public retraction), Billy Donovan, his players, and the athletic department will be forced to address this issue multiple times per day until the matter is concluded. It is the kind of distraction which can end any chance of Florida playing at a top level against UCLA.
And if Billy Donovan is Kentucky-bound, which I'm starting to think is a very distinct possibility due to Donovan's evasiveness, you might as well rip my orange and blue heart out of my chest and stomp on it with a jackboot.
UPDATE 3:36 AM EDT (Tuesday): Catspause.com has run a new "Plan B" story which displaces the Donovan contract story from its headline position. Darrell Bird, the Catspause.com publisher, has posted a message on the site's message board indicating this is NOT a done deal and that the story was not intended for the widespread publication it received. Bird appears to be trying to relegate this story back to 'rumor' status.