O'Donnell: Bradley University hoping nation forgets coach's bullying

  • Bradley coach Brian Wardle apologized last year to a Peoria sportswriter after initially banning him from access to the team at the NCAA tournament.

    Bradley coach Brian Wardle apologized last year to a Peoria sportswriter after initially banning him from access to the team at the NCAA tournament. Associated Press

 
Updated 3/4/2020 8:47 PM

BRADLEY UNIVERSITY MANUFACTURED the impossible last spring.

The Braves got a rare bid to the NCAA men's basketball tournament and then had their head coach turn the modest central Illinois school into a national embarrassment.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

That was when Brian "Baby Man" Wardle had veteran Peoria Journal-Star writer Dave Reynolds -- one of the most respected college basketball beat men in the land -- bounced from a media session for purportedly not helping to promote the Bradley "brand."

After a quick and righteous national wave of indignation over Wardle's vapid bullying, Reynolds was given back access to the team and far too graciously accepted apologies from the doltish Wardle and bluff-orbiting university President Gary Roberts.

At most colleges with appropriate standards of institutional integrity, Wardle would have been ashcanned quicker than a trailer for Harrison Ford's "The Call of the Wild."

Instead, he lingers as Bradley begins Missouri Valley Conference tournament play in St. Louis this weekend.

Most coherent alumni don't know whether to cringe or cheer -- for his removal.

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Asked this week to explain his thinking in the retention of Wardle, Roberts stayed hidden behind Bradley's media relations apparatus.

He and his cohorts on Peoria's West Bluff apparently thinks Basketball America forgets.

It doesn't.

And if there is a shred of karma hovering over the Gateway Arch on Friday, it will be one-and-done and then done-and-gone for "The Baby Man" of Bradley University.

STREET-BEATIN': Disney/ESPN is reportedly back and hungry like a wolf trying to convince Peyton Manning to sign on for "Monday Night Football." Among the NFL's four primary TV partners -- CBS, Fox, NBC and Disney -- "MNF" is far and away the weakest piece, drawing an average of close to 10 million fewer viewers than the CBS/Fox late Sunday afternoon national windows. ...

As an MLB manager and broadcast interview subject, down-home David Ross is already making Joe Maddon seem as hip and funny as Dave Chappelle. (Maybe they can juice Ross by having him update the old Leo Durocher/Schlitz commercials.) ...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Credible sources are saying Tony Romo will not be handling any golf coverage under his new megadeal with CBS. Others are saying at $17 million-per, Romo has license to do anything he wants at The Fisheye, up to and including co-hosting presidential debates and "The Price Is Right." ...

Big news out of Chicago's pandering WSCR-AM (670): Station management is again saving money on hotel rooms by renting a house in Arizona for staff at spring training. (Next bulletin will be that Dan McNeil has completed restoration of his vinyl Uriah Heep albums.) ...

Jac Collinsworth is returning to NBC Sports. The 25-year-old son of Cris Collinsworth is targeted for work on the Tokyo Olympics, the NFL and Notre Dame football (his alma mater). ...

Great headline: "Spike Lee and the Knicks are feuding. What does the latest MSG controversy mean?" It means that anyone who can skip remaining Knicks -- or Bulls -- home games this season is like a person finding out they have a rare immunity to the coronavirus. ...

Frank Calabrese -- still the most colorful horseman in the new-mill history of Arlington Park -- reports that he was asked to make the first bet at the new sportsbook inside Rivers Casino in Des Plaines next week. (Calabrese declined.) ...

UIC men's coach Steve McClain -- a legitimately good guy -- is all but toastado. Assistant Dee Brown of the Gene Hackman model 2004-05 Fighting Illini would be a bold replacement. ...

Speaking of Brown, he, Deron Williams, Luther Head and all suffered their first loss of that historic campaign 15 years ago Friday at Ohio State, 65-64, to dip to 29-1. They would finish 37-2 including 20-0 on ESPN, 10-2 on CBS and 7-0 on all others. ...

Al Michaels finally admitted it: Prep for the "Miracle On Ice" 40 years ago included at least an hour a day of tabletop hockey with ABC colleague Ken Dryden in a Lake Placid hotel room. (Maybe Pat Foley should try it with Jeremy Colliton.) ...

The DePaulia -- the university's student daily -- has been stridently calling for the ouster of Dave Leitao. Hard to believe that the Blue Demons -- now 15-15 -- were 12-1 nine weeks ago. (New team intro theme could be Harold Melvin and the Bluenotes old "Bad Luck.") ...

And Fox's candid Colin Cowherd, on the essence of contemporary sports talk, insighted, "I'm in the drama business. I root for headlines."

• Jim O'Donnell's Sports & Media column appears Thursday and Sunday. Reach him at jimodonnelldh@yahoo.com.

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