Is it merely semantics, or were we misled for some reason? Or, is a published report citing four unnamed sources claiming Anthony Hubbard was dismissed from the University of Iowa's men's basketball team last week in error?
Last Thursday, the UI's sports information office put out a news release that included the following comment from Hawkeyes Coach Fran McCaffery:
"Obviously, we're disappointed. We invested a substantial amount of time and energy in the recruitment of Anthony . The positive is that we learn today of Anthony's decision versus learning of it in August or September."
The top of the release said "Anthony Hubbard to transfer. Junior college transfer to look at options closer to (his Woodbridge, Va.) home."
That very well may be proven true, especially since people in Lincoln are claiming Nebraska isn't going to reopen its original recruitment of Hubbard from when it, Penn State, Iowa and others were pursuing the player. Late last week, Hubbard told Huskeronline.com that he had been in contact with Nebraska as a possible transfer destination.
However, Lincoln Journal Star columnist Steven M. Sipple Tweeted this Tuesday night:
I'm told Nebraska under no circumstances will again pursue 6-foot-5 forward/guard Anthony Hubbard, who last week abruptly left Iowa.
Nowhere in Iowa's press release did it say Hubbard, who joined the Iowa program from Frederick (Md.) Community College in April had been kicked off the team. Of course, nowhere did it say he wasn't.
Calling it "Anthony's decision," as McCaffery did, certainly infers something other than a dismissal. Although, as a reader pointed out to me on Wednesday, "Anthony's decision" could be an interpretation of something he did, not his decision to leave.
At the Cedar Rapids-based Metro Sports Report, Jim Ecker wrote Tuesday night that Hubbard was dismissed from the Iowa team because he violated a "zero tolerance policy" established for him. Hubbard spent nearly four years in prison for his participation in a 2003 armed robbery before playing one season at a Texas junior college and another at Frederick.
None of the four sources apparently gave Ecker any specific information about whatever it was Hubbard did to violate the "zero tolerance" agreement, though one said the player didn't break any laws and another said Hubbard wasn't involved with drugs or illegal substances.
I'm not going to go holier-than-thou about the use of unnamed sources, since the Gazette sports department has done likewise on stories when we felt strongly about the accuracy of the information. It's hard to act squeamish about it when someone else does it only to sign off on it when your team does it. There are other Iowa newspapers/newspaper Web sites that don't allow the use of unnamed sources. Their use is an age-old debate in journalism. Bob Woodward certainly wasn't opposed to using them. He also has caught a lot of flack over the years for doing so.
All that said, if it's true Hubbard was kicked off the team, why did Iowa suggest otherwise last week?
The press release had a quote from Hubbard that was well-worded and said "I plan to work with my junior college coach and family to select another school perhaps closer to home.” But it gave no explanation for why he was leaving.
The release had a statement from Iowa Athletic Director Gary Barta that didn't say anything other than to proclaim his disappointment for McCaffery and his basketball staff, and his best wishes for Hubbard. You saw McCaffery's statement.
If it's simply Barta and McCaffery not wanting to embarrass Hubbard, that's a noble gesture. But they stuck their necks out to allow a talented ballplayer with a prison record to join the Hawkeyes. Is it unfair to ask if they're trying to protect that player, or themselves?
Now, if anyone wants to go on the record to try to clear all this up ...