UH's Tom Herman Clashes With Radio Hosts on Air

Houston Cougars football coach Tom Herman went on John Lopez and Nick Wright’s SportsRadio 610 sports show yesterday. To call the exchange contentious would be an understatement. (The full 22-minute interview can be heard here. h/t sportsmedialm for the link). The genesis of the discussion goes back to a John Lopez story about new Cougar Kyle Allen that was posted on December 13.

In many ways, this train wreck is all inside media, and it's certainly not something that needed to have happened. It could have been prevented by a call from Lopez to Herman on December 13. It could have been prevented by corrections to the post after that. It could have been prevented if Herman and Lopez could have agreed on what “meeting” and “interest” meant. It could have all been prevented if Nick Wright didn’t go gonzo on twitter Tuesday demanding apologies for Lopez from Mark Berman and Joseph Duarte. (Full disclosure: Sean Pendergast, a regular Houston Press contributor who co-hosts his own afternoon SportsRadio 610 show, was not involved in Wednesday morning's interview with Herman nor did he participate in any way with Lopez's story or this one.) 

It could have all been prevented if Lopez and/or Wright had ever actually bothered to make their presence known at the University of Houston. They never attended a practice this season. They never came to a game. They never came to a press conference. They had Herman on just once during the season, and never bothered to talk to him at any other time.

None of that, of course, happened. What instead happened is that 610 doubled down, going so far as to basically state it doesn’t matter what the actual facts were since the Cougars and Allen did have a mutual interest — the argument essentially being that facts are unimportant if the essence is kind of sort of correct.

If you listen to the interview, you’ll note that Herman makes an analogy to reporting a story about a fire, stating that Lopez is claiming that reporting a deadly fire in Houston is correct even if it’s actually a small fire with no injuries in Phoenix because he got the fact about there being a fire somewhere correct. Herman says Lopez's December 13 story was incorrect no meeting between Herman, Allen, and a UH coach on December 13, as Lopez had reported.

Of course, facts do matter. As Duarte and Berman reported, following up with their sources, there was no meeting in Houston that day. Kyle Allen debunked the report, stating he was in Arizona. Even Lopez seems to backtrack during the interview with Herman, implying that there was instead a phone conversation, which is not what he initially reported. And still Wright claims there’s nothing wrong with the story because it doesn’t matter if you’re hit by a red car or an orange car — yes, this exchange actually happened, and yes it’s just as mind-numblingly stupid as it sounds because, as any lawyer will tell you, the color the damn car that hits you absolutely matters. 

Houston Press sources indicated that none of this would have happened — the radio interview or the unprecedented press release sent on Tuesday by UH with Herman praising and defending Berman and Duarte — if 610 (specifically Wright) hadn't kept demanding that Duarte and Berman apologize to Lopez for debunking his report, or if Wright didn't keep insisting that Lopez’s story is correct even though, according to sources, UH had reached out to 610 multiple times about the story's inaccuracies.

There were some problems with Herman’s response to Wright and Lopez. He should have tried better to keep his anger in check, and while funny, belittling Wright time and time again probably didn’t help out Herman nationally or among those who don’t follow UH on a consistent basis. And while his support of Berman, Duarte and good journalism is appreciated, it’s probably not the best for their reputations as journalists for Herman to call them good friends, since that could imply they’re biased in his favor.

But here are the takeaways: There’s a difference between a phone call and a meeting, just as there’s a difference between a red car and an orange car. It also should be noted that the best guys on the UH beat are Joseph Duarte and Mark Berman, both stellar reporters who are always hanging around the program.

And final lesson: Don’t ask Tom Herman to lunch after you’ve spent the last 20 minutes attacking his integrity.  
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John Royal is a native Houstonian who graduated from the University of Houston and South Texas College of Law. In his day job he is a complex litigation attorney. In his night job he writes about Houston sports for the Houston Press.
Contact: John Royal