On Sunday, the Sun-Sentinel became the first media outlet to name Jon Gruden as a candidate for head football coach at the University of Miami. The paper cited "multiple UM sources" who claimed that the former NFL coach is "high on the list" and that there's "mutual interest."
Everyone from bloggers to Sports Center picked up Steve Gorten's story, and it first appeared that the Sentinel was out front on a major national sports story line.
Since then, however, things don't look so certain that Gruden is interested or that he'll be seriously considered for the job. Even the Sentinel seems to be backing down from the original story.
The first sign of trouble came late Sunday night, when ESPN reported this response
"I am committed to Monday Night Football and to ESPN. I enjoy working with Mike, Jaws, and our entire crew and am just trying to get better at this job."
That's not an outright denial, but it's also not the kind of response you'd expect from someone vying for a job. Prospective employers don't want to hear that you're committed to your current job while applying for a new one.
Another sign of cracks in the story came Sunday when Sports Illustrated Senior Writer Peter King dismissed the Sentinel's report with a tweet:
Jon Gruden is not going to the University of Miami. Period.
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And then on Monday night, the Sentinel published a story about UM's search for a coach that seemed to downplay the original report. The article dedicated just one sentence -- 13 words -- to Gruden, repeating the claim from Sunday's story. Most of the 582-word article talked about other possible candidates and the qualities UM will be looking for in a coach. If the Sentinel had "multiple UM sources" confirming that Gruden is a candidate, why not write a follow-up article about the progress? Why not at least print Gruden's response?
So if the story turns out to be bogus, what went wrong? It's likely that the Sentinel does in fact have UM sources reporting the Gruden story. That leaves a couple of possibilities, like maybe the sources aren't as familiar with the negotiations as they're claiming -- always a potential problem when a media outlet uses unnamed sources.
There's also the wag-the-dog scenario. UM may be trying to drum up support for Gruden and persuade the former coach to apply for a job he doesn't want. Persuading the Sentinel to report the story on Sunday could also have simply been about testing the waters to see what boosters and alumni think of the possibility.
Of course, Gruden himself could clear things up with a statement that's clearer about whether he's considering the job -- and whether the Sentinel screwed up a national story.