My Feb. 12 Deadspin story about the forced resignation of Toledo cross country and track coach Kevin Hadsell was one of the most difficult I’ve ever done. Balancing the the privacy of the sources who trusted me enough to tell their stories, while exposing the most specific information possible was extremely challenging, but I’m really proud of how it turned out.
At more than 5,300 words, it’s the longest I’ve ever written. And with 200,000 views and 500 comments in the first three days since it’s been published, it’s also my most widely read.
I began working on this story in Late January, doing basic research and talking with people on the phone from my apartment in Kent, Ohio. On Monday, Feb. 3, I traveled to Toledo for three days to gather more information in person. That was valuable. I wrote the piece on Thursday, Feb. 7 and we published the morning of Tuesday, Feb. 12.
Here’s the story on Deadspin.com:
… Interviews with former athletes, all of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity, suggest a charismatic coach who maintained few boundaries with his runners. There were physical and romantic relationships with athletes and at least one non-athlete student from the beginning of his time in Toledo. Those relationships, in our sources’ telling, tended to unfold in similar fashion.
In addition, the runners we spoke to said Hadsell would regularly talk to them about sex and send them sexually suggestive text messages. He hounded runners who tried to quit the team. He used his authority as a coach to exert dominion over the private lives of his athletes, pressuring his female runners to stay off birth control. Former runners also recall Hadsell drunk-driving the team van, drinking during practices, and buying alcohol for underage runners.
One source described a “cover-up culture” among the athletes—female athletes too uncomfortable to bring up the matter with each other or with school officials. Some worried that nobody would believe their word against that of a highly respected coach. Some didn’t want to risk their position with the team. Others worried about outing their friends.
“Still to this day I wish I would have done something,” said a former runner who’s now in his early 30s. The runner learned of one female teammate who had a sexual relationship with Hadsell. He and a male teammate confronted the coach; Hadsell “freaked out” on them, denying everything and saying that the woman who’d told them about the relationship was crazy and hungry for attention… continue reading on Deadspin
Also, this story was involved in somewhat of “disagreement” with the local paper, The Toledo Blade, which published their version of the story after Deadspin. Here are some links from around the internet discussing that:
Jim Romenesko: “Toledo Blade managing editor disses Deadspin” (my fifth time on Romenesko in the past 13 months…)
… Deadspin’s Doug Brown had a long investigative pieceyesterday about sexual harassment claims against a University of Toledo coach who recently resigned. In the comments section of today’s Blade story today on the coach, managing editor Dave Murray writes what I think is a cheap blast against Deadspin…
Politico: “Old media vs. new media, sports edition“
… As editor of a venerable, 175-year-old newspaper, it can be hard to lose a local story to a bunch of profanity-loving kids from a New York-based website*. But the inability to accept that Deadspin is a legitimate news outlet — and a strong one at that — is so archaic and tin-eared I’m surprised Murray could even figure out how to post it online…
The Atlantic Wire: “Get used to Deadspin scooping your old media idols“
… Murray picked the wrong time to pick a fight with Deadspin. Their reporting credentials have never been stronger — and this is a far cry from Brett Favre’s privates. Besides the Te’o story, they’vereceivedpraise for John Koblin’s work on the decline in ESPN’s journalistic standards. Before going to Deadspin, Koblin worked as a media reporter for Women’s Wear Daily, and previously put in stints working for The New York Times and the New York Observer. The writer who broke the Toledo story, Douglas Brown, has written investigative pieces about college sports for Deadspin and has been published in the Cleveland Plain Dealer…
Boing Boing: “Newspaper editor on website that scooped it: don’t trust them, we’re the pros!“
… It’s bloggers vs. newspapers time again! And on this occasion, we have the special soupçons of access-dependent local sportswriters, deranged editors, and Gawker’s well-tuned nose for drama.
On February 12, Deadspin broke the details of an incredible scandal:Toledo running coach Kevin Hadsell had a bad habit of bullying, threatening and banging his students. The site reported that university and government officials were uncooperative, and insinuated that the coach was trying to get a more sympathetic story placed in The Toledo Blade.
Jim Romenesko: “Why newspaper sports journalists don’t like Deadspin“
…Deadspin really breaks the unspoken, but long-standing tradition that sports reporters only cover what goes on between the lines….I suspect that it has more than a little to do with the relationship between the sports departments and the institutions they cover…
Awful Announcing: “Deadspin vs The Toledo Blade – How new media is changing reporting“
Brown’s story was worlds different than Autullo’s. Brown didn’t start by waxing poetical nonsense about Hadsell’s good deeds of caring for his sister’s children while she struggled with alcoholism. Brown’s picture of the situation was much more cutting than the Blade’s. He paints a much uglier picture of Hadsell being an alcoholic himself, blackmailing athletes into staying on the team, forcing them to run when they didn’t want to, being responsible for a number of eating disorders, and being an overall bully in general. We can only assume Autullo was forced to hold back on reporting certain things for whatever reason.