Okay. I’ve read all your emails, and I have thought long and hard about it all weekend. The fact that words that I wrote caused so much anger, and discontent among UConn basketball fans, has forced me to say, I’m sorry.
Last week in my column in the sports section of the chattanoogan.com, I based my blog, entitled,” Congratulations Geno: But Think Again”, on a quote from Lady Huskies Coach Geno Auriemma in an Associated Press article recapping Tuesday night’s Women’s National Championship game between UConn and Louisville. Coach Auriemma was quoted as saying, “The fact that I tied Pat Summitt’s record, puts you in the category of the greatest womens’ basketball coach of all time.” To me, those words, just as they were presented in the article, still sound a bit arrogant. Even some of the upset Lady Husky fans admitted that their coach had a reputation for being cocky. But, my big mistake was not investigating further Geno’s complete press conference. After I had read the entire transcript, I realized that I had made a huge mistake.
Coach Auriemma was very cordial and flattering in his praise of Tennessee Lady Vols coaching legend Pat Summitt. He did say the words I blasted him for saying in the above mentioned quote, but they were certainly taken out of context. So again, I apologize to Coach Auriemma and all UConn fans for jumping to a very big, and very wrong conclusion.
I do defend myself on one very big issue that about one-third of the upset UConn fans mentioned. My use of the term, “whop-sided” or “wop-sided” was in absolutely no way an ethnic slur at Italian-Americans. “Wop-sided” is a term that millions of other Southerners, including myself, have used for many years to describe a one-sided blow-out. One disgruntled fan questioned, “Don’t you mean lop-sided?” Perhaps I did, but in the South, most of us have always referred to it as “wop-sided.” For those of you who took offense, again I apologize. Believe me when I say this; there is not a prejudiced or biased bone in my body.
Finally, the email that I read last was the one that helped me make up my mind to retract my earlier column. It was written by Alysa Auriemma, the daughter of the Lady Huskies’ coach. Alysa wrote a very powerful letter to me in defense of her dad. In contrast to some of the emails I received in the past few days, there were no curse words…..no threats……no poisonous put-downs of Southerners and their “ignorant” ways or thoughts. After I finish writing this column, I plan to write her back and thank her for the classy way she defended her father.
There….I’ve said it. I’m sorry, and I truly am sorry for not being the kind of journalist that I have been for the last 43 years. I am also sorry for this fact; that there is still so much animosity and hatred between Tennessee and UConn fans. Today, I will have a new-found respect for Coach Auriemma and his Lady Huskies!
Randy Smith has been covering sports in Tennessee for the last 43 years. After leaving WRCB-TV in 2009, he has continued his broadcasting career as a free-lance play-by-play announcer. He is also an author and is a media concepts teacher at Brainerd High School in Chattanooga. He is also the Head Softball Coach at Brainerd. Randy Smith's career has included a 17-year stint as scoreboard host and pre-game talk show host on the widely regarded "Vol Network". He has also done play by play of more than 500 college football, basketball, baseball and softball games on ESPN, ESPN2, Fox Sports, CSS and Tennessee Pay Per View telecasts. He was selected as "Tennessee's Best Sports Talk Show Host" in 1998 by the Associated Press. He has won other major awards including, "Best Sports Story" in Tennessee and his "Friday Night Football" shows on WRCB-TV twice won "Best Sports Talk Show In Tennessee" awards. He has also been the host of "Inside Lee University Basketball" on CSS for the past 11 years. He was the first television broadcaster to ever be elected to the "Greater Chattanooga Area Sports Hall of Fame", in 2003. Randy and his wife, Shelia, reside in Hixson. They have two married children (Christi and Chris Perry; Davey and Alison Smith). They also have three grandchildren (Coleman, Boone, and DellaMae).