Over the weekend I posted an item at Awful Announcing regarding photos of Iowa Hawkeye football color commentator Ed Podolak surfacing from an Iowa State message board and being publicized via the Wiz of Odds last week. The photos showed Podolak drinking, looking down a woman’s shirt, etc., while in Tampa for the Outback Bowl and are fairly tame as far as photos of folks taken at bars go. I didn’t post one of the photos, mostly based on personal choice*, but I still thought it was a story.
Now, apparently Podolak decided to retire (or, if you believe, got urged to leave) as a commentator after Iowa AD Gary Barta expressed a rather downbeat tone about the whole matter, and it has spawned some spite towards the Wiz of Odds: Black Heart Gold Pants called editor Jay Christensen an assbag, Brian Cook called it “complete bullcrap” in the tags, and I can’t blame them for doing so. I think it’s a bit of an overreaction by Barta, but I’m not going to hold Christensen at fault for this — and if you think I’m completely, utterly wrong on this, don’t hesitate to tell me. I’m more than willing to change my mind.
As a publicly recognizable figure, both as a media figure and former pro athlete, Podolak has to know better. I work with people who are on television. I am fortunate to call many of them friends and drinking buddies. They are recognizable faces in the community. By no means are they shut-ins, but they know that they have to comport themselves in a certain way when they go out on the town. It’s a double standard, it’s not fair, but that is kind of implicitly agreed to when you sign a contract to be a media representative of a university, by extension (even though Podolak was hired through another company, technically.)
In Podolak’s case, this incident came after he got arrested for public intoxication previously with a .23 BAC a few years back in Iowa City. I don’t think it would have come to “resigning” had this been a first-time incident. I hesitate to say Gary Barta has any real right to determine what Podolak can and cannot do with his off hours, but ultimately, media figures give up certain things when they sign on the dotted line — even in cases where the goalposts have moved. Iowa officials in 1997 said “charges” were necessary to trigger suspension or firing. Drunken photos aren’t that, and Barta is apparently tougher on broadcasters than he is on the players in his revenue programs, which doesn’t look particularly good either — especially when another writer at the FanHouse is noting that Podolak’s bar times were not exactly a secret. It seems selective by Barta rather than any sort of principled stance.
(*The reason I didn’t post one of the pictures is because the woman wasn’t identified and it was a little more sensitive in nature. This may be my personal brand of journalism ethics training kicking in. I have no compunction about grabbing images via Google with randoms [mostly people with athletes at charity events or signing autographs, etc., just for photos for live blogs], but this was a bit different in my mind.)