We paid another visit to the Paul Finebaum Radio Network yesterday, mainly to discuss our post about UAB basketball coach Mike Davis and his interview for the Washington State job.
(By the way, it looks Davis and UAB are stuck with each other. Davis announced yesterday that he had withdrawn his name from consideration at Washington State. A few hours later, WSU announced that it had hired Portland State coach Ken Bone.)
As I mentioned in an earlier post, Paul Finebaum and I go way back. We had adjoining desks in our days as hungry young sports reporters for the late Birmingham Post-Herald.
I was always amazed at Paul's "fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants" interviewing style. Before an interview, I would conduct research and write out questions and more or less stick to a script. Paul's first thought for the interview usually would come when he picked up the phone. I remember Paul doing a phone interview with an offensive tackle for Auburn in the early 1980s. I think the guy's last name was Stephenson. Anyway, Paul didn't have a clue what the guy did on the Auburn team. "Let's see, you play . . . (pages of media guide turning) . . . offensive tackle?" I was sitting close enough to hear Paul's end of the interview. And even though it didn't appear to be going well, Paul (somehow) managed to get a decent story out of it.
Paul's interviewing skills have matured considerably since those days, and it was neat to see that from the perspective of an interviewee. You can hear the entire interview by going to the Finebaum Network Web site, scrolling to the archives for 4/06, and clicking on hour No. 2. My interview starts at about the 20:35 point in that segment.
Our interview wound up ranging well beyond Mike Davis, to a number of other issues that come under "The UAB is Screwed Up" banner. They included:
* The role (not always positive) the University of Alabama Board of Trustees plays at UAB--Paul brought up the name of John McMahon, a member of the Board of Trustees who seems to be a particularly big player on the Birmingham campus. McMahon is the chairman of Ligon Industries LLC and has been chairman of the UAB Health System; he remains a member of the UAB Health System Board, where I understand he has close interaction with UAB President Carol Garrison. In recent days, I've discovered information that leads me to believe that my unlawful termination might have been sparked by a blog post or two I had written about the Birmingham health-care scene, involving HealthSouth Corp. and (in a behind-the-scenes way) UAB. If that's the case, Mr. McMahon is a strong candidate to have been involved in my firing. I've stated before that I don't think my termination was done without pressure from, or the OK of, at least one or two powerful board members. Could John McMahon be one of those board members? We will be examining that question very closely.
* Research fraud at UAB--I've written several times at Legal Schnauzer about massive research fraud at UAB. I'm continuing to gather information on that subject and will be writing a series of posts about it soon. When I mentioned it to Paul, he said, "Did you say research fraud?" Paul might be a multimedia star these days, but he's still got those reporter's instincts. I went on to explain that UAB had settled a whistleblower lawsuit in 2004 for roughly $3.6 million. But court documents, supported by a forensic accountant who used to be UAB's research-compliance director, indicate the actual fraud totaled an estimated $300 to $600 million. I then helpfully pointed out that U.S. Attorney Alice Martin, one of those wild and crazy George W. Bush appointees, has more or less glossed over the investigation and allowed UAB to raid the federal treasury, with barely a slap on the wrist. Perhaps alert citizens, both in Alabama and beyond, should pay attention to this story, I suggested. Paul seemed to agree.
* Carol Garrison's low marks in the business community--I had mentioned in yesterday's post that a local journalist is working on a story about business leaders who are unhappy with the "leadership" of UAB's president. Paul said he had heard a number of business leaders express negative reviews of Garrison. "They say she's impossible to deal with," Paul said. We both found that ironic, considering that Garrison is married to Julian Banton, former head of SouthTrust Bank, which became Wachovia and now is Wells Fargo (I think).
* The man who should have been UAB's president--I had posted previously that UAB's current malaise probably can be traced to its failure to hire Bernard Machen as president in 1997. Machen, the provost at the University of Michigan, appeared to be the frontrunner for the top job at UAB. But the UA Board of Trustees made the stupendously bad decision to hire W. Ann Reynolds instead--and then compounded the mistake by hiring Carol Garrison when Reynolds flamed out. Machen went on to become president of the University of Utah and now is at the University of Florida. Machen, I'm sure, has his shortcomings as a university president. But he hired Urban Meyer, who has led Florida to two national football championships. In the Southeast, that pretty much makes Machen a god among college administrators. And he should have been at UAB.
I hope Paul and I managed to enlighten a few folks about issues that are important to all Alabamians. But even if we didn't, we had a good time. And I know from experience, that the Finebaum show has a major impact on public opinion.