Surprise! Rhabdo-Gate Could Have Been Avoided

So quite understandably, the DMR issued a FOIA request over rhabdo-gate. To that end, here are 137 e-mails released by the University of Iowa in regards to that request. It's a lot of reading, especially when the same e-mail shows up four or five times and so many of the e-mails are just different ways of saying "we should talk more about this," but there are some seriously damaging documents here if you're patient.

We could ramble for hours and/or thousands of words about how the UI screwed this whole thing up from a PR perspective, but we already did that when things first started going down, so that's a rant best saved for a couple of beers at a certain watering hole. For these purposes, there is one main point worth getting across.

There was someone at the UI who warned everybody that the initial "we expect no further comment" release was a truly terrible idea.

Here's an email from a Tysen Kendig about that infamous press release, although it really could have been written by Vint or me immediately after it was sent out:

Understanding patient confidentiality laws are very much in play, I can't help but wonder if this raises more questions than it seeks to address by issuing it. For instance, it doesn't at all address what happened? What was the cause? Was it an incidental virus contraction, or some type of physical altercation that caused the hospitalization? Was/is there a threat to others who have come in contact with these individuals? Was it precipitated by some type of illicit activity?

I'm just wondering aloud if we're achieving any objective by issuing such a statement as written. All we really say is that players were hospitalized en masse, but don't cite a reason at all. That could lead to public health concerns to a small degree, but certainly to rampant and unfounded speculation. Plus, if a player, roommate, family member, friend, etc. decides to share with anyone -- notably the press -- the cause, I'd think we're at least going to have to be prepared to address that down the road in a general sense.

Now, you would think that somebody with the title of "Vice President for Strategic Communication" at the University of Iowa might have had a substantial role in the way the hospital and athletic department handled this crisis. And then you would read Director of Sports Medicine Ned Amendola's reply, and you would realize how wrong you were:

I appreciate your concerns, but giving too much information that is not confirmed also raises more questions. We have generally been very careful with medical issues and what is best for all concerned.

In this situation, the etiology is not completely clear, and Dr Smoot has done an excellent job taking care of these kids. We are still working on why this happened. This is a very uncommon diagnosis and to affect such a large amount of kids at the same time.

In my humble opinion it is better to give such a statement and if any questions arise we can deal with them as they come in, rather than give more information than necessary which may change as more data comes in.

The UI, quite obviously, sided with the orthopedic surgeon instead of the VP for strategic communications, because the orthopedic surgeon agreed with the grumpy stonewalling Rick Klatt and Steve Roe recommended throughout the email strings listed here (Roe goes so far as to thank Amendola for his reply without so much as addressing Kendig's concerns). Never mind that literally everything Kendig predicted came true, of course. That's clearly incidental.

And yes, Sally Mason says they should have listened to Kendig more and that doing so is a good idea. We'll believe a change is gonna come when it gets codified. Otherwise it's just more empty PR talk, and we've had more than enough of that from this athletic department.

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