Was Anthony Hubbard forced out?

So it appears we may have gotten some illumination on the Hubbard story: via Mike Hlas (who has a very good column on the subject), a report from a website called MetroSportsReport.com that Hubbard was kicked off the team for violation of a strict "zero tolerance policy", and did not willingly transfer as suggested by the official Iowa press release.  Here's the key information:

Four sources have told the Metro Sports Report that Hubbard did not fulfill all of the guidelines set by UI administrators and Coach Fran McCaffery when he joined the team, leading to his abrupt departure that was announced last Thursday.

One of the sources said Tuesday that Hubbard was involved in an incident "two weeks ago" that led to his dismissal from the squad, but declined to reveal the incident.

Another source said Hubbard did not break any laws, but said Hubbard violated the "zero tolerance policy" and was told he would not be allowed to stay on the team.

One of the sources said Hubbard was not involved with drugs or illegal substances, but the source also declined to reveal what happened.

So, no laws were broken, and it didn't involve drugs or illegal substances.  Which leaves, what?  Cheating at Scrabble?  Not tipping 15%?  In any event, it seems certain that the U of I will be forced to answer some difficult questions in the coming days.  Which raises the question: Why all the mystery and misdirection in the first place?  A few theories:

  • Iowa's press office has great sympathy with websites devoted to Iowa sports, and wishes to generate traffic for them devoted to speculation on controversial topics (thx guys!);
  • They love explanatory press conferences;
  • They really thought the truth would never come out;
  • The press release is the perfect truth, and Hubbard just wanted to transfer;
  • They wanted to protect Hubbard's interests and his ability to a chance at another school;
  • They wanted to move on as quickly and quietly as possible and sign another player;
  • They honestly think it's none of our business, and reserve the right to stay quiet about it as a matter of policy or principle.

I have some sympathy for the last rationale, but that type of reasoning fails to account for the predictable response of Iowa fans (or human beings, period), when confronted with a juicy slice of intrigue.  Once again, Chief Wiggum is the voice of wisdom: "What is your fascination with my forbidden closet of mystery!?"

And while I can sympathize with the desire to protect Hubbard's reputation (if that is what motivated the extremely vague initial press release), who's kidding whom here?  The university had to know that Hubbard's already dodgy reputation would be damaged the instant he left the team under a cloud.  If anything, the uncertainty of the circumstances arguably made Hubbard look worse, because it let the collective imagination of fans and coaches run wild.  If the report is accurate, and Hubbard was kicked off the team for some non-criminal, non-drugs offense, then it seems like a much better outcome for Hubbard would have been an honest accounting of his infractions.  As for the program, it's hard to see a serious downside in admitting that Hubbard broke his agreement and had to leave (if that's what happened) .  It would mean admitting that they made a mistake in recruiting Hubbard, I suppose, but it would also a) provide a clean break to the story, and b) establish Iowa's reputation as a place that establishes rules and follows them.  Now the story has stretched out for nearly a week rather than a few days, and the image presented of Iowa's program is one where players may mysteriously disappear without warning from time to time.  Is that better?

But that's going a little too far down the rabbit hole of what is still just an anonymously-sourced story.  What's clear is that the "nothing to see here" approach to media relations has failed once again to accomplish its intended goal of cutting off speculation.  Instead it has provided a second mystery on top of the first, namely, "why all the mystery in the first place?"

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