Bradley University embraced longtime Peoria, Ill., Journal Star hoops beat writer Dave Reynolds — literally — at its watch party for the NCAA’s Selection Sunday event at Renaissance Coliseum on Sunday evening.
The university, two days earlier, had barred the three-time Illinois Sportswriter of the Year from attending its media day for the NCAA tourney, a public maneuver in what had been a season-long private feud in which the university was critical of the newspaper’s coverage.
It quickly became a free press issue, not just a basketball issue, as the incident went viral across the nation.
Twitter even came up with a hashtag: #freeDaveReynolds.
Support was overwhelming locally and nationally for the newspaper and its writer. It continued Sunday, as some fans at the watch party wore heart-shaped badges with Reynolds’ picture on it, and the words, “We support you.”
An official apology has been made and we’re moving forward together in full support of our Bradley Braves. “I felt it was a sincere apology and I accept it. Let’s move forward. I want to give this community the best coverage possible.” — Dave Reynolds, PJ Star.pic.twitter.com/Tvx0pxpZWI— Bradley University (@bradleyu)March 18, 2019
Bradley went out of its way in an effort to make peace, as athletics director Chris Reynolds and head coach Brian Wardle each took the microphone and delivered an apology to the Journal Star writer.
“I talked with the team about the last 24 hours,” Wardle told an estimated 1,000 fans assembled. “I made a big mistake. I wanted to look (Dave Reynolds) in the eye and apologize.”
Chris Reynolds said he returned early from his stint on the NCAA Selection Committee because he wanted to apologize and “make things right.” Later, in private, he told Dave Reynolds, “It was a personal sacrifice for me to be here. And that adds value toward my sincerity of how we feel about you. Being here, physically, was something that was important to me.”
Bradley released a picture of Reynolds and Wardle together after the event, and quoted the writer as saying “Go Braves!” Reynolds says he didn’t say that, and the university later corrected the quote on its tweet.
“It was very uncomfortable being the subject of something and not just being a reporter,” said Dave Reynolds, who received a standing ovation from the fans on hand, at the urging of Wardle and Chris Reynolds. “I’m satisfied. We met privately before the event today, and the meeting, the apologies were sincere. We discussed the need to move on, to not let this go any further.”