PEORIA, Ill. - Before Bradley found out its NCAA future, the Braves had to resolve the past 48 hours.
Peoria Journal Star beat writer Dave Reynolds was barred from participating at a media event Friday because he didn't "promote the Bradley brand."
At the center of the issue, Reynolds' rocky relationship with head coach Brian Wardle.
"There were things he disagreed with that I had written. Not just this year, but in past years. I think this is a common theme among every journalist covering a team. every beat writer has issues with the head coach. I’ve done this long enough. I’ve had issues with many other coaches. I’ve been able to resolve them for the most part. This one just wasn’t getting resolved," explained Reynolds, who has been on the Braves beat for nearly three decades. "I reached out to both of them [Wardle and athletic director Dr. Reynolds] this week in hopes we could move past it. I said the people that are getting hurt most here are my readers, who are your fans. They’re the ones that are not getting the coverage, They’re the ones that are not getting the details about the teams. This is a shining moment for you guys. Let’s pump it up. I got no response from those efforts. I got the impression they both regret not ending it at that point. That led to Friday and the dismissal of me from media day before I was able to do anything.
Dr. Reynolds finished his work on the NCAA tournament selection committee around midnight Saturday before flying back from New York City to address what had become a national story.
"I'm not one to say 'let's move on' if the other person isn't ready to move on because they are the person who is harmed in this. It's not fair to them. We talked about it. Dave said 'I’m ready to move on.'" remarked Reynolds to a crowd of Bradley fans at a selection show watch party. "I wanted to acknowledge Dave for his 29 years of award-winning journalism and everything he’s done for this community. We simply said to Dave, just do your job. We appreciate you. We’re ready to move this thing forward."
Dr. Reynolds and head coach Brian Wardle met with Reynolds 90 minutes prior to make amends face to face.
"They were very apologetic. Both apologized repeatedly. They felt they didn’t handle things well. Not only Friday, but before Friday as well. They wanted to move forward. They talked about 'this is the day for the players, the kids. They accomplished a lot to get here. I agreed with all of that. I was happy with the apology. My access has been fully restored. I asked for even a little more access to be honest."
Reynolds and Wardle have not seen eye to eye this season, but the Braves head coach admitted to his wrongdoing.
"When I look back, there are things I can do better. I will be better. I looked Dave in the eye and I apologized to him. I said, 'it will be better.' We had a great talk. We’re excited about moving forward. We’re excited about meeting when the season’s over and working some things out. More importantly, we’re excited - both of us and Dr. Reynolds - about the Bradley Braves and this NCAA tournament run. That’s what this is about moving forward.
"I apologized to my team. I could have handled things a lot better. There was an opportunity for me to not let what happened this last 48 hours to happen. They don’t deserve this. None of you do because it’s our program. It is all of our program. I had an opportunity to handle this a couple days ago. I did not handle it and I own that. I wanted to make sure these players know it is not there fault. We’re moving forward. We’re going to continue to get better."
"It was all very unfortunate but it was such an overwhelming show of support not only from my colleagues in the media world but just people around the country. First amendment people. Just all kinds of people who realize this is wrong on so many levels," Reynolds noted. "It was very comforting for me to see that. It was very surreal. Kind of like attending your own funeral in a way. People say so many nice things about you. Just happy we’ve moved past it all."
Reynolds was back on the job Sunday, talking to the team about their first trip to the big dance in 13 years.
Next stop, a date with Big Ten Champion Michigan State in Des Moines.