BILLY PACKER GIVES NEW MEANING TO MARCH MADNESS IN DIATRIBE
Published March 23, 1998
CBS college basketball analyst Billy Packer criticized CBS's "60 Minutes" for its recent segments on college basketball, with much of his remarks relating to Mike Wallace's examination of the Frenso State program which aired March 15. Packer told Larry Stewart of the L.A. TIMES: "'60 Minutes' is a cancer in our organization, and you can quote me on that. I don't care how much money they bring in. ... They've done four college basketball stories around NCAA tournament time, and they always look for the most negative thing they can find. They go in with a preconceived plan and stay on the story until they get what they want. About 99% of college basketball is positive, and they look for the 1% that is negative. I'll tell you, I wouldn't want to find them on my team in a foxhole." Packer: "[T]hey spent three days on a story that bastardized the University of Louisville and Denny Crum and they had Leslie Stahl do a story on sneakers. Leslie Stahl wouldn't know a sneaker if she saw one" (L.A. TIMES, 3/20). WALLACE'S RESPONSE: CBS's Mike Wallace responded to Packer's comments: "Although I've never met him, I'm sure Billy Packer is a fine fellow. ... I believe our report on the Bulldogs was a fair one." As for Frenso State coach Jerry Tarkanian, Wallace said, "I actually like the man, and he is accurate when he says I told him he wouldn't be disappointed in the piece. But that was before we got very deep into the story. As it developed, I mean, what could we do?" (L.A. TIMES, 3/20). In L.A., columnist Tim Kawakami called Packer's comments "sadly revealing -- about Packer and CBS. ... '60 Minutes' is the best hour of journalistic story-telling ... on TV. Granted, it is sometimes naive when it reports on sports issues, but it is always brave and the reporting is usually indefatigable" (L.A. TIMES, 3/21).