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Should the DUI Arrest of a Local Sports Media Personality Be Reported?

Thursday, May 14, 2009 , Posted by Christopher Byrne at 12:02 PM, under , ,

I have been struggling with writing this post for over a week now. The struggle was not with finding the words to write. The struggle was whether or not the subject should be written about. It is only after exchanging emails with a sports editor and talking to other people that I have decided to go forth with it. It is not about attacking the person or a question of my like or dislike for a person. It is about the fact that other people, especially a young man from Athens Academy outside of Athens, Georgia, look up to this person as a role model. And role models do not drive drunk, putting their lives and the lives of others at risk.

Jeff Dantzler (pictured left) has been a fixture of University of Georgia athletics coverage for many, many years. The native of Statesboro, Georgia originally arrived in Athens to play tennis for legendary college tennis coach Dan Magill. After graduation, he worked in the sports information department, and then moved on to radio and television work. He is known as the voice of the Lady Bulldogs basketball team, and as an analyst for Georgia Men's Basketball radio coverage.

But the Bulldog Nation has seen or heard very little of Dantzler since his DUI arrest last week. He has not been on the air at 960 the Ref for his afternoon radio show. His last blog post for Bulldawg Illustrated was on May 5, 2009.

Except for a single blog posting by freelance journalist/photographer Dan Matthews of Oconee County, you would never have heard of the arrest. It was never reported in the local media or in the Atlanta media. Some people have told me that they suspected it was a "cover-up by Vince Dooley and the boys."

Life is not so simple as that. It was not a "Dooley and the boys" cover-up. It was an editorial decision by the Athens Banner-Herald. According to one source inside the newspaper, it was not considered newsworthy, and it would was felt that it would provide celebrity for someone considered to be a celebrity in his own mind. It was also debated, according to this source, if it made sense to report an arrest of somebody most people would not recognize.

Acing the Interview: Jeff Dantzler (on right) and Chris Brame (center)
interview PGA Tour Pro Brendon Todd after his first round ace
at the Nationwide Tour's 2009 Athens Regional Foundation Classic
Photograph Copyright 2009 by Eye on Sports Media/
The Cayuga Group, LLC . All Rights Reserved.

If this had been Dantzler's first brush with the law, or his first controversy, there might be some merit to that argument. But it was not may not have been, as the red flags are all over the booking report for the Sheriff's office. The charges included:

  • Driving while under the influence.
  • Driving on a learner's permit.
  • Driving a vehicle with an expired registration

It is clear APPEARS from these charges that it is not his first DUI arrest, and that he had may have had at least one prior DUI conviction. That can be considered nothing less than reckless behavior. If so, that can be considered nothing less than reckless behavior.

In 2003, he was suspended (some say fired) for asking, on the air, 3 UGA coeds what color underwear they were wearing. When legendary radio play-by-play man Larry Munson was looking to leave his on-air responsibilities, it is widely known that Dantzler was lobbying for the job. This rubbed more than a few people the wrong way.

So did the Athens Banner-Herald make the right decision in not reporting this story?

I say no, because they have missed the bigger picture. Dantzler is a very visible member of the UGA athletic community. Athens is a college sports town, and many, many people know who Dantzler is. By not reporting this, they missed an important opportunity to make a statement of how stupid and selfish it is for someone to be driving drunk. They missed an opportunity to show why people should be careful in deciding who they consider to be a role model.

And it also shows a little bit of media hypocrisy. The media is always more than willing to write sensational news when an athlete or other celebrity is arrested for DUI or some other transgression. They are also all over any news of steroid use by athletes. So what if alcohol abuse and drunk driving is more destructive than steroid use?

A Sticky Situation

When asked this morning about Dantlzer's status at 960 the Ref, station program director David Johnston said "I cannot say anything about it." That was not unexpected.

Of course, the station is in a tough position on this because of all of the remote broadcasts Dantzler and partner Chris Brame have done from local watering holes, pubs, etc, all the time pushing the drink promotions available at those sites. Now that they are owned by Cox Radio, who knows what is going on behind the scenes.

The Cox Radio Code of Conduct does not address situations such as these.

Every Saturday at UGA home football games, Dantzler works as the PA annoucer in the press box. A year or two ago Dantzler appeared in the press box, and from his behavior seemed to be a little buzzed. I thought "no way" and just wrote it off to him probably playing golf that morning in the hot sun. But now I am left to wonder.

I am also left a little concerned for a young man from Athens Academy. This young man, who aspires to be an on-air sports media talent just like his icon and, by all appearances, mentor, sits beside him each and every home game. Do these aspirations include behaviors that are reckless and self-destructive?

Don't get me wrong. We all have made mistakes in errors or judgement in the past. I am certainly guilty of that. But I would like to think that others and myself would learn from our mistakes and grow. From all appearances, Danztler has not.

So while the local media is silent on this matter, I cannot be and I want Jeff to read this for what it is: an encouragement to get his act together.

Dantzler is an extremely talented man with a great potential. I watched in awe as he easily segued into a spontaneous, knowledgeable on air interview with Bobby Clampett at the 2009 Athens Regional Foundation Classic. His ability to switch gears to know his interviewee and the deep background for the interview without having to do research is something that cannot be learned. It is an innate skill.

But he keeps shooting himself in the foot. According to one source, who asked to remain anonymous, his friends have tried and tried to get him to clean up his act and cut back on the drinking. It has not worked. Because of this and his other problems, there is at least one sports media talent agent, according to this source, who will not touch him with a ten foot pole. That is called career limiting.

Until he addresses his challenges and admits them, his career may indeed be over. And that would be a shame.

Related Link(s)

Cox Radio Code of Conduct (PDF File)
Dan Matthews Blog Posting About the Arrest

Currently have 1 comments:

  1. I would argue that he isn't a "sports media" personality but an athletic department member. I feel like if the editor of the Athens paper were caught on a DUI, that would be newsworthy, and while it's an unfortunate situation, a radio play-by-play voice getting a DUI and then getting suspended from his duties is newsworthy, because of the high-profile position that person keeps.

    It's something that sucks, but comes with the notoriety of working in a position such as this, especially one as public as a radio announcer.


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