Wednesday, September 3, 2014

UPDATE: 'Hot mike' soccer game comments preceded UALR athletic director's resignation

Posted By on Wed, Sep 3, 2014 at 4:59 PM

HOT MIKE: Live-streamed conversations by Athletic Director Chris Peterson, not intended for broadcast, were a factor in his resignation this week.
  • HOT MIKE: Live-streamed conversations by Athletic Director Chris Peterson, not intended for broadcast, were a factor in his resignation this week.

  • UALR
UALR Athletic Directior Chris Peterson resigned abruptly Tuesday, an action apparently related at least in part to unintentionally broadcast remarks during a UALR women's soccer game in August.

The remarks were about the physical attributes of the mother of one of UALR's soccer players.

After news of Peterson's resignation was made public, I made a public records request for any documents that might have a bearing on the event or Peterson's work.

UALR soon after provided a DVD made at the Aug. 22 soccer game (a UALR blowout of Chicago State). It's a copy of a livestream broadcast that was carried that day on the UALR website. Conversations in the press box between Peterson and members of the sports information staff were inadvertently transmitted during the first half of the game. Normally, only video is transmitted. The audio transmission ended at halftime, when staff realized the mike had been live. Peterson left at halftime.

Among others, Peterson mentioned how the player's mother was "much curvier" than another person in the conversation had said. Peterson continued: "She had her shit hanging out, too. Remember that? ..... I got to make sure I'm in town for the weekend on Parents Day."

He remarked later: "She had two of 'em and they were out there for display."

The conversation included a mention from another staffer that he'd had a discussion with the same player's father. It was about the livestreaming of UALR games. Peterson and others remarked that it was not unusual for schools like UALR to only broadcast video, but no audio of the games. Except Aug. 22 anyway.

Following is a tape of the pertinent parts of the press box comments.

The public broadcasting of the remarks was reported to school officials, but I haven't learned by whom. I've sought additional comments from Chancellor Anderson. Peterson didn't answer a phone call to his house and I was unable to leave a message.  One question is whether the single bit of unintentionally broadcast locker room banter was cause for the resignation or if other factors might have played a role.

Peterson, who'd been athletic director for 14 years, was paid about $182,000 a year. He resigned effective Sept. 15, but is taking his last two weeks as leave time, a school spokesman said. He'd been credited with landing major financial contributions to the school, including financier Jack Stephens' underwriting of the campus center where basketball is played and major improvements to the baseball field.

UPDATE: Chancellor Joel Anderson provided a statement Wednesday evening:

Yesterday I received and accepted the resignation of Chris Peterson, UALR’s Director of Athletics. In addition to complying with FOIA requests for information regarding his resignation, there have been several requests for an official statement.

What one hears from the Director of Athletics on the live video transmission of the women’s soccer game on August 22 is unacceptable for a person in a University leadership position. Director Peterson apologized for it and resigned. I am grateful for his contributions to the University and to the UALR Department of Athletics, and I wish him the best in his future endeavors.

I do not expect to comment further on this personnel matter.

Today I began consultation regarding an appropriate choice for Interim Athletic Director and will begin meetings tomorrow with coaches and other Athletics Department personnel. Later this month we will announce plans for our search for a new Director.

The student-athletes, the coaches, the fans, and all of us here at UALR are looking forward to a year of exciting competitions in the Sun Belt Conference and to the next chapter in Trojan Athletics.

Peterson also issued a prepared statement:

On Friday August 22nd I made insensitive remarks while visiting with some athletic department employees at a soccer game. My comments were picked up by an open microphone, unknowingly, making a private conversation public. I have apologized to the parties that may have been offended by my remarks and fully acknowledge my words were insensitive and out of line. I’ve learned a hard lesson. As I close this chapter, I know going forward that I’ll be more thoughtful, sensitive and conscientious of my actions. What my future holds I cannot say, but I’m upbeat, optimistic and ready for the next chapter.

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