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Sarah Pavan Throws A Grenade At the Husker Volleyball Program

Last Saturday, the Lincoln Journal Star/Husker Extra published an article by Katelyn Kerkhove about Sarah Pavan. The article presented Pavan as someone who has reached just about as far as she could as an athlete and student, but still feels misunderstood and doesn't like the attention she receives. She also feels somewhat slighted by her teammates.

In fact, Pavan said she can’t remember a time when her teammates acknowledged an honor she had received.

"Oh, I’ve never been congratulated for anything I’ve gotten," she said. "I’ve actually had it said to me before, ‘Why do you have to get every award that there is? You like the attention, don’t you?’ It’s hard because I’m actually the complete opposite. I hate the attention. It’s just hard to see that the people you are around so often don’t even know you."

It doesn't take a lot of reading between the lines to understand what happened to the 2007 volleyball team. Between setter Rachel Holloway's transfer and Pavan's comments there obviously was a problem with team chemistry last season.

Some Husker fans are upset that the LJS printed the article, from the Husker Extra blog by a poster calling himself woodstock we get:

My final thoughts. Probably poor judgement on LJS to print this...Suddenly with one stroke of a pen the LJS has a cast a huge cloud over a great program. Just leaves the reader with huge question marks about Pavan, about her family, about NU Volleyball, about her teammates, about John Cook, about LJS judgement. Once again, just a very strange article to pop up out of nowhere about a program, a player, a coach who have had so much success. Someone else used the word smear.

Todd Henrichs, sports editor made this comment on why the story was published, again from the Husker Extra blog:

Fans always want more volleyball coverage, but it seems like they want us to write the same story over and over again.

I struggled with the decision of whether to run this story, but in the end, I determined that it was one that volleyball fans would find of interest.

For me, that's the bottom line.

He's a newspaper guy, an editor. What's he supposed to do, print articles about flowers, and bunnies and how they're loved by Husker women athletes? If someone brings him a story like this and it's properly vetted, isn't it his job to publish it? Or do you honestly think that he's supposed to bury it in the interest of the athletic department while those might be contrary to those of his publisher?

The story isn't done yet. According to an article in the Daily Nebraskan, the Husker Extra/LJS article has lead to Pavan being removed from the team. The DN article includes this quote from former setter Rachel Holloway, who has quit volleyball and transferred to Alabama:

"I hope people will stop judging Sarah for telling the truth and how she honestly feels," said Rachel Holloway, the setter on Nebraska's 2006 National Championship team.

"I'm proud of Sarah for being honest, and if it hurts other people maybe they should look at themselves," added Holloway, an All-American who left the Husker volleyball team and the university earlier this year and transferred to Alabama University.

John Cook has removed Sarah Pavan from practicing with a team that's moving on without her. Can you blame him? His 2008 season depends on his team coming together, not whether or not Sarah Pavan is happy, sad, misunderstood or frustrated.

There is some indication from reading through the comments at the LJS blog and the Daily Nebraskan article that this story was never intended to be published, but instead was a journalism class assignment. That sounds a little off since it was done for "Redwire", which is a publication from the College of Journalism.

If all that weren't enough, Rich Kern's comments on the DN article are as disturbing as anything in the articles:

Knowing my comment was taken out of context and misused, I fear the first article and the follow-up were examples of journalism at its worst. An agenda was developed and quotes were used to support this agenda. The first article almost single-handedly did something no one else has been able to do and that is shut down Sarah Pavan. This article destroyed her relationship with her former teammates and coaches and made it basically impossible for her to go back in the gym with them. It has cast a shadow on her entire illustrious and extraordinary career. It has damaged team chemistry and potentially damaged future recruiting efforts.

I know how badly my comment was misused, so I am convinced much of what Sarah said was also slanted and turned into something ugly by a reporter out for glory. It's a sad thing that the University school of journalism would allow one reporter to so abuse power that so much has been destroyed. It is sad that so many were so quick to believe it. It is sad one un-checked reporter was making a reputation at the expense of a great program that brilliantly promotes the University of Nebraska.

Ouch. Unfortunately the comments by Holloway and Pavan's refusal to apologize to her former teammates imply that her comments weren't slanted.

But wait, there's more! An editorial in the DN calls on coach John Cook to apologize to Pavan, saying:

In general, the incident illustrates the insanity behind UNL's Athletic Department public-relations machine. Every soundbyte must be pre-approved; every interview must be officially arranged; appearance trumps truth.

The University of Nebraska and the media around the program have typically done a pretty decent job of wrapping the Husker package and putting it under the tree with a nice, big bow. Our media isn't nearly as vicious as most other programs are treated. I'm not 100% sure that's a good thing. On the other hand, you can't have members of any organization going around saying whatever they want to the media because there are always consequences.

The bottom line is that Pavan knew that her comments would be published. Honesty is one thing, but teams are supposed to act like families, and I can tell you right now that I wouldn't print an article here about a fight with one of my sisters without first telling her that it was coming. Some things should stay within the family, unless my goal was to intentionally hurt my sister.

Here's the thing about my sisters. None of them have a public forum on which they can respond. Neither do any of the current Husker volleyball players, otherwise the whole thing becomes a "she said, she said" mess out of which nothing but more damage will occur. This is exactly why you try to keep a handle on your team, your family, even your co-workers.

Neither Pavan nor Holloway are members of the team moving forward. They can take whatever shots they like without consequences of anything other than ruining any relationships they might have had. That puts them at an unfair advantage, and that's where I have a problem with what Pavan did. She threw a grenade at her former teammates and coach. Given the chance to take it back, she refused. One can only conclude that the damage it did was intended. That's unfortunate as the one who will most likely be hurt the most in the long run is Pavan.