Dan Dakich, an ESPN college basketball analyst who also hosts a popular ESPN Radio Show in Indianapolis, is no stranger to controversy. He's been disciplined by Emmis Communications, the company that owns ESPN Radio affiliate WFNI The Fan, in recent years, and has had some particularly galling rants edited out of the podcast edition of the show.
There are few, if any, ESPN personalities that love to go after people on Twitter more than Dakich, who will often search his own name to find those complaining about him without tagging his account. He got into it with a group of academics this week, stemming from the debate over Jalen Johnson's departure from Duke basketball. The Twitter debate was heated, but once he took things onto his radio show, it went in a strange direction.
Dakich was among the college basketball personalities cited by Nathan Kalman-Lamb, a lecturing fellow at Duke, who's focuses include the "intersection of sport, labor, race, and social inequality," in a string of tweets about those who profit off of college basketball while calling out Johnson over his decision.
Dakich responded on Twitter before blocking Kalman-Lamb, though not before telling him that there is "much more from me coming."
As outlined extremely well by Awful Announcing, the back-and-forth brought others in similar fields of study into the fold, including Dr. Andrew McGregor of Dallas College and historian Dr. Johanna Mellis, co-host of "The End Of Sport" podcast, which touches on "capitalist sport, labor, and justice."
The argument, which is pretty tough to follow all the way through since it jumps through a number of different threads, basically focused on player compensation, the true value of the educations provided to many college athletes, and other similar issues.
Dakich caught some criticism for some of the language used in the Twitter argument, but things took a major turn for the worse when he brought the subject onto his radio show, where he made some bizarre comments about "going at it in a pool" with Dr. Mellis, and made a point of spelling out Kalman-Lamb's name and pointed out his Duke office hours, which can certainly be taken as marching orders for his listeners.
From the Chatham-Kent Sports Network on the ugly situation:
As athletes, however, aren’t we taught to defend our teammates, to stand up for them? This is part of the fabric of traditional hockey culture… unless however, we’re standing up against a teammate of our own, or our coaches. Then the ‘us versus them mentality’ causes us to be bystanders, and allows the cyclical blight of ‘bad apples’ to spread.
And of course, when we speak up, there is significant personal risk.
Recently I witnessed this first hand when a Duke University athletic scholar, who I greatly respect, Nathan Kalman-Lamb, spoke up on social media in defence of the mistreatment and exploitation of college athletes. His point was then backed up by the incredible Dr. Johanna Mellis, another sport-historian and scholar. Then came the vitriol of the old guard. ESPN / 1070 The Fan radio personality Dan Dakich overtook the conversation spewing sexist and misogynistic comments and personal insults at the duo in response to a simple analysis of the systems that govern college sport. Then Dakich used his tremendous on air platform to call Kalman-Lamb a “d-bag,” and insult his appearance. Some might say he went as far as doxing Kalman-Lamb by physically spelling out his last name to listeners and repeatedly discussing his office hours in a hostile manner. When it came to Dr. Mellis, who Dakich simply referred to as “some lady” who was “bitching” at him, Dakich continued his tirade by discussing “going at it” in a pool with Dr. Mellis, saying that if he did, because it was a public place, he’d “have to get divorced.” I’m not sure how to take that – it’s either referencing a physical attack or a sexual one, and neither is acceptable. Dakich even used the fact that he is married to a former college athlete and coach who happens to be a woman as a defence that he could not possibly be sexist.
And that’s why many feel it’s dangerous to speak up.
When educated scholars can be slandered online for simply speaking in support of the equal and fair treatment of athletes, and the voice of the slanderer is louder, the system continues to perpetuate itself… even when the person, like a Don Cherry, or in this case Dan Dakich have a history of divisive and unethical actions.
For those who have follow Dan Dakich in recent years, none of this is particularly surprising. What is, is the fact that ESPN itself has largely ignored the growing list of incidents surrounding him, and he continues to be one of the network's top color commentators for college basketball games. If nothing else, his whole approach during the radio show was levels beyond inappropriate, especially as a reaction to a legitimate and active debate in the college sports world.
So far, ESPN and Emmis Communications have not released statements about Dakich.