Updated at 6:15 p.m. May 13, 2015
Tim Sullivan, a former franchise sports columnist for U-T San Diego, has dropped hints he’d be willing to return to the newspaper that fired him three years ago.“No one has approached me, either directly or indirectly, and I have no reason to expect that anyone will,” Sullivan said in a letter to San Diego CityBeat. “Though it’s gratifying to be sought out about new ownership at the U-T, I don’t imagine there’s any great groundswell to get the band back together.”
But Sullivan, 60, now a Louisville sports columnist, said he’d entertain offers.
“When I worked in Cincinnati, I covered a Xavier basketball coach named Pete Gillen,” he told Times of San Diego. “Whenever his name surfaced in connection with a job, his standard line was, ‘Never say never.’ I’m taking that tack here.”
Sullivan said Wednesday: “I’m not campaigning for anything, just trying to respond to media inquiries as I would want news sources to respond to mine.”
He stressed that his letter came in response to CityBeat editor Ron Donoho’s queries in the wake of the U-T sale to Tribune Publishing.
He said it’s “highly unlikely” new management would approach him with a head-turning offer, but “I don’t want to close any doors that might suddenly spring open.”
Sullivan, who won major awards for a decade as a featured sports columnist alongside Nick Canepa, was hesitant to speculate, saying: “In any case, it’s not my call to initiate that discussion and it feels silly to play what-if in the absence of a direct inquiry.”
U-T president and editor Jeff Light said Wednesday evening: “I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to comment on this publicly in any way right now. I don’t know what our FTE count might be after the close, or even if I would be in a position to make such decisions.”
Three years ago, Sullivan wrote media blogger Jim Romenesko about his firing by then U-T CEO John Lynch:
“I initiated a meeting with U-T editor Jeff Light to provide him the background on what I had written about Lynch and to express my ethical concerns going forward. I told him then that I was not in a position to quit on principle but that I was worried that Lynch’s interview had inflicted serious damage to the paper’s credibility.”
Sullivan’s firing sparked an outcry, with sports media blogger Ed Sherman noting: “Members of our fraternity were shocked. Sullivan is among the most respected columnists in the business, and he more than made his mark during his 10 years in San Diego. Hard to see how this makes the U-T a better paper.”
Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports wrote: “@TimSullivan714 is one of the most talented, decent and intelligent columnists in the country. What a thing.”
And Dave Kindred, a former Washington Post scribe and National Sportswriter of the Year, said: “Have all newspaper executives lost their minds?”
The Louisville Courier-Journal, where he landed later that summer, introduced him to readers: “He had spent 10 years at the Union-Tribune after 25 years at the Cincinnati Enquirer, the last 18 as a sports columnist.”
“My departure from San Diego was involuntary,” Sullivan said, “but I can’t think of many places that I would rather land — so close to my journalistic roots in Cincinnati and within driving distance of my daughter (Megan) at The Ohio State University — and in a town where 364 days a year there is tremendous interest in sports and on the first Saturday in May there is a happening unlike anything I have witnessed anywhere else.”
San Diego doesn’t have the Kentucky Derby, but its other features might prove seductive to Sullivan, a baseball expert with an active Twitter feed.
Sullivan’s biography on SignOnSanDiego.com (now utsandiego.com) noted that he came from The Cincinnati Enquirer, “where for 25 years he chronicled a wide range of subjects – eight Olympic Games; the gambling probe that led to Cincinnati’s fallen hero, Pete Rose, being banned from baseball; complex financing debates over new stadiums for baseball’s Reds and football’s Bengals; and sensitive human interest stories.”
The bio continued:
A native of the Washington, D.C., area and a 1976 graduate of the University of Missouri, Sullivan, 47, worked briefly for the Tulsa Tribune before joining The Enquirer in January 1977.
He served as beat writer covering the University of Cincinnati, the Bengals and the Reds before being named a columnist in September 1984.
He has been honored twice in recent years by The Associated Press Sports Editors in the top national sports journalism contest. In his newspaper’s circulation category, Sullivan placed in the Top 10 in Column Writing in 1999 and won first place for Best News Story in 2000 for his coverage of the Ken Griffey Jr. trade.
CityBeat editor Donoho said: “I really appreciated Tim writing that letter.”
Ken Stone, a former sports copy editor at The San Diego Union-Tribune, was a colleague of Sullivan.
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