Sports reporter Wess Moore broke the huge John Calipari story.

It wasn’t the usual suspects from the national media who broke the biggest news of the college basketball hiring cycle. FOX16 Sports Director Wess Moore in Little Rock was the first to report the John Calipari to Arkansas story. Moore has worked in that market for 21 years and has been at his current station since 2013.

The veteran TV sports reporter usually doesn’t work on Sundays. That made his reporting of the Calipari story even more surprising and satisfying. We caught up with Moore to learn how he landed the biggest scoop of his career.

Note: This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.

Awful Announcing: How did Sunday begin?

Wess Moore: “It was crazy because I normally don’t work on the weekends at the TV station. But my weekend anchor had the weekend off. So as soon as I got out of church, I was like, ‘I’m going to go up to the TV station, get a bunch of stuff done.’ I got a call about 12:45 from one of my sources who said, ‘Hey, you hear anything about Arkansas’s job opening today?’ And I said, ‘Man, I haven’t called anybody today. I’m just getting in.’ He told me, ‘I’m hearing it’s Calipari.’ And I was like, ‘What?’ He said ‘Yeah, get to work on it’. That’s what I did.”

What did you do next?

“I started hitting my sources up, calling people, texting people, and spent the next probably three hours working at. At about 3:30, I checked with my boss and said, ‘Hey, I think I got it. Do you want me to go with it?’ He’s like, ‘Are you 100% sure? You’ve got to be 100% sure with Calipari. You cannot be wrong with this. This isn’t just a state story. This is a national story.’ I said, ‘It’s too much to risk right now.’ I’ve spent my whole life building credibility. As a journalist, one mistake like this would be crushing. So, I kept working and spent another couple of hours on it. One of my sources said, ‘Wess, hold off. I’m not sure it’s going to happen.’ That’s good enough for me. I’m not putting my neck on the line unless I know for sure.”

When did things change?

“I left the TV station, went to Kroger, did my Sunday shopping, was checking out, walking to the parking lot. One of my sources texts me and says ‘It’s done, he’s coming.’ Oh, my gosh! Luckily, I live two minutes away from Kroger. I put all the cold stuff in the refrigerator, jumped back in the car, and went to the TV station. I got another confirmation that it was a done deal. I went back to my original source, and said, ‘I’ve got two (other sources) that saying it’s done. What do you think? Is this a done deal?’ He said, ‘Wess, it’s done. Go with it.’ I tweeted it, put the news out, wrote up a story for the TV show, and led the newscast with it at nine o’clock. And of course, I did my sportscast and the rest is history. That’s how it all went down.”

Were you nervous at all?

“I was 100% confident. When I hit send on that Tweet, all of a sudden my phone started blowing up with friends in the media saying ‘Are you sure?’ I even have one friend who said, ‘Man, I’m not hearing this at all. Are you positive about this?’ I trust my sources. I trust these people. When it started coming out nationally with people (confirming) that this was happening, it felt good.”

Is this the biggest story you’ve ever broken?

“Yeah, for sure. This is one of the biggest hires in Arkansas history. To hire a coach away from another SEC school that has won a national championship. He’s already a Hall of Famer. Without a doubt, this is the biggest thing.”

Did this catch you completely by surprise?

“Here’s the crazy thing. Sunday morning, this popped up in my Twitter feed: Some random Kentucky message board said, ‘Anyone hearing something about Calipari and Arkansas talking?’ I dismissed it. That’s weird. There hadn’t been any Calipari talk or rumor that I’d seen besides that random Kentucky message board. When my first source called me, I was just like, ‘Wow, okay.'”

Who are the people most responsible for bringing Calipari in?

“Hunter Yurachek, the (athletic director), a tip of the cap to him. This guy went out and got it done. But you also have to give credit to John Tyson. He’s part of the (Tyson Foods) family. He and Calipari are friends. He’s helping Arkansas with the contract. They’ve had others step up with the contract and more importantly, with the NIL money. Arkansas will have plenty of NIL money to compete for the top recruits, transfer portal guys, and get a good team for Calipari to coach.”

How have Arkansas fans reacted to the news?

“They’re jubilant. Arkansas for 25 years was irrelevant in basketball from 96, their last Sweet 16 appearance, until Eric Musselman took him to the Elite Eight in 2021. This fan base is excited about basketball again, and then he leaves. I do a talk show Monday through Friday, and everybody was so worried that Arkansas was about to hire the next Stan Heath and Arkansas was going to fall apart again. Calipari changes that. Arkansas is more relevant now than they’ve been in a long time. This is the talk of the college basketball world.”

What kind of roster-building job is Calipari facing?

“Right now, Arkansas has got one scholarship player on their team. (Leading scorer) Tramon Mark entered the portal last night before the Calipari news broke. That left Trevon Brazile as the only scholarship player on the roster. They had two high school signees. One of those signees has already asked to get out of his letter of intent. So, as of right now, Calipari’s got two players on the team. He has 11 spots to fill. He’s got a lot of work to do.”

Is there a story behind the spelling of your first name?

“The first TV station I worked at, I was a freshman in college. I was an editor, associate producer, photographer, and behind-the-scenes guy. There was another Wes at the TV station, and to get into our computer system, you used your first name. Well, because he was there before, I couldn’t use W-E-S. So they said, ‘Just add another S to it, and you can use that as your login.’ That’s how it started. I’ve been Wess with two S’s ever since.”

About Michael Grant

Born in Jamaica. Grew up in New York City. Lives in Louisville, Ky. Sports writer. Not related to Ulysses S. Grant.