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Monday, August 16, 2010

Grab the pitchforks!

When reporters attack ... Well, not really.

Friend and colleague Chip Towers has an amusing post over at the AJC's recruting blog. Seems Georgia has to report a secondary violation because of a scurrilous act by Towers: A photo was published showing offensive line coach Stacy Searels supposedly posing with a prospective recruit (because they were both looking in the camera.)

Read Chip's post. Good stuff in there.

First off, this is no big deal. It's a secondary violation, the kind Lane Kiffin committed twice in his sleep.

Secondly, Chip did nothing wrong. As he pointed out, he's a reporter, not a member of the NCAA or paid by Georgia, and his job is to observe and report.

Thirdly, I know exactly how Chip feels, since I also have been the cause of a school having to turn in a secondary violation.

A few years ago, while covering South Carolina, the basketball team was hosting a center who was transferring from UNLV. During a game, I spotted the kid sitting behind the bench, and not having much free time I went over at halftime and interviewed him. Then I published a few quotes on my blog and in the paper.

The kid never went to South Carolina. But the school's compliance office determined (rightly, by the ridiculous NCAA rules) that a secondary violation had occurred: A school promoting the visit of a recruit.

Even though the school had no power over me, a member of the press. OK.

The backwardness of the NCAA rules is that the recruiting and fan sites regularly "promote" the visits of players, writing about who's visiting and when, and following up with interviews with the players in question over what a great time they had.

(Notice, by the way, that a kid never says he had a bad time, there's no way he's going there, etc.)

But the recruiting and fan sites get around technically promoting the visit by not interviewing the recruit while he's actually on campus.

I was gently told this by South Carolina after the incident in question, and now I know. But still, going back to Chip's statement, I'm a reporter and I'm going to pursue a story, NCAA bylaws or no. Maybe, if I see a kid on a visit, I could go just ask the kid for his cell phone and try to teach him later, but if he's right there, why not talk to him then. (Especially if you know you may not reach him later.)

And in Chip's case, his readers were interested, of course he was going to pursue the information.

And while you're doing all this, you're acting completely independent of the school you're covering, so it shouldn't be culpable for you doing your job.

And all this is considered on the same level, a secondary violation, as most of the stuff Lane Kiffin did. OK.


Anonymous said...

I actually thought Chip was pretty sleezeballish in denying responsibility.

Its B.S. to get on your soapbox and say your job is to report stories no matter if it causes the school your reporting on to have violations.

Chip's attitude and it seems yours is as well is that you would do the same thing again in order to get your story.

That's crap.

Regular Guy said...

I don't know, i interpreted it a bit differently, more an attitude of (1) incredulous that this is actually a violation and (2) There was no way it could have been reasonably expected for him to know it was a violation beforehand. I didn't get the sense that either of them was saying that they would do it again in the future, now knowing that it is in fact a violation.

It's hard to disagree with Chip that he bears little responsibility.......nobody had told him it would be a violation, and we can't expect beat reporters to have the rulebook memorized, that's for our compliance department. If our compliance department is letting cameras in all over the place, but not setting the parameters for proper use of those cameras, that's on the compliance department. Like Chip alluded to, unfortunately the only answer in this scenario is either no camera's, or no reporters period........which is a shame that it comes to that point.

I know there's always the attitude out there that "ignorance is no excuse", I just disagree in this case.

BullyMack said...

Agreed Anon. First off I think you are preaching to the choir about the silliness of the NCAA rules. I assume we all agree. However I think the thing that kind of rubs me the wrong way is that Chip has to get on his high horse and sprinkle the blame around and not just say "oops, sorry!" and move on. Plus it's like his third story on the matter.

Seth, I'll give you the benefit of the doubt but your "give me the story, rules be damned" doesn't fly with me either and prob not the best way to endear yourself to the Bulldog Nation or the Athletic Dept. Yes taking the kids number may be a pain, but hell I want to wear flip flops to work everyday. Standards and professionalim matter in any endeaver....yes, even the media.

BulldogBen said...

I agree that some acknowledgment of putting a kid in a bad spot is warranted but come on we all know the bigger issue is the out-dated and archaic NCAA rulebook that is 25 years behind the information age. These violations are utterly ridiculous.

IveyLeaguer said...

Seth, I think you unfairly condemn yourself when you compare your secondary violation to the likes of Lane Kiffin.

All secondary violations are not the same, and the NCAA knows that.

There's a big difference between what you did, and certainly a big difference between the unintentional secondary violations of a coaching staff like Georgia's that strives to follow the rules, and the calculated, intentional secondary violations of sleazeballs like Kiffin and Orgeron, who in reality have no genuine regard for either the rules or the kids they're recruiting.

Anonymous said...

The insanity grows with each passing day.

If I'm reading this right any journalist can cause a secondary by interviewing a prospect while said prospect is visiting a school either on an official or open visit.

Does this mean a Dawg fan could identify himself as a journalist - interview a Gator prospect while he visits the Gators then turn it in to the NCAA?

UGA69Dawg said...

Seth you and Chip might want to cool the rules be damned we're reports rhetoric less the UGA powers that be close the event to the media. You know the whole we are the media so we are entitled thing is really a crock. When you become part of a story instead of covering a story you are no longer a reporter but an attention whore.

Anonymous said...

It always amuses me the extent to which media-consuming sports fans seek to have it both ways. We want members of the press to cover every aspect of the program to the furthest degree possible, showering us in anecdotal minutiae so we can feel like program insiders, but then many of us put them under the lash the first time they ruffle feathers or overstep some perceived boundary.

Reporters do not have an obligation to the welfare of the programs they cover. There are other folks who get paid to safeguard that welfare; they're called coaches and compliance directors. Reporters have an obligation to bring as much information as they can to the publication that signs their paychecks, and to the readers who frequent their blogs. Period. I'd rather read copy from an aggressive reporter whose zeal for the job occasionally results in a procedural faux pas than read drivel from some lap dog who brings his readers whatever warmed-over scraps the sports information department decides to serve up. Emerson and Towers both do good work on a beat where, frankly, the readership tends to be pretty unforgiving.

Dawgfan17 said...

When is a reporter/news company going to sue the NCAA over trying to limit the freedom of the press. I understand that what they are trying to prevent is coaches getting around the rules by having the press put out pictures/interviews etc. with recruits that could possibly help them. However when it is public knowledge that a recruit is on campus the NCAA should be more reasonable in allowing press interviews/pictures with the recruit as long as a) the material does not show up anywhere on school sponsored material (media guide/website etc) and b) the school does not set up any of these interviews/picture chances. Holding a school responsible for the actions of someone who is in no way (not even a fan) affiliated with the school is stupid even by NCAA standards. That said at least a secondary violation of this sort typically comes with little more than a letter from the NCAA saying tsk tsk don't do it again.

South FL Dawg said...

Agreed the rules are downright silly but still those are the rules, and you're there on the football field or courtside as a guest, so a standard of behavior is expected.

All the school has to do is change the rule to prohibit reporters from attending anything, and then where are you going to find work?

Honestly I would hate to see the day when the only permitted media are university employees who bring a one-sided story. But it's what I'd expect if the school feels like the independent media is hanging the program out to dry.