“We used to get to know the kids.”

This is a sad tale of how media access to college players and coaches is slowly being choked off.

Billy Watkins of the Clarion-Ledger vented about his frustrations in a column about covering college football in Mississippi. In an email to me, Watkins wrote:

“I’m doing a big profile of a player at Navy. He is a senior from Mississippi. They have bent over backward getting me anything and everything I need for the story. They lined me up a 45-minute phone interview with him. They also set up an interview with the Navy head coach.

“It took me five months last year to get into the office of Ole Miss’ coach. And we’re the largest paper in the state. I’m sorry, but the subject kind of works me up.”

I know a lot of you have little sympathy for the media these days, but I gotta tell you as someone who blogs about the sport with no contact at all to the program, the beat writers make a valuable contribution to what I can glean about things.  I also think the piece makes a good point about players learning the skill of dealing with the media.

Sure, there’s always a risk of something dumb being said.  But that’s just as real, if not more so, on social media.  Bottom line, a lot of this sounds like typical control issues.  Which, as I started here, is kinda sad.


Filed under College Football, Media Punditry/Foibles

27 responses to ““We used to get to know the kids.”

  1. Coondawg

    Something dumb being said like…oh, I don’t know “I had no intention on signing with Ole Miss but, hey…I needed the money real bad”????


  2. John From Texas

    Power 5 schools have figured out what the NFL discovered 10 years ago — that they don’t need the traditional media (newspapers, TV, radio) anymore to advance their highly-controlled message. They have social media at their disposal now.

    But yes, Senator, the public as a whole suffers in the information realm with this development.


  3. watcher16

    And if they can’t get the interview for news, they start making assumptions and writing about those which can be just as damaging


  4. mp

    I’d draw a distinction between players and coaches. Coaches, particularly state university coaches, should have some level of accessibility for the fans/boosters/donors. I would imagine that the Athletic Department would want the coach to be accessible too, as it’s just another chance to makes a case for donations. Maybe when the TV money plateaus or starts to decline there will be another push…

    There shouldn’t be anything close to an obligation for players. They aren’t employees, and there’s no obligations for accessibility of the kid on a chemistry scholarship to talk to the media.


  5. W Cobb Dawg

    A few bad apples – looking at you ajc, ruin it for everybody. Don’t know much about Miss media, but when I think of the idiots at the ajc, what comes to mind are the clickbait headlines and sensationalism. Can’t say I’m sympathetic to ‘reporters’ who created their own hell. They left a wide vacuum for more professional media, like brother Bluto’s blog.


    • Not to knock this blog but the Senator is an aggregator blog. He takes content from other sources, picks what he likes, attributes it, puts his own comments on it and posts for us. He is does a great job and it is a lot fun for us readers and commenters.

      But make no mistake about it – the AJC goes away and so does most of the content of this blog. The AJC hasn’t ruined anything for anyone especially the UGA football program or Athletic Association. They have more full-time beat reporters on UGA football than three major league professional franchises. They have full-time beat reporters for the ancillary news created by UGA athletics like recruiting and the SEC. They are devoting a lot of resources to cover the dominant sports entity in the largest media market in the SE and 9th largest media market in the US. It could be argued that it is the only Top 10 media market where the most valuable sports entity is a collegiate team.

      Want to know a reason as why people think UGA underachieved under Mark Richt? This is a main one – dominant media property in a Top 10 media market which is unique amongst college programs. Plus through in access to the deep and wide recruiting pool with non-existent in-state recruiting competition.

      So where exactly should we get the content? Who has the resources to cover it as it should be covered? Should we just rely on the hybrid journalism entities that might be independent but a lot of the time are just pseudo-extensions of the sports entity?


      • W Cobb Dawg

        Sorry to disagree, but much of what the ajc and similar news outlets “report” is speculation, opinion, innuendo, and outright guesses. Actual facts, like the game stats or when there’s a coaching change or whether a player flunks, is generated elsewhere and simply posted in a newspaper or on a web page – usually accompanied by the writers opinions trying to pass for facts.

        I saw Mark Richt underachieve with my own 2 eyes. I don’t need news outlets for that assessment – and even that assessment is heavily dependent on individual opinion and what one considers success.

        Getting back to the original issue – a reporter’s attempt to interview players, I have no objections to coaches blocking access. Most, no all, reporters have their own agenda, which doesn’t necessarily coincide with the school, team, player’s interests or the truth. Were I a coach, I wouldn’t allow an ajc writer within 100 feet of one my players.


        • Sorry W Cobb – you are wrong. Cite some evidence, speculation, opinion, innuendo and outright guesses by the AJC that is not a column and that the AJC is passing off as factual based articles. Your skeptical opinion about news gathering in general (Most, no all, reporters have their own agenda, which doesn’t necessarily coincide with the school, team, player’s interests or the truth) is borderline paranoid. Why would Chip Towers or Seth Emerson purposely have an antagonistic attitude towards the people and institution on the beat they cover? They look for good stories period regardless of whether they are positive or negative.

          Our Athletic Department has had enough transgressions in our history that AJC hasn’t had to invent stories specifically to make the Dept look bad.

          Mark Bradley, Jeff Schultz, Steve Hummer etc. They are columnists. They are paid to review the facts like game scores, season results etc and give their opinion about what will happen. It is very similar to your own conclusions about CMR underachieving with your own eyes because that is your assessment. Your assessment is not based on any objective, actionable criteria.

          You are confusing actual reporting which the AJC does pretty well and has committed a lot of resources to doing with opinion writing which I would agree turned against CMR and UGA the last 2-3 seasons. Opinion writing, which judging by your “see with your own eyes” comment with which you happen to agree.

          An Athletic Department or a coach that limits access to team information, assistants or players to freeze out local reporters is counter-productive. To me it seems like a Coach who doesn’t trust what those around him will say rather than someone making something up. You want less speculation? Be more open.

          Of course the AJC could put more people on the Falcons or the Braves or the Jackets and write less about the Dawgs. You would probably find fault with that too.


      • Whoa–Mark Bradley–is that you? Do you work for the AJC?

        I agree with W Cobb as far as the AJC writers and their agendas. Mark Bradley is the absolute worst about it (frankly I wish every tweet had to attribute the linked articles to the author in the tweet–as I would never knowingly follow a link to his (ahem)…work?). Schultz leans that way too–not quite as badly though. I have always found Towers to be pretty straight on. The new additions–Emerson especially, have helped the AJC’s coverage and steered it away form the anti-UGA agenda that has been there as long as I can remember.

        If I were a coach, I wouldn’t let just any player talk to the media. and I wouldn’t let players talk to just any media either. I think it would take the right player and the right writer…I would need to trust them both.


  6. TennesseeDawg

    But what if the newspaper writes something negative about the coach or program? These things have to be controlled by central authorities.


  7. Scorpio Jones, III

    When I was in that arena there was access only if you knew the player, but even then there was expected to be a filter. If the kid said something you knew was really dumb, you just did not use it.

    After a game I asked Vince why Mike Cavan seemed so inconsistent. Vince’s response was a stare. I just laughed, he laughed.

    Somehow, today, that exchange would have been news…I guess I would have been expected to tweet about it before I left the locker room.

    I never felt I had an adversarial relationship with any of the coaches of any of the teams I wrote about…most of them still speak to me. 🙂

    But that was a long time ago in a galaxy far away. All these guys are fishing for click bait, no matter how they may feel about it, personally, or they are standing in the government dole line.


    • Biggus Rickus

      I can’t decide which model is better, the one that molded public perceptions by excluding information or the one that blows every little misstep out of proportion. It seems like there’d be a happy middle ground, and maybe there was for a little while post-Watergate. That died with the internet.


      • Scorpio Jones, III

        I gotta tell you Rick, I never thought a college kid had much to say that was of any great import…especially right after a game. Seems a matter of common sense to me…frankly, I never had a coach say anything that mattered right after a game, either.

        Hell, now they are interviewing high school kids, using their quotes in stories. Pro athletes…yep, they should know if they are saying something that will bite them in the locker room. High school and college kids, not so much, but that’s all a value judgement.

        If I molded public perception I am, frankly, flattered.


  8. Dog in Fla

    “It took me five months last year to get into the office of Ole Miss’ coach. And we’re the largest paper in the state. I’m sorry, but the subject kind of works me up.”

    Leave it to Hugh to think about what he can control. Keeping reporters from taking Hugh’s pelt is one of those things


  9. Jack Klompus

    Unfortunately, this is the way UGA will be going forward. There will be a lot less access under Kirby then there was under Mark Richt.


  10. Prosticutor

    Interesting coming from the Clarion Ledger. Jackson State’s football coach (their campus is about 5 blocks from the CL) completely cut off media access this year. Finally, the Clarion Ledger just said “screw you guys” and dropped ALL sports coverage of JSU. As you can imagine, quite the mini-war of words broke out after that.
    Having said that, Gannett has gutted the CL so much over the last few years, I’m not sure if the general public noticed. You get front page local stuff and then almost nothing but USA Today inserts after that.


  11. TnDawg

    Perhaps if the media didn’t try so hard to one up each other, and find all the dirt possible, enuendo, etc. Then access would be improved.

    Much of reporting today is opinion and I, for one, could care less about their opinions.

    No sympathy for the media here. It’s BS that we have a right to know absolutely everything.


    • Jared S.

      Damn, Saban couldn’t have said it better himself!


    • I agree about the opinions. That’s why I read the blogs. I have no problem with the beat guys having access and think ours do a good job for the most part, but I could care less about Bradley and Schultz’s snarky opinions of the program. I would love to see them get frozen out of Butts- Mehre.


      • When Schultz asked that question of Kirby, I would have loved for Kirby to say, “Oh, yeah, I’ve heard about you. Don’t ever ask me another question again? Tell that other guy who went to UK the same thing. Next question.”


    • JarvisCrowell

      ^^^^ This


  12. Jeff

    No sympathy for the media. None. I also love how Saban handles his press conferences and hope Smart handles his the same way. “Ask the bottle, but don’t ask me.” Classic.


  13. Flukebucket

    Sure, there’s always a risk of something dumb being said.

    Or even worse, something true.


  14. JarvisCrowell

    Its always funny how media members react when they are finally punished for their bad behavior. I have no illusions that 90% of all sports writers would gladly ruin any of these young players’ lives if they thought it would get them page views. I love having the inside scoop about my teams as much as the next guy, but I fully support blocking media access to any level that the coaches and players deem appropriate.