The Pac-12 recently made a proposal to the Division I council to regulate student-athlete participation in media activities as one way to address the amount of time student-athletes spend on athletics.
The NCAA is attempting to provide student-athletes with more time and ability to pursue additional opportunities in college outside their sport.
Among the more noted proposals the Division I Council will vote on Jan. 20 is prohibiting travel days as a day off and prohibit athletic related activities during a continuous eight-hour period from 9 p.m. and 6 a.m.
“These proposals are considered the first step toward providing student-athletes with the ability to better balance their athletics participation with interests outside their sport,” the NCAA mentioned in a statement. “If adopted by the five autonomy conferences, any Division I school can implement the same provisions at its campus.”
About the same time, the Pac-12 made its proposal, it was reported that the University of Oregon’s athletic department considered revoking a credential from the Daily Emerald, the student newspaper, for a football game against Oregon State as a form of punishment for contacting a student-athlete before receiving permission from the school first.
The Emerald reportedly tried to track down two alleged locker-room incidents involving Oregon tight end Pharaoh Brown, as well as an alleged instance when police responded to a dispute between Brown and his girlfriend.
The Emerald requested an interview with kicker Matt Wogan, with whom Brown allegedly was involved in a dispute in 2014. After Wogan declined to comment about the incident, Emerald sports editor Kenny Jacoby reportedly decided to contact Wogan directly believing Oregon’s media relations department subdued the interview.
Contacting an athlete directly is a violation of an athletic department policy that requires all interviews be coordinated through Oregon’s athletic communications office. All major colleges in the country follow this policy.
Jacoby was summoned to meet with Oregon director of football communications Dave Williford, who informed Jacoby the athletic department had considered revoking one of the Emerald’s credentials for the game with Oregon State.
The incident sparked a review of the athletic department’s media policies by Kevin Reed, Oregon’s vice president and general counsel.
Jacoby contends that Emerald is treated unfairly because it is a student newspaper, especially when it comes to athlete access compared to larger national and local media outlets.
“Whether (Reed finds) it a free-speech policy violation or not, I would like to see the president step in and point out that it’s not really right the way the Emerald is being treated differently because we’re students,” Jacoby told the Eugene (Ore.) Register-Guard. “The whole point of us being an independent paper is that we’re treated like professionals. It hasn’t been that way. We’ve been bullied.”
This episode ties in with the proposed minimized media-access rule by the Pac-12 because every institution can further limit contact between media and student-athletes. That could lead to more friction to not only student newspapers and institutions but also the local media outlets (daily newspapers, Internet media, radio and television stations, etc.).
Those media agencies will monitor the access and ask, “Do the new regulations of student-athlete participation also include the national media or will equal access apply?”
An interview with ESPN, for example, can reach more viewers and enhance publicity for a program more than a student newspaper.
Ultimately, the athlete might be affected the most one way or the other. Either the athlete will have more personal time with less media contact or he or she will feel subdued by not having their story told as much. That can mean fewer sound bytes, headlines, social media reactions, etc., because of fewer opportunities to offer their words and viewpoints.
The media might only be able to offer its vantage point about a game, performance or development without the athletes able to express themselves. Some athletes may also gain less notoriety, especially those who are on the fringe of being highly to moderately successful, not to mention the walk-ons or less known.
Their stories may slip by the wayside.
While the Pac-12’s proposal might be well intentioned to free up more time for student-athletes, it may also cause difficulties mentioned in this article that must be analyzed in detail first.
Javier Morales has worked as a sports journalist for more than 25 years. He reported for The Arizona Daily Star for 13 years. He was the Star’s beat reporter for the Arizona men’s basketball program when the Wildcats won the national title in 1996-97. A 2010 Arizona Press Club award winner, Morales operates the blog site AllSportsTucson.com.