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Vol. 58, No. 2 • February 2021 • .pdf version
BriMo: Always putting media first
By LUKE DeCOCK
During one of the USBWA's contentious discussions with the NCAA over tournament media seating during the ill-fated Mark Lewis regime ahead of the 2013 Final Four, someone from Lewis' staff asked if there was an example of a team or league that did things in a way the board members found acceptable.
Nearly everyone in the room pointed to the ACC's Brian Morrison, serving one of his two stints as the SID representative to the board of directors, sitting quietly at the end of the table. John Feinstein, the Washington Post columnist and USBWA Hall of Famer, was one of them.
"What we all basically said was, 'You should go to school with this guy. He knows how to do it and you don't,'" Feinstein said.
Morrison remembers being taken aback, because these were writers from all over the country.
"I realized not only had we done it right, but the reasons why we had done it right," he said. "It was so important for print media to be on the floor to hear the game and to be involved in the game, because when you're on the floor you're involved with the game, whether you like it or not."
Morrison, who retired in 2019 after three decades as the ACC's primary media contact, won the USBWA's Katha Quinn Award for service to members in 2014 and this year becomes one of very few non-writers to earn induction into the USBWA's Hall of Fame – where he'll join writers who became friends, like Lenox Rawlings and the late Caulton Tudor.
"He was always honest with you," said Rawlings, the former columnist for the Winston-Salem Journal. "If he couldn't tell you, he'd tell you that. You can live with that."
While the USBWA fought to retain 80 of the 200 media seats on the floor at the Final Four in 2013 and beyond, that was never an issue at the ACC tournament. Morrison and the commissioners made courtside seating for the media – the print media, in particular – a priority. At one point, the tournament credentialed 900 media members and managed to get 272 of them within a row or two of the action.
The same ethos held true during the first round of ACC expansion in the summer of 2003, when Morrison would hold daily briefings for reporters with commissioner John Swofford in the parking lot of the conference's Greensboro offices, then spend hours returning all the calls that had come in that day from writers elsewhere. Morrison lost 35 pounds on his "expansion diet."
"Brian was an advocate for, I won't just say the media, but very specifically the print media," Feinstein said.
Morrison interned for and then succeeded another SID worthy of Hall of Fame induction, Marvin "Skeeter" Francis. They combined for a multi-generational run of ACC media executives who felt it was their duty to make the media's job easier. Their approach was entirely collaborative, not adversarial and it was no coincidence that it coincided with a period of explosive growth for the conference.
"I'm a pro-ACC guy and I always took pride in the league allowing me to do what we did," Morrison said. "Skeeter and (commissioners) Bob James and Gene Corrigan and John Swofford were so much a part of it. This is a reaffirmation of everything we did as a group."
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