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Vol. 50, No. 3 • March 2013 • .pdf version
These vice-presidents put in overtime, and then some
By JOHN AKERS / Basketball Times
Typically, the offseason duties of a USBWA vice-president are ... nothing. I spent three offseasons in the role, and I cannot remember ever being asked to do a single thing.
It was with that knowledge that Kirk Wessler, Dana O'Neil and Frank Burlison were informed early last summer that Joe Mitch and I had learned that the NCAA again had its eyes on the media's courtside seats. We didn't know when, or to what extent, but we knew that with Greg Shaheen no longer in charge of the NCAA Tournament, changes for us were in store.
That was all they needed to hear. The next few months included several hour-long teleconferences among us that led to each of them taking a day out of their busy schedules for our September meeting with the NCAA in Indianapolis. Throughout it all, their only complaints were directed at an organization that believed it somehow made sense to inhibit our ability to tell the story of their game.
The vice-presidents provided the perfect blend of personalities and talents.
Wessler has the touch of a columnist with the administrative experience of a sports editor – a combination that
plays well not only in Peoria. Kirk's a big-time talent who's as mid-major as Mark Few, Brad Stevens or Shaka Smart.
When the NCAA asked who should be given first dibs on any courtside seats that might be saved for us, ESPN.com's O'Neil was the first to stand up for the participating teams' beat writers. She also was easily the most tenacious of the group, blessed with an ability to express her outrage and indignation without making it personal. The next person who claims to dislike Dana will surely be the first.
Burly brought passion and – significant in these days of down-sizing and defunct newspapers – the deepest of appreciation for this profession that we represent.
They pushed and pulled each other – and Joe and I, as well – and filled in when necessary. Wessler's firm rebuttal to the NCAA following our meeting in Indianapolis set just the right tone that enabled us to salvage what courtside seats we could. O'Neil took the point on several subsequent issues.
Without these three, we not only would be without any courtside seats this tournament, but the entirety of our media seating would be tucked away in end-zone seating.
This wasn't the presidency that I had envisioned. Hopes of somehow bridging the gap between SIDs and beat writers got sidetracked. Given the manpower that was put into the seating issue instead, we might also have restored print media guides, created better access to players and negotiated that long-awaited Creedence Clearwater Revival reunion.
Plenty of issues still remain. The best of news is that I write this, my final column as the USBWA president, knowing that the hardest-working bunch of vice-presidents will step up and take them on, all year long if necessary.
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