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Vol. 43, No. 1 • November 2005 • .pdf version
By TONY BARNHART / Atlanta Journal-Constitution
One of the enjoyable things about serving as President of the USBWA has been learning how much this organization, thanks to Joe Mitch and my predecessors, is held in high regard.
The basketball community really understands the role that the USBWA plays in the sport and that, I'm happy to say, is a benefit to all of us.
The latest example of this came last month when we learned that the Mountain West Conference had inadvertently scheduled its basketball media days on Yom Kippur, the most holy day on the Jewish calendar.
I heard from some of our Jewish members who were justifiably upset and concerned. They felt like the MWC's decision had put them in a situation where they would have to choose between their jobs and spending time with their families observing what is a very special day in their faith. They were also concerned that the MWC had shown some insensitivity by not realizing the conflict (Yom Kippur is listed on most calendars) before scheduling the event.
As USBWA president, I wrote MWC Commissioner Craig Thompson, a former sports information director, and expressed our concerns. I respectfully asked Craig to consider changing the date of the MWC's media days.
To Craig's credit, he immediately wrote back and apologized for the oversight. Because so many plans were already in place, including travel for participating student athletes, he said that it would be impossible to change the schedule at this late date. But he assured me that any Jewish member of our organization who missed the event because of the conflict would receive the full cooperation of his schools in terms of setting up interviews he or she needed. Craig copied the letter to the MWC's athletics directors and presidents. In short, he took our concerns very seriously.
I responded by letting Craig know how much we appreciated his quick response and his willingness to work with our membership so that we could all do our jobs. I also told him that given the circumstances, it was best that we all move on and work together to make the best of the situation.
Did we get the dates changed? No. We could have taken a hard line, and no doubt there were some members who wanted us to do that. But digging in our heels here would not have been in our long-term best interest.
As an organization, we were able to make our point that conferences need to be aware of these kinds of situations when planning their events. And you can bet that the news about this episode will be passed along to the rest of the conferences. The net result will be a greater sensitivity to this sort of thing throughout college athletics. I don't think we'll ever face this issue again.
That's a tribute to you. If I had written that letter as an individual representing one newspaper, it would not have carried nearly as much weight. But the fact that I represented the USBWA got the MWC's attention. That's the way it's supposed to work.
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May 2005 (.pdf)
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January 2003 (.pdf)
November 2002 (.pdf)
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