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Vol. 51, No. 1 • November 2013 • .pdf version
There's good news, bad news in meetings with NCAA
By KIRK WESSLER / Peoria Journal-Star
First, the news. Most, if not all, of the writers' seats at the 2014 Final Four will be back on the floor (although the majority will be in the end zones), and we will have a few more seats in the traditional courtside location than in 2013.
Opinions vary as to whether this represents success or failure in our meetings with the NCAA. Truth is, it's a little of both.
There was success in that the NCAA listened to us and addressed our No. 1 priority, which was to get the writers out of the football press box. Also, the NCAA heeded our suggestion to reinstate a third media row opposite the scorer's table and benches and abandon the four-corners experiment.
There was failure in our attempts to extend the second row back to full length and to get writers out of the hockey press boxes in multipurpose venues the first two weekends of the tournament – at least in the short term.
Specifically, we get back eight courtside seats for the national semifinals, and 17 for the championship.
There will be two rows in each end zone, adding 168 seats.
Our net gain on the floor compared to 2013 will be about 180, according to the NCAA's David Worlock.
We are concerned whether the elevation of those end-zone seats is sufficient to not be obstructed by students waiving fatheads. Worlock pledged the NCAA would work with security to keep the obstructions down while the clock is running.
The other big concern is the first two weekends.
We were told that, because ticket manifests had been set and there were no acceptable accommodations for auxiliary media when the new plan went into effect last year, changes are not possible for 2014 and unlikely for 2015.
But we made it clear that our expectation is that acceptable auxiliary press rows built into arena seating must be part of the bid specs in the next cycle, 2016-2020.
We will continue to insist on this.
We need to be realistic. Yes, the game and the tournament we love belong to the fans. But the NCAA owns and runs the tournament, and ultimately, its people can do to our working conditions whatever they choose to do. What we need is to continue to work with the NCAA to make the new conditions reasonable, while also guarding against erosion on other important issues.
On that front:
• The NCAA agreed to restore limited access to players on Thursday of Final Four week. One player from each team will be available in a joint press conference.
• Friday breakout sessions with the five starters from each team will be extended from 15 to 20 minutes. A couple of those players will then join their coach on the podium, and the locker rooms will be open for 35 minutes.
• Pool reporters will again have direct access to game officials, after having that availability taken away last season.
• We still have a long way to go toward securing better hotel rates, but in Dallas, there will be a secondary (and cheaper) media hotel. The primary media hotel will run $299 per night, but the secondary will be $202.
The credential application will provide a place to express a preference.
To address these and other issues, we formed an ad hoc committee of our USBWA officers and two representatives from the Associated Press Sports Editors: Gerald Ahern of USA Today and John Cherwa of the Los Angeles Times.
We appreciate the contributions of both, and I believe our cooperation with APSE can help us in other areas as well.
Our work is not done, and we still need your help and your input. Please let us know if you have questions, comments or concerns, or if you encounter problems.
To all of you, have a great season.
Nominations being taken for USBWA awards
Nominations are now being accepted for the following USBWA awards to be presented next April.
HALL OF FAME: Established in 1988, the USBWA honors past and current members for their contributions to the organization and for their achievements in sports journalism. To be eligible, an individual must have a minimum of 20 years experience as a sports writer or college athletics administrator dealing with basketball. Send nominations to USBWA Executive Director Joe Mitch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
KATHA QUINN AWARD: This award is presented in honor of the former sports information director at St. John's University who waged a courageous battle with pancreatic cancer before passing away in 1988.The award recognizes individuals for their service to the media and for the inspiration they provide to those in the sports journalism profession. Send nominations to Malcolm Moran, a past president and member of the USBWA Hall of Fame, at email@example.com.
MOST COURAGEOUS AWARD: The USBWA presents a male and female award, honoring a player, coach, official or administrator who demonstrates extraordinary courage while facing adversity in life. First presented in 1978, it is the USBWA's oldest award. Send nominations to Ed Graney, USBWA third vice president, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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