Thursday, September 1, 2011

Universities With Too Much Control

For all of the time the sports media spends on rumors and speculation, it's hard to believe the story about a true reporter in Kentucky has not received the attention it deserves. It seems that Aaron Smith, a reporter for the Kentucky Kernel (which is a student newspaper for the University of Kentucky), is being punished because he interviewed two basketball students "without permission" from the school. As long as there is nothing illegal or in violation, how does a University have this authority?

The first I heard of this story was because it was published via Rueters news wire. The wire service claims in its story that Smith called two basketball players who planned to join the U.K. basketball team as walk-ons, after a U.K. player "leaked" the information on Twitter. Nothing wrong with that. Frankly, it's nice to see a reporter at any level go after the facts instead of going with a "speculation" story that these players would do this.

As a result of Smith's reporting, the University of Kentucky has decided that Smith has "lost his access to interview members of the university's basketball team", acting as if this is some privilege. Keep in mind this is the same school (though not the same personnel) that almost literally ran sportscaster Phil Foster out of town in the mid-70's because he reported a negative RUMOR about Kentucky basketball players.

The sports media should be in an uproar about this, instead of speculating about baseball moves and fantasy football picks this week. If the large conference schools can really determine who gets to interview whom, how much "reporting" do we sports fans really get?

My point is that these colleges and universities have gained too much control when it comes to media. Go back to earlier this year when the U. of Texas TV network was announced. It's only in recent weeks that others in the media and other schools finally realized the consequences. Decisions about what can and can't be televised now need to be made. Thousands of alum of other schools (besides the U. of Texas) are actually contributing to Texas because of part of their cable/satellite monthly fees being used to fund this venture. While these universities pump in millions of dollars - even though tuition and other costs continue to rise.

It's a shame this starts to ruin the excitement many share about the college football season starting within a matter of hours. I guess we can continue to enjoy the games. Just be wary of the interviews.

Speaking of enjoying football, a study by Catalyst Public Relations shows that 42% of NFL fans are using social media DURING games, while 51.5% of college football fans are doing the same during college games. The percentages are, understandably, even higher after the games have ended. There are a couple of ways to look at this trend.

One is that the TV coverage other than the camera shots and replays leaves something to be desired and that viewers would rather concentrate on their phones or computers than what the announcers are saying. Another is that the TV networks and stations should look at ways to become more a part of this participation.

The large networks have not (yet) embraced the possibilities. Suppose there is a time-out leading into a 4th down and 1 yard to go play. Instead of speculating among 3 announcers in the booth and seemingly hundreds "back in the studio", it would be interesting to know what fans of the team on offense would call in that situation. Ask the fans to comment on the televising station or network's social pages, and gather the information. The viewers might pay more attention to the announcing team if they said that "42% of the (offensive team) fans want to see Smith run the ball here", and then see if it happens.

We also are coming up on the NFL season openers, with most of the teams opening on September 11th. As we said a few weeks back when Marv Albert joined the CBS-TV announcing team, Marv could be in competition with son Kenny Albert in a few midwest markets on opening Sunday.

Marv Albert makes his regular season debut with the CBS-TV NFL staff when he calls the early game from Kansas City against Buffalo. At the same time, Kenny Albert will be on Fox-TV calling the Atlanta Falcons at Chicago Bears opener.

Here are the opening Sunday (Sept. 11) announcing assignments:

Detroit Lions @ Tampa Bay Bucs, 1 p.m. ET - FOX -- Chris Myers, Tim Ryan
Atlanta Falcons @ Chicago Bears, 1 p.m. FOX -- Kenny Albert, Daryl Johnston
Philadelphia Eagles @ St. Louis Rams, 1 p.m. FOX -- Thom Brennaman, Brian Billick
Pittsburgh Steelers @ Baltimore Ravens, 1 p.m. CBS -- Jim Nantz, Phil Simms
Buffalo Bills @ Kansas City Chiefs, 1 p.m. CBS -- Marv Albert, Rich Gannon
Tennessee Titans @ Jacksonville Jaguars, 1 p.m. CBS -- Ian Eagle, Dan Fouts
Indianapolis Colts @ Houston Texans, 1 p.m. CBS -- Greg Gumbel, Dan Dierdorff
Cincinnati Bengals @ Cleveland Browns, 1 p.m. CBS -- Kevin Harlan, Soloman Wilcots
New York Giants @ Washington Redskins, 4:15 p.m. FOX -- Joe Buck, Troy Aikman
Seattle Seahawks @ San Francisco 49ers, 4:15 p.m. FOX -- Dick Stockton, John Lynch
Minnesota Vikings @ San Diego Chargers, 4:15 p.m. FOX -- Ron Pitts, Jim Mora
Carolina Panthers @ Arizona Cardinals, 4:15 p.m. FOX -- Sam Rosen, Chad Pennington

Westwood One begins its national college football broadcasts this week (starting with the 9/2 TCU at Baylor game). The network will have two announcing teams to cover its 26 broadcasts including regular season and some post-season games. John Tautges and Terry Donahue will team up, as will Brian Davis and Eddie George. Brian Davis, who has done Seattle Seahawks play-by-play, is also the voice of the NBA Oklahoma City Thunder telecasts. At least Davis knows for sure he'll be calling games somewhere come November.

Versus continues to beef up its "fresh" sports programming on weeknights with a 6 PM ET block of live studio shows starting next week. Each weeknight will feature a different primary theme, with those being ProFootballTalk, HardballTalk, ProBasketballTalk, ProHockeyTalk, CollegeFootballTalk, InsidetheIrish and ProGolfTalk. When the NHL regular season gets underway in October, the specialty show on game telecast nights will be shortened by 1/2 hour to make way for the network's hockey pre-game shows. Russ Thaler will host "NBC SportsTalk" during that slot on selected nights.

CHICAGO: WLS 890 will continue as the radio home of Notre Dame football for the new season and for at least the two seasons to follow. The station will also air at least 25 N.D. basketball games.

Since the Bears broadcasts are now simulcast on FM and with other larger stations having sports and other programming conflicts, a group of three suburban radio stations will carry at least one NFL broadcast each Sunday for the coming season. WCPY-FM 92.5 serves the west suburbs, WCPQ-FM 99.9 serves the south suburbs, and WCPT 92.7 serves the north suburbs.

WMAQ-TV's digital channel 5.2 has a deal to carry Illinois High School Association football and basketball starting this season, including state playoff games. These telecasts were previously over-the-air.

NEW JERSEY: Eric LeGrand has been named to participate in pre-game, post-game, and halftime of Rutgers football broadcasts for this season. Yet, Eric is not your typical sportscaster-in-waiting. LeGrand was, unfortunately, paralyzed last season during a game while playing for the Rutgers football team, and suffers from a spinal cord injury. A wonderful gesture by the school.

WINNIPEG: Only days away from the start of training camp, the new Winnipeg Jets of the NHL now have their radio and TV deals in place. SportsRadio 1290 will, as expected, carry every exhibition and regular season (and post-season if it happens) game. TSN will televise at least 60 regular season games on "TSN Jets" a part-time TV channel covering portions of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and the Northwest Territories. TSN will also televise at least five Jets games as part of its national Canadian TV package.

OTTAWA Senators games will continue to air on Team 1200 radio through the 2013-14 season as part of a just announced contract extension. Dean Brown, Gord Wilson, and Dave Schreiber will continue as the broadcast team.

HARRISBURG: Thursday (9/1) marked the debut of 95.3 as ESPN Radio and the end of its time as an R & B station. The sports station will also simulcast on 1400 AM.

GULFPORT: WUJM 96.7 has also changed to ESPN Radio and is now known (as of Monday 8/29) as "Champ 96.7". No word, as of press time, regarding specific local programming.

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