Saturday, November 12, 2011

Coming to an Athletic Department Near You

Nate Allen of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette puts hit take on the increasing secrecy in college sports with Sometimes Lockdown Leads to Lock Up. The column is behind the ADG pay wall, but you can likely find it cut and paste elsewhere.

What is the significance? Because Allen joins a chorus around the country - Arkansas isn't special in this - of sports writers asking for more transparency. And regular political writers as Max Brantley joins in with his Arkansas Blog entry today. (Check the commentary and a link to another story from New York Times).

Again, what is the big deal? Remember how no one was interested in cell phone records until bloggers started to go after coaches (Arkansas one of the first, North Carolina one of the latest)?

Once upon a time, I was told by a colleague "what right do THEY have to see our cell phone records or read out emails."

My answer - because we are state employees, and if he didn't like that, maybe he should move into the private sector.

Am I implying I know something about UA because I worked there for over 20 years? That is not my point. I know the media there, and they can be quite indicative of trends. Watch and see if all sports media begin to probe deeper and not accept the answers of limited access - which if you can't find Allen's full column is the heart of his point. Quoting from Allen:

As coaches’ salaries and power increasingly escalate, so does the remoteness of athletic departments to the universities of which they are supposed to be a part and not apart.

The University of Arkansas’ Broyles Center was once as open as since retired Athletic Director Frank Broyles’ always open door, but now it is routinely described in comparative “lockdown” by alumni and others who were once accustomed to visiting it.

Just imagine when the UA’s football operations center is completed. The football fortress might be more forbidding than Fort Knox.

It took the political shock of Watergate to inspire a generation of reporters to ask harder questions, not accept answers and begin to go after raw data like budgets or committee reports.

Get ready, fellow PR and information professionals, for a wave of same in sports.

And I highly recommend not reacting with a closed door attitude - especially for those of us working for public institutions.

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