The Fifth Down

President's column:
Two responses?

Two responses.

Not that I expected flowers and chocolates from the 119 I-A coaches, but two friggin' responses?

First, some background.

There are some of us still alive who remember that open locker rooms used to be common.

It was part of the tradition of the sport. Stepping over jocks and interviewing sweaty linemen wasn't glamorous, but it was necessary.

In this issue of The Fifth Down:
President's column: Two responses?
2006 FWAA Writing Contest winners

And appreciated.

There are only a handful of schools these days UCLA, USC and Miami among them that have open locker rooms following games. We suspect a lot of it has to do with being in pro markets and the battle for column inches.

Access has eroded to the point that I thought it was time to at least go on record with a position statement. That's what my correspondence to every I-A coach this summer amounted to.

I had the suspicion that even if the letter (which appears below) made it into the hands of the head coach, it would summarily be tossed in the trash can. But at least we would be on record.

All the commissioners and conference service bureau directors got a copy. They would at least know our desires. I got one letter in return, from Georgia's Mark Richt. He wrote basically that he thought Georgia provided proper media opportunities, and if there were any problems contact SID Claude Felton.

That was fine. The other response was TCU's Gary Patterson. We huddled at the Mountain West media days in San Diego. Patterson was intrigued and wanted to discuss the issue further in the future.

Still, only two responses.

This was the FWAA reaching out to the coaches. Are open locker rooms coming back? Probably not. But I'm not going to run a 4.4 40 either. I still work out. If nothing else we were trying to keep the lines of communication open.

Not giving up. Trying to work together.

Maybe we can get a dialogue going on other issues.

Two responses.

The hope here is that the idea takes hold with someone like Patterson. A conference like the Mountain West can use all the attention it can get. What if Patterson talked to his conference peers and convinced them to open locker rooms?

What if Conference USA sees what the MWC is doing and those coaches decide to open locker rooms too? I can almost hear dominoes falling.

Or not.

A colleague told me the letter was mentioned at the CoSIDA convention in July. The same colleague told me that a group of SIDs all but dismissed the idea of open locker rooms.

At least, in that case, it got a response.

An update on my personal crusade, which any minute threatens to become a five-part PBS series. Indulge me again on the media guide issue.

It became obvious as the '06 guides began stuffing my mailbox. They weren't complete. They were, in many cases, worse than '05 when the controversial legislation forced SIDs to scramble to shoehorn in information.

Worse in terms of the information we need to do our jobs. Im not naming names, but it's clear that a lot of SIDs have sacrificed information in the media guide in favor of recruiting information. Specifically, an increasing number of guides don't list the school's all-time results.

In the case of a school like Texas, those results are included in the spring guide. Not the best situation having to lug around two publications, but at least the agate is still available and we were told to keep those spring guides for reference.

The point is, the 208-page limit has forced SIDs to make some hard choices. It's not just the all-time results, which, to me, are an absolute staple in any media guide. Increasingly, those hard choices mean sacrificing our information for recruiting information.

If you've fast-forwarded to the irony, welcome. The NCAA folded recruiting information into media guides years ago in order to cut costs. Make things more equitable what with those evil four-color recruiting guides going out.

Congratulations ladies and gentlemen of the association, you've officially chased your tails. To include the essential information for the media more schools are putting out supplements or including it in spring guides. Neither is affected by the 208 limit.

So by forcing SIDS to make a choice, the NCAA has actually created more publications. Killed more trees. Depleted our precious staple supply.

Please, don't laugh.

I've said before: media guides and recruiting information don't mix. It's like putting ads in the Bible. Give us back our information. It shouldn't have to compete for space so recruits can know the average year round temperature in Pullman, Wash.

Another congratulations to Fiesta Bowl executive director John Junker. It was a pleasure presenting JJ with our highest honor the Bert McGrane Award during the College Football Hall of Fame weekend in August.

Junker is too modest. He is one of the most influential people in the business (he would blush at the word "powerful"). He gets it when it comes to bowls, teams, football and media. I'd like to think that's part of the reason the Fiesta as Charlie Weis himself said is the best bowl around.

Now gimme a lap, JJ. Charlie said so.


Dear Coach:

In light of diminishing access opportunities for college football media, the Football Writers Association of America is hoping you consider these suggested policies to be instituted in your program going forward:

Locker rooms be open a minimum of 30 minutes following each game. If space becomes a concern, especially for road teams, interviews could be conducted outside the locker room by mutual agreement of the media and SID.

Aside from rightsholders, a strict media access policy be adhered to after games. No legitimate media will be denied access to postgame media activities. Nor will any fan/alum/booster etc. be allowed access to postgame media activities. This would not include parents and/or recruits who would be present in a locker room after a game.

Head coaches be available to answer questions for a reasonable duration after each practice spring, fall and in-season.

Access be allowed to all assistant coaches. In the interest of the promotion of your program and student-athletes, these minimal access guidelines should be viewed as a win-win for media and yourselves.

The FWAA welcomes your feedback.

Dennis Dodd
President, Football Writers Association of America
National college football columnist

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