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Vol. 44, No. 2 • February 2007 • .pdf version
Regular-season access to games becoming our No. 1 issue
By ANDY KATZ / ESPN
Final Four seating for the media isn't the most pressing issue facing an organization that seeks access.
Nope. The growing problem, the one that we, as sportswriters cannot complain in the mainstream media, is that the access to the court during the regular season is becoming increasingly limited.
And there is no reason to think that it will get any better unless local beat writers/editors address it with their respective schools.
Wisconsin was the latest school to sell its press row, at an estimated $10,000 a seat for the season. No one is debating the Badgers' athletic department's right to sell its seats for a profit. If there is a market for it then they should sell the seats. Clearly, schools look for any way to make money in today's tight economy. And if fans are willing to shell out this kind of dough to be courtside then that is within their right, as well.
The press row seats for the Badger games were kicked up to the hockey press box where the view is need of binoculars and the atmosphere a bit hollow. The media ends up watching, rather than having that participatory feel being so close to the action and the fans to be able to document with more detail.
Texas Tech sold its press row, as well. Plenty of other schools have done this and moved the media to the corners like Ohio State or in the stands like North Carolina and Pitt. These last three are perfectly viable options but there's no guarantee that the choice seating will be available for long. The Wisconsin media claims it wasn't given a choice. The sports information department within the athletic department said there really was no other place to put them along the baseline. But there also doesn't seem to be enough proper communication between the two, either.
Will the day come when television and radio are booted upstairs as well?
The reason that might not happen is that both pay a rights fee of some sort for their seat.
So, are we getting to the point where newspapers and dot-coms will have to pay for their seat in order to get a better one? I'm not saying this has to occur but colleges might have put this inadvertently to the forefront. Ultimately, this could hurt coverage if less go to games, especially teams that are struggling. But there's no question that covering some teams is getting more difficult.
Some other thoughts midseason:
Credit goes to President Tom Shatel and the NCAA's Greg Shaheen for working out the mock bracket day for some members of the USBWA. The cooperation between the two might be at an all-time high. Access is the key and any way that writers get a chance to educate the public through our own knowledge is a plus for everyone.
The sportswriting workshop at the Final Four is a huge plus but we may want to consider also giving back to a younger set of folks to show the positive role modes of being reporters/writers.We can discuss some options at the Final Four.
I encourage the membership to promote our Most Courageous award candidates and ultimate winner. This award is the gem of the organization and the highlight of the Final Four weekend outside of the actual games.
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