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Vol. 50, No. 2 • January 2013 • .pdf version
Holding fire was the right approach with NCAA
By KIRK WESSLER / Peoria Journal-Star
I'm a flame-thrower. That's my nature. I see something that ticks me off, or hear somebody say things that are stupid or wrong, my first instinct is to nuke 'em. Not literally kill them, of course, but burn them to the ground in print.
So I understand why some of you might be upset with the USBWA officers over the way we've handled the media-seating debate with the NCAA. We could have called for heavy artillery the day the NCAA's Mark Lewis fired the first shot, when he suggested to president John Akers and executive director Joe Mitch major changes were coming. We could have ordered a prolonged campaign of Twitter strafing. We could have sent a brigade of Khruschevs to pound shoes on tables in Indy.
All of us wanted to, at some point. I don't pretend to speak for my fellow officers, but I am convinced we were wise to hold our fire, difficult as that was. It wasn't what the NCAA was expecting. In fact, we were told some of the new guard at the Indianapolis palace even might have been hoping for an explosion of USBWA outrage as proof that our concerns should not be taken seriously and that it's a waste of time trying to deal with us. Instead, our approach bought us favor and support from staff and committee members who had misgivings about some of the radical changes.
What kind of radical change? No courtside seats, for one. The more we listened to the NCAA's official rationale for changes and encountered resistance to our counterproposals, the more we became convinced such an outcome was a real possibility.
The deeper we got into this process, however, the more it became evident we had potential allies on the inside who could work on our behalf, as long as we didn't become a deafening noise. Going ballistic could have painted them into a corner where they were defending crazies, so to speak. Not good for them, or for us.
Believe me, none of us is happy with the compromise solution, and we will work to improve on it as much as possible. All of your officers feel bad about presiding over a period when our tournament working conditions were eroded.
A lot remains unsettled, particularly with non-courtside seating and access avenues at diverse venues the first two weeks of the tournament. Also, while the auxiliary situation this season at Atlanta appears workable, a potentially untenable problem looms over the Metroplex in 2014. The USBWA board will come up with a plan to monitor and evaluate the various sites, so we can address real problems and work with the NCAA to correct them.
It's disappointing to be in this position after the mostly good relationship the USBWA has had with the NCAA over the past decade. But the NCAA front office has new people, with a different view of us, and we have to adapt a different course for problem-solving. We have a lot more work ahead. We'll have to be diligent and smart as we go forward.
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