Vol. 47, No. 4 May 2010 .pdf version
INSIDE THIS ISSUE ...
Bryan Burwell: Time for USBWA to diversify
Joe Mitch: A huge year for the USBWA
Wnedy Parker: Thoughts on new media
Kirk Wessler: Online sites' place on press row
Deadline approaching for Best Writing Contest

Joe Mitch

A huge year for the USBWA figures to only get better

By JOE MITCH / Missouri Valley Conference
USBWA Executive Director
mitch@usbwa.com

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The year ended in resounding fashion for the U.S. Basketball Writers Association.

Membership finished at an all-time high, climbing to 901 members, a 50 percent increase over the previous year.

The organization was able to save the popular Marriott Athletic VIP card program offering up to 40 percent discount off room rates at Marriott properties for USBWA members.

New features were added to the USBWA Web site under Ted Gangi's direction that included a national player of the week honor. Ted even has the USBWA on Facebook, working with the organization's new media liaison, Wendy Parker.

Reminders:
Enter the Best Writing Contest
Renew your USBWA membership
2010-11 USBWA officers named
NEW! USBWA member/award programs

Finally, the year was capped off at both the men's and women's NCAA Final Fours with special functions honoring USBWA members, players and coaches for their achievements during the past season.

At the men's Final Four, the USBWA's annual college basketball awards breakfast was held before a sellout crowd of 250 at The Columbia Club in Indianapolis. Past president Bill Benner served as emcee for the breakfast.

The event has become a tradition at the men's Final Four since it was first held in 2005 and continues to grow in popularity each year.

It is where the general public can see some of the nation's top coaches and players in person, talk to them, get signatures and have pictures taken with them.

This year's breakfast in Indianapolis did not disappoint.

Evan Turner of Ohio State received the Oscar Robertson Trophy as the nation's top college player from "The Big O" himself. John Wall of Kentucky took home National Freshman of the Year honors. ESPN's Andy Katz introduced both Wall and UK Coach John Calipari for comments.

Syracuse's Jim Boeheim stole the show after receiving the Henry Iba Coach of the Year Award from Hall of Famer and past president John Feinstein.

"My wife asked me this morning before I came here if I was going to dress up," said Boeheim. "I said, 'Why should I?' It's a breakfast with a bunch of sportswriters."

Another highlight of the morning was presentation of the association's "Good Guy" Award to IUPUI's Ron Hunter, whose work with the Good Samaritan's Feet charity has helped provide thousands of shoes for needy children around the world.

"You and I sitting here this morning think nothing of getting up every day and putting on a pair of shoes," Hunter told the crowd. "Millions of children around the world don't know what life is like with shoes. We're trying to change that."

At a women's Final Four breakfast in San Antonio, Nebraska's Connie Yori received the USBWA's Coach of the Year award and Tina Charles of Connecticut won player of the year honors.

For the first time, the USBWA selected male and female Most Courageous Award recipients. Tiffara Steward of Farmingdale (N.Y.) State College received her award in San Antonio with family members present. Tiffara, who at 4-foot-6 is believed to be the smallest player in college basketball history, has been a starter and team captain for two seasons at Farmingdale despite battling various physical ailments in her life (she's blind in one eye and has a 50 percent hearing loss.)

Brigham Young Coach Dave Rose, who overcame pancreatic cancer to guide the Cougars to an NCAA tournament berth this season, accepted the men's Most Courageous Award in Indianapolis during a second USBWA breakfast held the morning of the men's national championship game.

"This award should really go to my wife," said an emotional Rose. "She has been a rock through this."

The Most Courageous Award to Rose was one of several given that morning by the USBWA.

Past presidents Jim O'Connell of the AP and Malcolm Moran, Knight chair of the Sports Journalism program at Penn State, presented long-time NIT media relations director Chris Fallon with the Katha Quinn Award for services to the media in honor of the former St. John's University SID who passed away of cancer in 1989.

Three new members were inducted into the organization's Hall of Fame: Walter Byers, who as executive director of the NCAA originated the idea to form the USBWA in 1956; Bud Withers of the Seattle Times; and Skip Myslenski, formerly of the Chicago Tribune.

Myslenski was especially touched by the honor. "I'm dedicating this to my 96-year-old father," he said choking back tears. "When I told him about this, he told me how proud he was of me."

For the first time, the USBWA presented a Rising Star Award to recognize achievements of members who are under 30. This year's award went to Dan Wolken of the Memphis Commercial-Appeal.

Finally, Steve Carp of the Las Vegas Review Journal was presented with the Ray Marquette Award for his outstanding leadership as president this past year.

Shaheen salute

The USBWA presented NCAA Senior Vice President Greg Shaheen with a special award at the annual meeting of the USBWA board and the NCAA Division I Basketball Committee, thanking Shaheen for his efforts to keep the lines of communication open between the USBWA and the NCAA.

Probably no one at the NCAA in my 30 years with the USBWA has played a greater role than Shaheen in understanding the needs of writers at NCAA tournaments and working hard to make changes for the betterment of the media. "I am a firm believer in the importance of our relationship with the USBWA," said Shaheen. "I view our work with the USBWA as central to what we're trying to do."

USBWA recommendations to the NCAA

1. Wireless at NCAA Tournaments: Reliability and cost of the service are the biggest concerns. The wireless went down at several NCAA sites this year, although the NCAA did refund moneys to writers at sites that lost service. The USBWA is asking that the NCAA come in line with other major sporting events (Super Bowl, World Series, NBA and NHL playoffs) where wireless is provided at no cost.

2. Hotels: The USBWA is asking the NCAA for relief on the minimum four-night stay policy at tournament media hotels, especially for writers whose teams lose their semifinal game at the Final Four and would not be staying around for the championship game. Costs are also a concern.

3. Credentialing: The USBWA requests the NCAA review its policies to grant credentials to freelance writers for legitimate Web sites and other media outlets.

4. Interview Policies: The USBWA recommends that the losing team's players and coaches at NCAA tournaments come to the interview room before the winning team for all games, not just the national championship game. Currently, the winning team goes first at preliminary round games and national semifinals, but that is often delayed significantly due to CBS-mandated postgame interviews on the court. It is the opinion of the USBWA that the time wasted waiting for the winning team is better served with the losing team going first in the interview room.

SEC's media guide proposal approved by NCAA's legislative council

The NCAA's legislative council recently rejected a proposal that would have banned all published media guides, adopting instead a proposal by the Southeastern Conference that essentially forbids media guides from being used a recruiting tool.

The new proposal becomes effective on Aug. 1.

Schools can still determine whether or not they want to publish media guides.

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