Vol. 43, No. 1 November 2005 .pdf version
Tony Barnhart: Power of USBWA apparent
Joe Mitch: Celebrating our 50th anniversary
Andy Katz: Schools should know how to reach us
Tom Shatel: A shorter USBWA meeting?
Mike Waters: The press row seating problem
Ted Gangi: Don't lose your mind over memory
No. 1 Duke puts pair on 'Oscar' Watch List

Guest opinion: Moving off press row is only part of seating problem

By MIKE WATERS / Syracuse Post-Standard
mwaters@syracuse.com

I've been covering Syracuse University's basketball program for 17 seasons, but I'm going to have trouble finding my seat when the Orange opens the 2005-06 season on Nov. 8 against Bethune-Cookman.

Back in August, Syracuse University's new athletic director Daryl Gross announced that the university would make 150 seats on the sideline opposite the team benches available to the ticket-buying public, turning the former press row in an Upstate New York version of Gucci Row.

The price tag on these Spike Lee-quality seats depends on their location (Gross is putting in not one, but two, rows). Still, the cost ranges from $3,000 to $6,000. All seats must be purchased for two years, and there are the usual expectations for booster-club donor levels.

Now, schools across the country have been moving the media out of the courtside seats; prime real estate in today's college basketball landscape, for a long time. This is an issue of major concern for members of the United States Basketball Writers Association.

But the egregiousness of Syracuse's decision lies not in the seats the media is leaving, but where Gross is sending us ink-stained wretches.

Rather than relocate the media in a raised area above the sideline bleachers or on the endlines, as is done in most NBA arenas, Syracuse officials will cram the media into a triangular set of risers in a corner of the Dome where in past years a furniture store's living room set was located.

The location offers such a severe angle that it will be difficult to see the 3-point line on the opposite end of the court. The sideline in front of the Syracuse bench will be obstructed. If the visiting team's bench players stand up, the entire court could be blocked out.

And a direct view of the benches, a key element in covering a game, will be gone.

The whole arrangement shows a blatant lack of respect for the job the media does. Either that or absolutely no understanding of how we do what we do.

When announcing the move, Gross said he wanted to increase the atmosphere at the Carrier Dome.

"To me, Syracuse basketball at the Carrier Dome is like the Knicks at Madison Square Garden," Gross said. "I could see a Spike Lee wanting to fly up to a Syracuse game to sit on the floor.

"Nothing against the press, but the press is neutral. We're trying to do everything we can to create the atmosphere that I think Syracuse basketball deserves."

Oh, I'm sorry. I forgot my orange and blue pompons. Maybe if I painted my laptop orange. I already use a blue pen.

It's like when one of my friends says he's got tickets to a Syracuse game. He'll ask, "Hey, want to meet us after the game?"

"No," I reply, "I'll be still be working by the time you're home."

I repeat. I'm working. And where the media will sit this year for Syracuse home games prevents me from doing my job to the best of my ability and for the benefit of my readers.

What Daryl Gross and officials at other schools that have made similar seating moves don't realize is that they'll eventually pay for their mix of greed and the need for instant gratification.

For while Syracuse may be the college basketball's attendance leader, the media coverage of the Orange is dwindling. Fans of Syracuse in Buffalo, which is located just three hours away, get no coverage of the Orange in the Buffalo News. The Albany Times-Union, located two hours east of Syracuse, does not staff Syracuse's games. These are home games we're talking about.

The Binghamton Press-Bulletin does not staff Syracuse's home games either. The Rochester Democrat & Chronicle covers home games, but never goes on the road. In fact, the Rochester paper never covers Syracuse in the Big East Tournament. The Auburn Citizen, a daily located 20 minutes outside of Syracuse, stopped sending a reporter to home games two years ago.

Publicity generates interest, which generates ticket sales, clothing sales, memorabilia sales, alumni giving and student applications.

Just when you'd think Syracuse officials would be doing everything in their power to increase coverage of their athletic teams, they're doing just the opposite.

Upon hearing of the new seating arrangement, Scott Pitoniak, the Rochester D&C's outstanding columnist, said he'd think twice about braving lake effect snowstorms if he's put in a position where the view from his couch is better than the view from his seat at the Carrier Dome.

But what SU officials should really fear is the prospect of Pitoniak and the rest of us, too writing about something other than Syracuse.

When Gross came to Syracuse from USC, he chose to move into an office that is smack dab in the middle of the SU athletic department's Manley Field House digs.

It's a move that makes sense. The idea of moving the media into an area of obstructed view seats doesn't make sense. It only makes dollars.

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