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Vol. 48, No. 1 • November 2010 • .pdf version
NCAA opening door wider to passionate blogs, web sites
By WENDY PARKER
For many fans, journalists and sports-information directors, the sheer volume of blogs and web sites devoted to college basketball can seem overwhelming.
Even if they're read in an RSS feed, getting through a daily regimen of must-see sites remains a daunting task.
How does one distinguish among them for content, quality, intent and scope? Which are serious about following the sport, and which exist as "bleat" blogs with an axe to grind?
And what to do if you're in charge of deciding which online entities should receive proper media credentials?
That last question has been vexing for the NCAA and bloggers frustrated by what they claim have been overly constrictive standards that have left them at home during March Madness.
This summer, the men's and women's Division I basketball committees approved changes that would give a nod to blogs and sites that are passionate about college basketball but don't come close to driving the level of traffic of large media sites.
The changes came after discussions with the U.S. Basketball Writers Association at the men's and women's Final Fours and as the NCAA re-evaluated credential criteria in all its championship sports.
Previously, the NCAA granted men's and women's Division I basketball tournament credentials to sites that either generated a million unique visitors a month or covered at least 90 percent of their team's home games.
That left a large gulf, in terms of eligibility, between ESPN.com or Yahoo! Sports and the Duke Basketball Report.
In the void have been some burgeoning regional- and nationally-oriented sites and journalists who've exited traditional media and have been writing in independent or small online environments (including yours truly).
The new criteria would give the group blog Rush The Court, to name one example, seating along press row that it was denied last season. Under the new standard, sites or blogs that cover at least 100 regular season or conference tournament games will be credentialed.
"If they're making a concerted effort to cover the sport during the regular season, then we want to open the door to these folks," said David Worlock, associate director of the NCAA Division I men's basketball championship. "We want to let them prove themselves as being serious members of the media."
USBWA member Randy McClure, the proprietor of Rush The Court, said last season that his collection of 25 writers covered 156 games in all 31 Division I men's conferences and 11 of the 13 top conference tournaments, including the ACC, Big East, Big 12 and Pac-10.
"We're appreciative that the NCAA seems to be listening to its constituents in both the media and the fan world," McClure said. "This shows that they're taking a progressive stance to keep up with the changing media and I certainly laud their efforts."
The women's criteria changed along the same lines, but Rick Nixon, Worlock's NCAA women's counterpart, said additional factors will be considered. Demand for women's credentials isn't as high, and some innovative sites focusing on women's hoops aren't geared toward game coverage.
Hoopfeed.com, operated by freelance journalist Cheryl Coward, aggregates women's high school, college, pro, international and recruiting links from a wide variety of sources on a site and Twitter feed that she said coaches, players, SIDs and journalists have found valuable given the dearth of mainstream coverage. She also was denied NCAA credentials last season, but Nixon said her service would be "looked at seriously" under the new provisions.
Worlock and Nixon stressed that bloggers and independent journalists should be known by and have a regular working relationship with SIDs and conference-media contacts, especially since the revised criteria are the first stage in the NCAA's wider embrace of new media.
"We want to set the standards high," Worlock said. "We want to make sure we're credentialing people for the right reasons."
They've asked the USBWA to assist in this process by letting them know of new sites or blogs, whether they're run by journalists or others, that fit these new standards. Please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you know of sites (including yours) and with any other questions about the USBWA and new media issues.
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