It's true that the safety of people should define our highest law.
That certainly applies to those in the media covering events who might feel uneasy or threatened upon exiting facilities late at night, something the United States Basketball Writers believe is a significant point worth following.
The USBWA, in conjunction with the Football Writers Association of America, College Football Playoff and College Sports Information Directors of America, recently wrote to the NCAA in relation to our growing concerns regarding media parking locations for football and basketball events and how their placements pose potential safety risks for credentialed media representatives.
We have all been in this situation: Deadline comes and goes, stories and videos are filed, a final tweet is sent (except for Geoff Grammer, the only man passionate enough to chronicle a walk to his car in 140 characters) and it's time to depart.
Distance and darkness can pose safety problems for anyone, a particular concern for the growing number of female reporters who are departing football press boxes or basketball arenas in late night hours. Several instances nationally have been reported where female reporters have felt unsafe or threatened when returning to their cars.
With more and more prime-time games featured across television, the conclusion of them have been pushed later and later. It's our hope the NCAA will encourage all schools and tournament directors to review their parking locations and polices as it relates to media.
"As athletic departments have pushed media parking farther away from stadiums and arenas in order to provide prime spaces for their top donors, we want to make sure safety also is a high priority," said Mark Anderson, president of the FWAA. "It's an easy fix to ensure that reporters safely return to their cars, and the FWAA is in agreement with the USBWA and encouraged that CoSIDA is taking this issue seriously and working with us on solutions. We hope athletic departments are as equally cooperative."
Quoting from the letter, here are some of the recommended media parking guidelines suggested to the NCAA:
• For distances longer than one-quarter of a mile, a golf-cart shuttle could be made available 2-3 hours before the game to help reporters move from the media lot to the sports venue. The pre-game shuttle would help address concerns for individuals where age, health, gender and the amount of equipment create concerns while moving from media lots that don't offer easy access.
• A golf cart and/or walking escort or campus security representative could be made available after games upon request to ensure media representatives covering a late night event have coverage while returning to the media lot and their car.
• Provide a text service for reporters needing help either in going to the stadium or returning to the media lot. (The College Football Playoff is in the process of developing this approach along with Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, for the national championship game.)
• Media should be provided a detailed description of the location and distance from the venue of all parking areas, along with shuttle availability before or after the game, in advance as part of the credential process. This information should also be available on game day in the press box and other appropriate areas.
Included here is the NCAA's response from David Worlock, Director of Media Coordination and Statistics, to the letter.
Know that this is an important matter in the eyes of the USBWA, and it's our hope all parties can work together to make things as safe as possible for everyone.
Thank you for your recent letter regarding parking and security at venues hosting various rounds of the Division I men's basketball championship. I've also copied Rick Nixon, who is the media coordinator for the Division I women's basketball championship, in the event he has anything he would like to add.
As you are aware, the NCAA and its host institutions and conferences provide a shuttle to all credentialed members of the media to move them back and forth between the competition venue and the media hotel(s). With the exception of media members who are local to the host city, the expectation is for credentialed individuals to take advantage of this complimentary transportation. This is because, at many of the venues hosting the tournament, parking is limited. This is why the allotted parking passes go to the local media or to others who may be close enough to drive and commute back and forth from the host city to their city of residence. For example, if a beat writer covering the University of Cincinnati traveled to Indianapolis to cover the team, but was going back home after the game, we would provide that writer with a parking pass if requested.
Those who ride the shuttle are dropped off at the venue, typically right next to the primary media entrance. Those who are issued parking passes will park their vehicles in the media parking area as determined by the host institution or conference and personnel at the facility. While this location is almost always right next to the venues, there are occasionally tournament sites where parking is a significant challenge, such as New York City. Our hosts are instructed that the competition venue is responsible for providing maintenance and security in the parking areas.
As for your four recommendations, we currently provide the media with the shuttle operating hours and drop-off locations and any parking instructions for those approved for a pass. This information is typically shared by the host media coordinator at all preliminary round sites 1-2 days prior to open practice day. The same holds true for the Final Four. If at any time during the tournament a member of the media does not feel safe leaving the building, regardless of the distance to his or her car, they should let the local media coordinator at the preliminary round sites know they would like an escort of some sort. We can communicate this to our hosts in advance of the tournament. At the Final Four, they should notify me and I will see to it an escort is available. The same holds true for anyone with a health or disability issue that prevents them from walking. We will certainly accommodate those individuals upon request.
At some point before the tournament, I will connect with Gina to discuss the specifics of the text program you referenced in your letter, and see if there is something similar we can do at the Final Four.
Let me know if you have any additional questions or concerns.