The November issue of AB will examine how college athletic departments deal with student media in the wake of a recent University of Kentucky incident that drew national attention. The past eight days have shown just how tenuous the relationship between college athletic departments and the mainstream press can be, as well.
On Tuesday, University of South Carolina head football coach Steve Spurrier refused to address the media at his regular press conference as long as Ron Morris, a columnist for The State, was in the room. Pointing at Morris, Spurrier told those assembled that "we've got a negative guy over here that tries to hurt our program."
During a two-minute explanation, Spurrier claimed Morris inaccurately reported that the coach lured prospect Bruce Ellington away from the USC basketball program. The story, written in the spring, was "completely untrue," according to Spurrier, who said he talked to Ellington only after he had met with the basketball coach.
"So, I'm not going to talk when he's in here," Spurrier said of Morris. "That's my right as a head coach." He then instructed TV reporters to move to a separate room for a personal interview and informed writers "still left in here I'll come back and talk to you right after that."
On Oct. 6, Kentucky's athletic department, still faced with questions over why a student reporter's invitation to a basketball media event had been rescinded in late August, revoked the Lexington Herald-Leader's access to freshman basketball player Michael Kidd-Gilchrist based on how reporter Jerry Tipton had handled a Q-and-A with the player.
DeWayne Peevy, UK's associate athletic director for media relations, said in a statement that the way a question appeared in print Oct. 5 was not how it was asked during the interview, and that the altered wording "sensationalizes the story and was unfair to Michael and his family." The question, which referenced the shooting death of Kidd-Gilchrist's father, was clarified online the same day, but the paper did not issue an apology, something Peevy deemed necessary to move on.
Longtime local sports columnist and Sports Illustrated writer Billy Reed thinks Kentucky is being overprotective of players and missing an educational opportunity. "I don't think the UK sports information office is really teaching them the right kind of lessons about how to deal with the media," Reed told the Kentucky Kernel, the student newspaper targeted by Peevy this summer, adding that the university "has made a bigger deal out of this story by issuing a media statement and issuing more retribution to a media organization rather than just handling it internally."