Bradley University has formally apologized for limiting the access to its men's basketball team of one media member in the wake of the Braves' winning the Missouri Valley Conference tournament March 10.
Because its first Missouri Valley championship since 1988 stamped Bradley's ticket to the NCAA tournament, on Friday the school held a media day at Renaissance Coliseum in anticipation of Selection Sunday. It was there that Dave Reynolds, a three-time Illinois Sportswriter of the Year who has covered Bradley basketball for the Peoria Journal Star or 29 years, was denied a request to speak to a specific Bradley player.
According to a commentary in the Journal Star, this is what happened Friday:
Journal Star sports editor Wes Huett, who met with the Bradley program at its request on Jan. 29 to listen to grievances about the newspaper’s coverage of the team, received an email with media-access information for Friday’s event, scheduled for 1:45 p.m. at Renaissance.
The newspaper, of course, sent its beat writer.
“The door was open,” our man Reynolds said. “I walked in and chatted with the other media guys. [BU assistant director of athletic communications] Jason Veniskey was there but didn’t say anything to me. Players started to filter out. One of the players I wanted to talk with was Nate Kennell, and I motioned to Jason, ‘I’d like to talk to Nate.’ He said, ‘I want to talk to you for a minute.’
“He pulled me aside and said their policy of me not given extra coverage opportunity was still in place, and I was not allowed to do any interviews. I told him, ‘The newspaper received the invitation.’ He said, ‘That was directed to [Huett], not to you.’ I said, ‘He doesn’t cover the team. I have for 29 years.’
“He responded by saying, ‘You don’t promote the Bradley brand, and basically we don’t want you here.’ I said, ‘Jason, that’s not my job to promote the Bradley brand. You know that.’
“He said, ‘That’s what we decided.’ I said, ‘Who’s we?’ He said, ‘Bradley University.’ I said, ‘You realize how petty this is, Jason?’ ”
Reynolds talked with [Bradley head coach Brian] Wardle, who echoed Bradley’s stance.
Said Reynolds: “He said I’m always looking for the negative and he’s been having this conversation [about it] with me,” Reynolds said. “He’s had it three times and nothing has changed. He said something to the effect of ‘We don’t want you around anymore.’
“It was surreal. I thought, ‘Here was Bradley on the eve of one of its greatest moments in the last three decades.’ They’ve won the Valley Tournament for the first time since ’88. I thought maybe we’re going to move past this. I went over there with that intention.
“If there was something of substance you could hang your hat on and say, ‘Yeah, I took a shot at something.’ But there was nothing in anything they described that’s close to that.”
Bradley associate athletic director for communications and event and facility operations Bobby Parker issued this statement Saturday: "The Bradley athletics staff appreciates the importance of having a media presence presenting fair and accurate coverage. We recognize that the media is not responsible for promoting the Bradley brand and that was never our expectation. We did not handle this situation appropriately and for that we apologize. Peoria Journal Star reporter Dave Reynolds will have equivalent media access to cover the Braves and Bradley athletics will continue to work on its relationship with the Peoria Journal Star. We are one day away from Selection Sunday and our focus and attention needs to be on the success of our student athletes."
In his own statement released Saturday, university president Gary Roberts said, in part, “There is certainly no formal policy at Bradley University that allows for barring or limiting access to any member of the media or any media outlet. If that has occurred, it was inconsistent with Bradley’s general attitude toward the media and what I would regard as the implicit policy of the University.
“Going forward, all employees of Bradley University will be informed that it is Bradley’s policy that all members of the media are to be treated on a non-discriminatory basis when it comes to access to information and people.”
Reynolds has accepted the apology.