Vol. 54, No. 2 January 2017 .pdf version
Ed Graney: Keeping reporters safe to and from arenas
Joe Mitch: USBWA, NCAA continue strong relationship
Hall of Fame welcomes 'Final Four for ages'
Once again, there's no shortage of courage
Elderkin, Rowe to share Pat Summitt Award

Joe Mitch

USBWA, NCAA continue their strong relationship

USBWA Executive Director

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The USBWA and the NCAA have had a strong working relationship dealing with media matters for the Division I men's championship ever since the USBWA was formed 61 years ago in 1956.

The two organizations have worked together on access to coaches and players, courtside seating, news conferences, media hotels and credentials.

This relationship has made for a better Final Four and for improved administration of regionals and first/ second round tournament games hosted by member institutions and conferences.

The partnership kicked into high gear when Dave Cawood was named the NCAA Tournament media coordinator in 1975. Cawood, a former SID at Baylor, SMU and Arkansas, held the position for 22 years before leaving to enter private business. He passed away in 2008.

Cawood was the driving force behind improving services for the media and worked closely with the USBWA to develop policies to assist them.

"Dave deserves all the credit for initiating these policies," said Bill Hancock, who served as director and later consultant to the NCAA Tournament and is now Executive Director of the College Football Playoff.

It was Cawood, Hancock said, who fought for writers in basketball committee meetings.

"He was on their side," Hancock said. "He wanted the committee to know that writers had a job to do."

Jim Marchiony, now an associate athletic director at Kansas, followed Cawood at the NCAA and had to deal with a whole set of new media-related problems.

"We started to credential websites," Marchiony said. "At first, there weren't very many. The standards were very restrictive. We eventually loosened the restrictions. What helped was to have the support of committee chair Mike Tranghese."

Hancock succeeded Marchiony at the NCAA and set out to follow his predecessors in improving existing media policies and adding new ones.

"We always had good dialogue with the USBWA," Hancock said. "We opened up the locker rooms to the media. We scheduled telephonic news conferences with the basketball committee chair in the weeks before selection Sunday. And we started news conferences with participating coaches and student-athletes on the days before all games and after games."

Hancock also said he worked with the USBWA on media-credentialing policies. "Our goals," he said, "were to make sure tournament news got to the most fans possible and to reward reporters who covered college basketball during the regular season and the tournament."

By far the most difficult and likely the most contentious matter the two organizations dealt with recently was courtside seating for the media, particularly at the Final Four.

Four years ago, the NCAA had plans to move the media off courtside, but the USBWA fought back. After meeting with the USBWA on several occasions, the NCAA restored most of the courtside seats and added additional seating behind the baskets to keep media members closer to the floor rather than moving them to the press box.

Dave Worlock, the NCAA Tournament media director for the past 11 years, was a key player in retaining courtside seats for the media.

"This is just one of a variety of issues involving the media's coverage of March Madness that we've worked together on," said Worlock, a recipient of the USBWA's Katha Quinn Award last year for service to the media.

"I'm proud of what we've accomplished together," he said. "The importance of strengthening the NCAA's relationship with the USBWA has always been a priority."

Besides courtside seating, some other areas where the USBWA and the NCAA have recently worked together include:

Wireless issues at venues, resulting in the NCAA installing hard-wire ethernet lines at every seat occupied by a member of the media;
Breakout sessions for the Elite Eight teams on the day prior to the regional championship games;
The mock bracket seminar to educate the media about the selection, seeding and bracketing process. The seminar has had more than 200 participants since it first began in 2007;
Criteria for issuing credentials to bloggers so they would have an opportunity to cover the men's tournament, while managing to separate them from reporters and other media members;
Pool reporters for all tournament games;
A media survey for the tournament;
An annual meeting at the Final Four with members of the basketball committee and the USBWA board and officers to give the USBWA a voice in such matters as the length of the cooling off period; the order of the winning and losing teams at postgame news conferences; how best to operate the media shuttle at the Final Four; and opening the basketball committee meeting room to enable a reporter to sit in on discussions during the selection and seeding of teams in the tournament.

The issue to allow a reporter in the basketball committee meeting room has been debated at the annual meeting with the NCAA many times now and remains controversial. To this point, there has only been resistance from the committee as a whole.

With several new members of the basketball committee showing indications of being "media friendly," the USBWA remains optimistic that the door is open for further discussion.

Hancock does see hope for the USBWA.

"If the NCAA ever decided to open the basketball committee to include people who don't work for schools or conferences," Hancock said, "then I'll bet they would include a retired reporter. It makes sense.

"But I can't see them including a current reporter. The candor in the room is just too important."

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