College football coaches silence the media

AP Photo/Bill Kostroun

The sports media used to be able to write about whatever they saw. Now, they might be limited on writing about what they’re told.

USC head coach Lane Kiffin has placed a ban on media reporting injuries, a common subject of pregame discussion in the sport of college football, according to several writers and websites close to the situation. Washington’s Steve Sarkisian has followed suit.

And I can promise you it will be a trend — not a rarity — in the coming years.

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College football coaches are similar to war generals: They’re paranoid their secrets will be leaked. If you don’t keep your secrets confidential, you’ll be figured out quickly on the battlefield (or football field). They think they need to keep as much as they can to themselves.

It started by closing off practices to the media. I, for one, never really enjoyed attending practices anyway when I was covering the football teams. I didn’t play football at any level, and it was difficult to pick up on the intricacies of what was happening during drills on the field. There were times when something big would happen that was important to report as soon as possible, but they were few and far between.

But there are plenty of writers who were given less of a chance to get to know a team when they were shut out of practices, and that’s a shame. I felt bad for those guys.

The next step is for coaches to tell writers exactly what they should write, and if they don’t do as they’re told, shut them out of the press box during games. This is what’s allegedly happening at USC and Washington. In my opinion, that’s egregious.

It’s not even so much about the fact that they’re censoring writers from disclosing injuries. Injury reports are variably important to different readers, and I don’t think it will be a major loss from a beat writer’s everyday coverage of a football team. It’s more disconcerting because it will be, like closing practices, a gateway to more limitations. If it goes well, coaches won’t just censor injury reports — they’ll start keeping other things a secret, too.

Hopefully, when the coaches keep trying to toe the line to censor sportswriters, employees of football programs will keep the writers in mind and fight for them equally. In the age of instant Twitter knowledge, it’s understandable that coaches want to keep some things under wraps, but the level it has reached is becoming a little too far.

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