Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Fan sites and the problems with issuing them media credentials

Yesterday, the Washington Post ran another article on the troubling world that is college basketball recruiting. Yesterday's article took a look at websites created by fans for specific teams news and information, and the problems associated with issuing them media credentials.

The majority of these sites that receive credentials are associated with Rivals, Scout, or ESPN. They are, for the most part, legitimate journalism sources. The writers are able to put their homer biases aside and produce quality material in a professional manner.

The issue becomes the few instances in which the sites are unable to differentiate between being a journalist and a fan.

The Post provided two examples.

The first came from an NC State fan site. The writers were able to land credentials to an exposure camp where Will Barton, a top 20 recruit in the class of '10 who has since committed to Memphis, was playing. They approached Barton and interviewed him. Everything was fine, until the interview ended.

Afterwards, Barton challenged one writer to a game of 1-on-1, with the bet being if the writer won Barton would commit to NC State. The video was eventually posted on youtube.

While this was likely nothing more than an innocent joke that was taken out of context, crossing the line between fan and journalist, especially when it pertains to recruiting, is a slippery slope.

Case in point - the next example, which is a much more alarming story.

Tate Myers is a reporter for, which happens to be the Wake Forest affiliate for Scout. While at a tournament, he sat down next to class of '11 prospect CJ Barksdale, a 6'7" being recruited by Wake Forest. Since Myers knew that Rusty LaRue, a Wake assistant, was trying to reach Barksdale (whose phone was apparently out of service), Myers called LaRue from his cell and put him on with Barksdale. They spoke for ten minutes.

This is where the problem lies. Fans acting as journalists for a team-specific website is a non-issue, even if what they provide is completely biased. If you don't like what they are writing, don't read the site.

The issue is that these fans guised as journalists have the access to aide the schools in recruiting players. The media is able to have much more contact with recruits than any coach, and all it takes is $9.99 and a Go Daddy account to start a website and become a "journalist".

So where does the NCAA draw the line?

Fans aren't allowed to assist in the recruitment of players (that is why NC State students were asked to take down a John Wall facebook group). If you start a website like DeaconSports, more than likely you are a fan of that team. But, as I said earlier, many of the team sites provide quality information and excellent, if a bit biased, writers. Just because you root for the team you cover doesn't mean you can't operate in a professional manner.

The other problem is that the NCAA can't regulate who gets media credentials; that is in the hands of the individuals schools and event organizers.

So what's the answer? I don't know, but personally I feel that the NCAA has some bigger fish to fry. You know, like stars cheating on their SAT's.

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