Tuesday, July 19, 2011

For SEC Media Days, the media needs to grow a pair


image On July 5, this blog featured a column on one of the reasons for the level of vitriol between the rival fanbases of the Alabama Crimson Tide and Auburn Tigers. As pointed out in the July 5th piece,  rumor, innuendo and mud-slinging is in part due to the two schools’ frequent noncompliance with legitimate open records requests that are regularly filed by the state, regional and national news media outlets.

It is patently ridiculous to suggest that (1) a school that reveals that it has reported secondary violations is guilty of “rampant cheating” while (2) a school that keeps its mouth shut is clean and pure. That’s nonsense. Both schools could go a long way in clearing the air simply by being more transparent. Instead of looking for ways to get out of complying with a legitimate request for public records, the public institutions should look for ways of making sure their compliance activities are well documented and transparent.

Unfortunately, this blog has also recently pointed out that for the most part, this state is devoid of quality investigative journalism. We can debate the reasons for that until the Mayan Homecoming Dance, but the fact remains that no one wants to commit the resources to that aspect of finding and reporting the news. We have newsrooms full of trained newshounds that either can’t or won’t track down the news.

But as luck would have it, a nifty little opportunity to do that has fallen in their laps, just in time for SEC Media Days.

By now, you know that Georgia Tech was recently sanctioned by the NCAA Committee on Infractions for, among other offenses, “failure to cooperate” with an enforcement investigation. A key player in the school’s transgression was then Associate AD for Compliance, Paul Parker. In April 2011, consistent with the time frame that Georgia Tech was arguing its case before the Committee, Parker left that job to fill a vacancy in the compliance staff at Auburn University.

Parker himself was sanctioned by the Committee, as described in the Committee on Infractions Report released last week:

The director of athletics, the head football coach, the compliance director and the academic advisor shall attend an NCAA Regional Rules Seminar in 2012. [Note: the compliance coordinator has since left the employ of the institution and will be independently notified of this requirement.]

Parker changing jobs from a convicted NCAA rules violator to a suspected NCAA rules violator might not mean anything to the NCAA. But it should mean something to the media, because the independent notification would have been sent to Auburn University—likely in the form of written correspondence—informing the school of the Committee’s requirement.

Since the Georgia Tech investigation is complete, and since the Georgia Tech investigation has absolutely nothing to do with any ongoing investigations at Auburn, the contents of the NCAA’s correspondence with Auburn is a matter of public record and cannot be withheld.

Here’s an opportunity to make one of the two major schools in the state comply with the public’s demand for transparency. It’s an easy opportunity to exploit, since it’s certain that Auburn got the letter and we already know its contents. Auburn has been told that Parker has been sanctioned by the Committee on Infractions and must comply with a specific direction.

Does the media have the stones to make Auburn acknowledge this?

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