College football programs try to control message, but they have only themselves to blame – not the media – for game performances

Screen Shot 2017-08-22 at 8.01.26 AMNotre Dame athletics is the most recent sports organization that just doesn’t understand how to work with the media – and, thus, to grow popularity and revenue. Instead of embracing coverage, Notre Dame decided to dictate strict, inhibiting – and, at times, paranoid – rules for sports journalists attending the football team’s practices.

Notre Dame tells media in a recent letter that they cannot produce a video that includes footage from interviews, press conferences and practices that lasts more than three minutes – probably in an attempt to elevate its own website and social media, where one will find lengthier and more in-depth video packages. So, essentially, Notre Dame has decided to reduce the length of numerous free commercials for its university. Advertisers will pay between $85,000 (Fox) and $92,251 (ABC) for 30-second commercials for Saturday night college football games this fall in an attempt to reach the same audience that would view video from Notre Dame practices. Yeah, not genius.

In addition, Notre Dame athletics has created a confrontational scenario where it competes directly with those who are covering it. This is a short-sighted move, where Notre Dame may benefit in the short-term with perhaps a larger web audience and increased revenue, but which could have a long-term corrosive effect where fewer people outside of the Notre Dame community regularly hear about the program, meaning fewer casual fans becoming more intense fans. Just ask the NHL how that worked in the late 1980s when it put games on SportsChannel America to earn double the TV revenue but reached about one-third the audience.  Or ask the Chicago Blackhawks, which did not broadcast home games for many years because the team’s owner believed it would hurt home attendance – something that ultimately happened because home games were not broadcast – a lesson learned by major league baseball owners in the 1930s who found that offering radio broadcasts was a boon, not a bust.

But here is probably Notre Dame’s play – that media outlets will continue to cover the program no matter how strict the coverage rules. That may be the case. Very little has been written about these rules during the past three weeks, so the policy appears to be acceptable to local media, so far. But just wait until some news breaks from a practice, where someone has the audacity to tweet live that a player has either been injured, made a great play or lined up in a specific formation  – the type of information that clearly led to Notre Dame’s 4-8 season in 2016.

Oh, yeah, Notre Dame disallows media from tweeting live from practices for reasons that are unclear, if not baffling.

You can read the rest of Notre Dame’s rules in the photo above.

The best response to Notre Dame’s draconian rules came from another athletic program across the country. Azusa Pacific clearly understands the symbiotic relationship between sports and media, and, further, gets that we have very little impact on what happens on the field. Here’s the press release they tweeted out:

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“Azusa Pacific Football will accommodate any reasonable coverage request from credentialed media organizations. It is our belief that football games are won and lost by 11 players on the field, not by media practice reports and social media posts.”

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About jgisondi

I am the author of the "Field Guide To Covering Sports," the second edition now available from Congressional Quarterly Press/SAGE, and "Monster Trek: The Obsessive Search for Bigfoot" (U of Nebraska Press). Field Guide to Covering Sports, Second Edition goes beyond general guidance about sports writing, offering readers practical advice on covering 20 specific sports. From auto racing to wrestling, author Joe Gisondi gives tips on the seemingly straightforward—like where to stand on the sideline and how to identify a key player—along with the more specialized—such as figuring out shot selection in lacrosse and understanding a coxswain’s call for a harder stroke in rowing. In the new Second Edition, readers also explore sports reporting across multimedia platforms, developing a foundational understanding for social media, mobile media, visual storytelling, writing for television and radio, and applying sabermetrics. Fully revised with new examples and updated information to give readers confidence in covering just about any game, match, meet, race, regatta or tournament, Field Guide to Covering Sports, Second Edition is the ideal go-to resource to have on hand when mastering the beat. In "Monster Trek," Joe Gisondi brings to life the celebrities in bigfoot culture: people such as Matt Moneymaker, Jeff Meldrum, and Cliff Barackman, who explore remote wooded areas of the country for weeks at a time and spend thousands of dollars on infrared imagers, cameras, and high-end camping equipment. Pursuing the answer to why these seekers of bigfoot do what they do, Gisondi brings to the reader their most interesting—and in many cases, harrowing—expeditions. You can order both from Amazon.
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