Access in the coverage of football teams is a privilege, not a right, and when a program or a coach makes rules to govern that access, the policies must be followed by the media. When people run afoul of the policies the program and or coach reserves the right to punish the offender by restricting their access.
Lane Kiffin is one such coach in this situation, and he does have the right to police his own policy.
However, in the case of Scott Wolf and the two-week ban that was imposed by Kiffin and then repealed by Pat Haden, via this Wolf tweet, it does seem Kiffin was in the wrong.
I am happy to say my football practice ban was lifted after talks with Pat Haden and area sports editors. Practice policy talks continue
— InsideUSC (@InsideUSC) September 13, 2012
Apparently, as the LA Times reported, Wolf was not divulging practice information, as his Daily editor Gener Warnick stated:
"From our standpoint, Scott was doing his job," Warnick said. "This wasn't something that was part of practice. We were just trying to report the news."
Being a beat reporter, a guy whose job is to give the fans information on a daily basis, is not an easy job. I know a lot of beat writers and have all the respect in the world for them. They work hard. They grind. They have no "hours," just a lot of work that can happen at any time, and at a moment's notice they have to be ready to rock and roll.
That said, for the football coach and the program that access is very precious, and the desire to control the flow of information is very real. Kiffin is not the only coach to decide against divulging critical injury information. Larry Fedora at UNC elected to not tell anyone that Giovani Bernard was not going to play against Wake Forest.
It is a shell game that coaches play, and if part of their policy is for reporters not to let fans know about injuries that occur at practices or are observed at practice it is one the reporters to adhere to that policy. It's no different than policy on plays or formations.
That's to say, if a reporter came out and reported on the Team X running several fantastic fake punts and proceeding to describe the unique looks, odds are he wouldn't be back at practice due to a policy violation.
There's a give and take in the world of sports media. Some coaches are willing to give more for reporters to take to fans than others. It doesn't make it right or wrong, it just makes it how things work.
Truth be told, I'm no fan of the policy, but even with the restrictions it is better than the wholly closed practices many teams have. It is also better than the tiny, vanilla portions of practices that some teams open up to the media. The policy has to be respect, and while in this case Scott Wolf may not have been in the wrong, should someone violate the policy it is within USC's right to bar them from access.
Until there are standardized rules from the conference or the NCAA as whole on press practices and/or injury reporting, we are all tied to the whims of coaches.
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