Lane Kiffin's Decision to Close USC in-Season Practices to Media Penalizes Fans

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Lane Kiffin's Decision to Close USC in-Season Practices to Media Penalizes Fans
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Spor
Lane Kiffin at 2013's Pac-12 football media day

Lane Kiffin announced on July 29 that weekly practices during the football season will be closed to the media, according to the Orange County Register's Rich Hammond. 

What this means is that media members will not be able to watch practice from the practice field. Instead, they will have to wait outside the gates and gather information from players leaving the practice. If the players choose to talk.

Reporters will adjust to this new policy. But the real loser in all of this is the USC football fan. 

The lack of information coming out of practices this fall will be noticeable. Kiffin will address reporters after each practice, but the information given will be controlled by Kiffin.  

USC fans eager to hear how the team has improved or regressed on a weekly basis may be looking at a vacuum of information. And that could lead to speculative stories. 

If a player leaves practice on crutches and refuses to talk to the media, questions will surface. If Kiffin does not directly answer those questions, speculation will grow.

Is this what the fans want? Probably not. Especially for Trojan fans who like to wager on football games.

Injuries affect the outcome of a game. The National Football League recognizes the potential advantage gamblers have with inside information so it enforces a policy that requires all teams to report significant or noteworthy injuries. The NCAA has no such policy. 

It is not just the potential lack of injury reports that makes this media ban tough on fans. 

For a fan on the fence about purchasing tickets to a game, practice notes are important. Those filed reports can generate excitement. They also keep the fans engaged with the team. Starting in late August, there may be some disconnect.

Why Kiffin chose to ban media from practices is unknown. An explanation seems like a reasonable request. But this ban was foreseeable, according to ESPNLA's Arash Markazi

Maybe Kiffin wanted less distractions. Maybe he has new additions to his playbook and doesn't want that information leaked out. Maybe he does not want any injury information publicized. Maybe he is not calling the plays—Kiffin told reporters at Pac-12 Media Day that he was calling the plays. Maybe he wants to surprise Hawaii, coached by former USC offensive coordinator Norm Chow, on August 29.

USC Athletics Director Pat Haden has been very supportive of Kiffin so this move may be his way of going all in. Kiffin is on the hot seat, despite reassurances from Haden that he is not.

Los Angeles football fans speak with their wallets. An empty stadium speaks volumes to an athletics director. If the team does not improve and the stadium is not close to being sold out, Kiffin won't have many excuses left, especially after Haden capitulated to his latest request.    

Whatever Kiffin has to do to save his job is understandable. If a media ban at practices helps Kiffin improve the team, Trojan fans will not complain.

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But the lack of accurate information provided by the media to the fans will be apparent. If reporters do not know what is going on at practices, then the fans will not either. And sports fans in Los Angeles are restless.

Trojan fans want USC to return to the glory years, minus all of the NCAA violations of course. Head coach Pete Carroll held open practices back then. Carroll didn't care who was watching his team practice. Because the team was almost unbeatable every fall Saturday. 

From 2003-08 Carroll's teams went 69-7. Fans and media members crowded the practice field sidelines. It was a party. The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum looked sold out every game. In a pro sports city like Los Angeles, that is an incredible feat. 

Fans who saw the competitive practices in person fed on that energy. For fans that couldn't watch Carroll's practices, at least they had YouTube videos to entertain them. And weekly reports of who was doing great things in practices. And beautiful photos to gaze at while they looked forward to an upcoming game.

That is all gone. 

The biggest loser in Kiffin's media ban is not the media. It is the fan. Trojan fans hated the negativity coming out of newspapers and websites last year. The offered opinions by media may not have been embraced by fans, but the actual information being reported was accurate.  

This fall, all of the news from practices will be coming directly from Kiffin. Any tidbits gleaned won't be questioned because there will be no one to verify the information given. Most Pac-12 teams already have this closed practice policy in place.

But those schools aren't in the entertainment capitol of the world. They do not have the same large media presence as Los Angeles.

LA sports fans are spoiled with winning teams, beautiful weather and an abundance of information.  

Reporters are now going to have to place their trust with Kiffin.

So will Trojan fans. 

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