27
Feb
08

Access denied!

Sarah PavanThe woman furthest to the right in this photo is Sarah Pavan.

She plays volleyball for the University of Nebraska. Well, she did. And was ridiculously good.

So good in fact, she was is the most decorated female athlete in the school’s history. And she had a 4.0 in biochemistry. In other words, your typical jock.

Long story short, Pavan gave an interview with a local Nebraska magazine in which some revealing personal feelings were brought to light:

They judge only what they see from the stands. They don’t understand I don’t like the phony smiles and the phony hugs and the phony high-fives after every point. Four years now and my teammates, the people I thought knew me, don’t understand that I despise the constant attention. And the coaches – they don’t understand what it takes to nail a 4.0 in biochemistry, let alone how much it means to me. Really, it doesn’t seem to matter what I say or what I do anymore because no one truly understands me.

Wow. That’s a hell of an interview. Kudos to the reporter, right?

The coach – and some of Pavan’s teammates – didn’t think so, and started complaining publicly. Eventually, Pavan was banned from practice (even though her career was already done). After some public outcry, the all-wise coach said Pavan could return to practice if she apologized. No go.

As you can imagine, this issue garnered a lot of press – especially for Husker volleyball. The coach didn’t handle it so well:

If you don’t stop doing it(reporting), Cook said, I’m going to call over to the journalism college and get this straightened out.

Watch out, journalism college, he will call and get this straightened out! Oh no he didunt!

The media relations department had even more threats for college reporters:

Shamus McKnight, NU’s volleyball sports information director, asked to know if there would be another story, what it would be about and who would be contacted.

Usually I know ahead of time who is going to be interviewed, so I can prepare them, McKnight said.

And anyone who’s ever written a college newspaper story about volleyball (check), or softball (check) or lacrosse (thank God no check) knows that college athletes already have so much to say.

This is an awful precedent. Reporting on college athletics is tough enough as it is. Stories are becoming increasingly hard to find because of privacy policies and limited access to the players.

The story about Pavan was well-written, it was insightful, and it uncovered a potential problem in college sports.

And as soon as there is a hint of controversy or negative coverage reflected on the team, the SIDs decide to cut back the already limited access they provide.

You could argue that this is the job of the SIDs, to protect the players. But it’s seriously getting out of control.

If I ran a publication around Lincoln, and the SIDs insisted on “prepping” players before any interviews (especially reviewing the questions), I would simply not have a reporter cover that sport.

One thing is for sure – Nebraska women’s volleyball needs the media a lot more than the media needs them.

Oh, and Pavan? She signed a contract to play professionally in Italy. Looks like someone got the last laugh.

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