Let’s take a gander at what
the NCAA feeds the media.

By Marc Katz

I could tell you what’s wrong with the NCAA and why that institution needs to change its ways to comply more with how its subjects are operating and not the other
way around.

I think you could find all you want to read on the internet about that.

But we’re near the end of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, and when you’re talking about theater, this month sure is something you won’t see on the Schuster, Victoria, or Loft stages.

Having said that, let’s take a gander back stage and look at what the NCAA chooses to feed the media.

That’s what I’m talkin’ about.

I covered more than 1,000 college football and basketball games when I was working fulltime as a sports writer, and no place treated media better than UD.

I’m specifically referencing the time sports information director Doug Hauschild and his crew managed to have ice cream cups delivered to the wretches slobbering over pizza and chips.

I actually remember the ice cream as a soft serve machine, but Doug insists it was cupped ice cream, “and it was delicious.”

This was all part of the late Tom Frericks plan to always treat the media well. Frericks was UD’s athletics director and, as I recall, he used a room outfitted with a folding table for his desk while his office was being renovated. Very fancy guy.

Of course, the NCAA did away with some of what Frericks provided, including ice cream. The bloated bovines who ran that organization wanted to standardize their food fare among the regions, and not everybody else wanted to bring in ice cream.

In today’s world, ice cream in the media room would be like ordering a $31,000 dining room table and chairs for a high government office.

I don’t know what they were serving one year at Syracuse, because that regional was played in the football stadium that the school reconfigured into a basketball arena for its NCAA games.

While I was covering Ohio State at the time, I was also responsible to write about all the games being played at the site, which meant four games being played a half hour apart on the first day, and two games the second.

There was just enough time to grab a sandwich between games as in the half hour between them, you had to attend a post-game press conference, finish the story on the first game and prepare to write about the second game. On four-game days, there was no time to chit chat, or even eat without at least one hand on the computer.

The Syracuse stadium, as I recall, sat 50,000 for football, a little more than half that for basketball as a curtain was drawn across the field. The media lunch room was way on the non-used part of the football field, on the second level. Cookies were served on press row.

Not that I’m against cookies, but I wondered aloud to the official in charge of the games (yeah, I remember who it was and which school he represented and I never really cared for either) how we were supposed to eat and cover the games with that distance
in the way.

He laced into me and said he had just had a wonderful meal and I should be appreciative of the fact it was offered.

Yeah, well, I’m a media pig, so there.

Most of the time I was happy with a bowl of chips and a bowl of pretzels separated by a free-flowing soda machine. If there were a bunch of lukewarm cheese pizza pies lying around and maybe a bowl of M&Ms, I was all-in.

There was also one fine restaurant visit I remember when, in 1992, Ohio State was playing in the Southeast Regional at Lexington, Kentucky.

It was the day between our games, and after attending practices and writing off-day stories, we decided to go to an Italian place for dinner, Bravo Pitino’s, partially owned by then UK coach Rick Pitino.

Don’t hold me to our restaurant choice, because every restaurant in town was jammed, and we may have passed on Pitino’s for a place with a shorter waiting list.

First, though, we were riveted to the Duke-UK game in the East Regional from Philadelphia on television.

Yep, that was Christian Laettner’s buzzer-beating launch in overtime to put a 104–103 dagger in the heart of every UK fan.

What I forgot was UK was coming off a two-year post-season ban for stuff Eddie Sutton had done as a coach, and UK’s following was even more rabid than usual.

My pals and I certainly were buzzing about Laettner’s shot when we reached the packed—and deathly quiet—restaurant.

It’s unusual I don’t remember what I had to eat at a meal. All I remember from that night was I ate mostly in silence.

Oh, yeah, you could hear the forks hit the plates.

I sure wasn’t going to irk a bunch of Kentucky fans by making more noise than that.

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Marc Katz
Columbus-born Marc Katz had a 44-year newspaper career, 41 of those years covering sports, 40 of them at the Dayton Daily News. He now blogs at KatzCopsNSports.com. Reach Dayton City Paper sports writer Marc Katz at MarcKatz@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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