Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Dooley Treats Sportswriters Like Peons

Posted By on Wed, Sep 1, 2010 at 3:26 PM

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New Tennessee football coach Derek Dooley has caused a stir by giving favored sportswriters preferential access to the Vols. Here's the message to the media: If you ask softball questions and write positive stories about the team, Dooley might give you a little scoop or let you watch an otherwise closed practice. But the coach also warned "abuse brings control," so even these reporters better make sure they behave themselves.

This kind of high-handed treatment of the media is becoming a bad habit at the University of Tennessee, whose officials seem to think they're running a banana republic rather than a state-funded school. A Knoxville News Sentinel writer, Dave Hooker, was banned from Neyland Stadium a few years ago for having the audacity to interview a football player without the athletic department's permission.

And when Lane Kiffin quit as coach, department flack Bud Ford, a little bully, demanded that TV crews agree not to go live with the press conference. When one lonely media member dissented, an angry Ford barked: "You're in our building, you know that. Just remember that." And we thought it was our building.

On his blog, News Sentinel editor Jack McElroy calls Dooley's little stratagem troubling, and we're glad he has offered at least this mild objection. But it's time for the Tennessee media to get tough with the Vols. No way should they ever put up with this from Dooley or anyone else in the employ of state government. If the media band together, the university will have no choice but to do it the right way and treat everyone equally without regard to whether their coverage pleases Dooley. A sternly worded letter from the press and broadcast associations should land on Athletic Director Mike Hamilton's desk tomorrow.

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