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Kristian & Seth: Coach O made a serious error limiting press access

"Coach O is now the SEC's version of Vladimir Putin"

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The LSU Tigers opened fall football practice today. Typically a day of celebration and anticipation for the fans and the media covering the team.  Today it looked and felt different.

On Friday the school announced that fall practices would be closed to the media for the first time in school history.  The decision kind of flew under the radar when it was announced late Friday evening and didn't get a lot of attention over the weekend but after two days to digest and unpack it's time to talk about it.   Here are the thought's from the hosts of WWL's 'Double Coverage', Kristian Garic and Seth Dunlap

 

Kristian Garic

Like most college football coaches they're looking for that one competitive edge that wins games.  This is how it will be positioned from the LSU coach and administrators.  Every school in the conference has access to some if not all of their practices during the fall.  LSU is the only school in the SEC to completely shut out the media...in turn that shuts out you the fan!  The casual fan that can't get information or up close and personal to the team without media coverage.  It shuts out the boosters, the season ticket holders and forces us to blindly follow the narrative the school wants to control under Coach O.  What competitive advantage can the team really gain from keeping the media out? What long term goal does this accomplish?

Remember back in November of last year when Coach O was just the interim head coach? Orgeron gave the media so much more access than he did his predecessor in Les Miles.  Now that he's the guy and no longer the interim guy things have changed.  The media that he courted, and in some ways helped him get a shot at his dream job is no longer a help to him so he shuts them out of the chance to do their jobs as scribes and connect the fans to their team.  That's hypocrisy at it's highest point.

I don't know why anyone would be willing to sign up to be kept in the dark about something this important to them.  The coach can say whatever he wants to the media without being held accountable from the media.  It completely disarms the reporters and writers covering the team from asking the pertinent and relevant questions.  The media and the fans have to rely on what the coaches and players are saying opposed to what they're seeing.  

Don't start screaming, "He's trying to get a competitive advantage to protect players that may be or get injured!" Stop with that! That stuff will still get out. Well Kristian maybe he doesn't want to be asked about how Arden Key is looking so far coming off an injury.  He's still going to be asked about it, and likely because the media can't call his bluff can spit out anything he wants and the we are just gonna have to sit and take it as truth. It's a bad look! A VERY bad look!  I look at this and immediately think what are they trying to hide? Is there something that we should know about here?  

This decision is silly, and serves absolutely no long term benefit to the team. Like it or not, if you don't alienate the media and form relationships with them it can help you when you're going through a rough stretch in the season.  Ed Orgeron signals the Honey Moon love affair is over with this move.  As a member of the media here is what this move does for me if I were covering the team on a day to day basis. I would dig a little harder now to see what went into this decision and not just take their word for it.  If I find something I find something. If I don't I don't.  O made very few friends and increased the pressure to win and run a great program after most in the media were pretty much willing to give O a pass in his initial season at the helm. 

Remember this conversation in November! The Tigers have to win now! They have to! With this move it's a must. If they don't it will be open season on Coach O in the media and fan base.  They're going to point to this decision as one that comes back to bite him. 

I'm not sure why we are so willing to give this guy such freedom to lock you out of your program, the team you passionately care about. You have to think deeper about this. What does this set up in the future for coverage of other SEC teams. Coaches copy and follow more than any other industry.  Coaches are the most paranoid profession in existence, and this is the height of paranoia and silliness. If you aren't worked up over this you should be. Any time an organization or school or public institution willfully and intentionally wants to keep you in the dark and un-informed you should be bothered and un-nerved. 

The school says they're going to provide video's and photo's of player the media requests.  I can promise you there won't be one video of a player that dropped a pass, or made a mental mistake or threw a bad pass or missed a tackle.  This is a complete insult to the fans and a totally flexing of the muscle from LSU.  The NCAA sits on their hands and does nothing per usual! 

 

Seth Dunlap

Well Kristian, that's certainly a hard act to follow.   What has amazed me most the past 48 hours or so is the reaction from fans across the region to this.  I use the word amazed and not surprised because, frankly, we all know that when fans have to choose between siding with their team's coach and the media, it's the coach that almost always wins.  I'm amazed because a free sports media press is what has built college football into the empire that is is today.

Think about it for a second.  Who promotes the LSU Tigers, the Southeastern Conference, and college football on a daily basis?  It's not the men inside the LSU athletics office.  It's the media. . .the free press that Coach Orgeron and the LSU administration are in full revolt against right now.

How many of your favorite sports talk radio shows are hosted by LSU employees?  What about those web articles Tiger fans scour the internet for each and every day?  Those TV talking heads you love watching when you get home at night?

Before you go piling on the media, America's new favorite past time, think about how happy you'd be listening to a three hour radio show from LSU's Sports Information Director and reading his press releases every day instead of cosnuming LSU coverage the way you usually do.  If you agree with Coach O's decision here, then you need to be OK with a future where that's the norm.

Make no mistake about it, Coach O and the LSU administration that are backing him right now are playing a very dangerous game.  The only information that you will receive on LSU football the next three weeks will be disseminated to you by basically a local sports version of state-run media.  There won't be any objectivity, nor will there be any fact-checking on if what they are telling us is true.  

Danny Etling getting snaps with the first team today?  That's what Coach O said.  But maybe Etling was hurt.  Or maybe he played so poorly in practice yesterday that Matt Canada put him with the second team unit.  That is information fans of this public university's football team deserve to know, and deserve to know truthfully.  There are now no checks on the information you are getting daily on LSU football.

Coach O is now the SEC's version of Vladimir Putin, and LSU is its Russia.  

Think that's hyperbolic?  Probably, but only because there are at least remenants of free press in Russia at the moment.

Look, I'm not trying to take unwarrented shots at Orgeron as he tries to quickly rebuild LSU into a championship contender but he has made a serious error with this decision.  He has turned the sports-media into a hostile entity.  We should be writing and talking today about LSU's first practice and giving you stories on what we saw during their training camp, not discussing this mess.  As a person who covers this team on a daily basis I want them to succeed.  I want the local boy, Ed Orgeron, to be successful at this mountaintop he's ascended to.  It's a great story.  I'm rooting for him, I don't mind saying that.  Yet, this was a serious blunder early in his tenure.  That's just a fact.

LSU is the only team in the SEC to not open its practices to the media.  Furthermore, this is the first time in LSU's history that they've closed off their practices to the media.  

There isn't a single documented case in the history of college football where a team lost a game because they let media into a practice.  That's the truth.  This is some weird power grab by Coach O.  It doesn't help his team, it doesn't help his players, and it sure does hurt the fans as they try to consume the sport they love.  Remember, in the end that's what this does.  It limits your daily consumption of the sport, and team, you love.  This is entertainment, not a secret meeting of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  It's football, people.  A game.

College football has built a gargantuan empire the past two decades in large part due to the promotion and non-stop coverage by the media.  Smart coaches embrace that, even if they have to grit their teeth while doing it.  

Just ask Nick Saban.

 

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