Information is power, and a power struggle is underway between University of Georgia Football Coach Kirby Smart and the media.
Coach Smart has imposed new rules designed to limit the media from reporting what they see at practice. Smart wants to win, and he’d rather his SEC competition didn’t have a clue about what the Bulldogs are doing, including which of them are injured.
Reporters have a different agenda: serving the public, including the Bulldog Nation, with the truth. It’s a tense time.
Here are the specifics. Coach Smart recently made it official policy that, effective immediately, media outlets are no longer permitted to report injuries, “both non-contact and injuries seen in front of the media” unless he signs off on the report first.
You heard me right. Don’t do your job until you’ve checked with me.
Media outlets, bloggers, and even some sports fanatics near and far are outraged by the new rule —and who can blame them?
This is a huge pendulum swing from the current rules, which are simple: no phone calls or social media posts may be made from the field.
This policy change came after the media witnessed and reported on a shoulder injury suffered by freshman Deangelo Gibbs in practice. Coach Smart was not happy, saying:
It’s nice to know that you guys have found it in your hearts to report it. So his mom has to find out from you guys rather than from us, which upsets me a little bit to be honest with you. I don’t think it’s really fair.”
But even Coach Smart admits this rule has less to do with being sensitive to players’ families than it does with keeping information from the competition. Smart doesn’t want to give Nick Saban any information he doesn’t have to.
I get the desire to win, but UGA is a public institution with responsibilities that include transparency. There has to be a balance.
And don’t forget: this rule change comes just a year after Coach Smart personally lobbied for a state law that limits transparency. Heck, it’s even known as Kirby’s Law, and it allows university athletic programs to ignore Freedom of Information Act requests for up to 90 days, instead of three.
Call the UGA Athletics Association and let them know you think Kirby Smart is going too far. Remind them that media outlets should never have to get permission to publish any article about any topic.
Here is their phone number: (706) 542-9036
Bottom line: the thought of a football coach acting like some sort of government authoritarian is doggone ridiculous.
DISCLAIMER: This segment represents the views of the commentator and not necessarily those of FOX 5 Atlanta.