KNOXVILLE NEWS-SENTINEL Editor-in-Chief Jack McElroy reports that Tennessee football coach Derek Dooley recently decided to invite only his favorite reporters to watch a scrimmage that was otherwise closed to the media.
(Dooley blockading reporters a slippery slope or no biggie?)
McElroy reports that Dooley granted access to those reporters, “as a reward for their work thus far in the season.”
Most Tennessee followers, especially in light of Lane Kiffin’s awkward departure, want to give Derek Dooley the benefit of the doubt despite his only previous head coaching experience coming at Louisiana Tech. But as Dooley’s hire didn’t exactly excite most Volunteers fans, it was important for the coach to take a no-nonsense approach at the outset of his Knoxville tenure. (Up until now, Dooley had done that.)
So it’s surprising that Dooley has already taken up the unprecedented practice of evaluating the performance of reporters before coaching his first game. Even more surprising was Dooley’s decision to shut certain outlets out from covering a squad he’s yet to lead onto a live game field.
McElroy reports that last week Dooley said of the media embargo, “(University of Tennessee Associate Sports Information Director) John Painter has issued the first-annual Iron Vol of the Media. We’ve got a few people we wanted to recognize who will be attending our Wednesday night mock game for the entire session with the understanding that abuse brings control.”
Dooley blockading certain reporters from doing their job is extremely unfortunate for the fans who follow the team and viability of his own coaching career.
Through lack of experience, Dooley clearly has underestimated the power the media holds not only over a major college football program but a coach in his particular, tenuous position.
I don’t think it’s completely unreasonable to think that Dooley having a favorable relationship with the media might add a year or two to his coaching tenure if the Vols fail to reach the (unrealistically?) high expectations associated with the school’s football program.
Blocking certain media members from doing their job - while allowing their competitors unfettered access - is not only a dangerous precedent to set in a free society, but could also prove to hazardous to Dooley’s coaching career.