by Max Brantley
Wally Hall, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette sports editor and lead sports columnist, criticized the Razorbacks today and the criticism was well-placed.
It's about the University of Arkansas Athletic Department selling marketing rights for its sports teams to an international marketing firm, now IMG.
It operates out of state-owned buildings on a state-owned campus at a state-financed university that would be worthless as a professional sports franchise without the name University of Arkansas attached. Hall notes the favored status of the marketing firm and objects, specifically, to IMG's exclusive rights to Razorback football practice video.
You may or may not know that access to Razorback athletes, coaches and practices is heavily restricted. Even where coverage by media is allowed, not all media are viewed as equal with the same press box and practice access. But now one private agency is bragging about its exclusive access to football practice, having bought the privilege from your land grant university.
The University of Arkansas is a state institution with the same rules and regulations as any other institution.Would you want all the news out of the governor’s office to come from his website?
The Arkansas Razorbacks athletic programs belong to the people of Arkansas, and while no doubt some of those people would be happy with a steady diet of pablum, most of the Razorbacks Nation is intelligent enough to want the truth.
Maybe it is all IMG, but the truth is it feels like the University of Arkansas has become not only the story but the storyteller, and that’s not the role of the state’s largest academic institution.
Amen. But a complete telling of this story should also include the fact that major sportswriters like Hall have too often accepted the ground rules, written and understood, about Hog jockdom. Some people get in the press box, some don't. The favored offer no 1st Amendment arguments for the excluded. The UA sports "program" has always operated like a private enterprise beyond reach of public inspection. The cornerstone sham is hiding tens of millions of expenses and special deals behind the wall of the Razorback Foundation. The Foundation would be deprived of many of its millions without the special charges attached to preferred seating at football and basketball games. The ticket sales are handled by public employees for access to public facilities and public employees handle most of the working parts of the corporate colossus that is Razorback sports.
Wally Hall is worried about access to football practice.
Real transparency means access to Razorback Foundation records, including who gets access to the UA private plane service.