Duck student-athletes not to talk to reporters without permission

Update: Reporter Jack Pitcher’s story on this is now up on the Emerald website, here.

3/20/2017: That has been the policy of the athletic department for years. Supposedly it will now change.

This post is related to UO General Counsel Kevin Reed’s investigation of the Duck Athletic Department’s efforts to intimidate student-reporters and prevent student-athletes from talking to the press. The UO Senate called for an investigation back in November, and President Schill commissioned it from the GCO. Jack Pitcher should have a story in the Emerald later today. Meanwhile here’s some history.

Back in 2011, Duck Football spokesperson Dave Williford took to the pages of the NYT to attack a research paper by 3 UO economists that showed a link between Duck football wins and declining grades for UO’s male students. President Lariviere made him apologize. Not clear how Pres Schill will discipline Williford over the Jacoby case.

Then of course there’s Coach Dana Altman’s successful effort to keep his players from talking to reporters after their #BlackLivesMatter protest. The GC’s report doesn’t investigate this. Odd.

Despite what the GC’s report claims, keeping control of the athlete’s ability to speak freely has been “a long-standing policy” for the athletic department for years. Below is a repost from 2012, back when the Senate was debating Randy Geller’s random drug testing policy for athletes. (Sorry the links are broken now, try the wayback machine.)

The GC’s office doesn’t seem to have obtained any emails or documents from the athletic department regarding those incidents that they do investigate – they simply rely on interviews (and one snippet from a Williford powerpoint). That’s a rather surprising lack of due diligence, given how eager the GC was to use the public records law to get copies of my emails with reporters about academic freedom.

That said, the GC’s report does make some helpful if milquetoast recommendations for improvements in the athletic department’s policies. It’s hard to believe they will be enforced however, given the GC report’s failure to hold the athletic department accountable for their efforts to intimidate Jacoby and other reporters – or even accurately describe the athletic department’s actual policies and practices.

10/9/2012 Teach your children well:

Posted yesterday on the UO athletic department’s GoDucks.com website:

There is misinformation about the University of Oregon Athletic Department’s interview policy for student-athletes, coaches and administrators. To provide clarity to this long-standing policy, all interview requests are to be arranged through the Athletic Communications office.

The practice, which is the same at all Pac-12 member institutions, is in place to help manage the interview process for individuals. Student-athletes face the unique challenge of balancing extremely busy schedules involving class, studying, practice, training room and competition. Student-athlete welfare is paramount, and that includes eliminating potentially intrusive situations.

If contacted by a media member unaware of the policy or in blatant disregard for the policy, student-athletes and athletic department personnel are instructed to contact the Athletic Communications office to properly schedule the interview. In no way does the policy require student-athletes or department personnel to refrain from sharing their views or opinions on a topic.

It’s all about protecting the athletes from excessive talking. Orwell would love that last sentence – it doesn’t require they keep quiet, it just makes it real clear that the AD will know what they say and that there may be consequences. I’d interview some “student-athletes” what they think of having big brother Craig Pintens looking over their shoulder, but … .

From what I can tell Rob Mullens and his crew felt the need to re-iterate this policy after the recent public meeting on random duck drug testing, where the lone athlete present refused to speak with Register Guard reporter Diane Dietz:

University of Oregon tennis player Lena Macomson listened intently Wednesday at a sparsely attended public hearing on the university’s new policy to require drug tests on a random basis from student athletes.

And though she appeared to be the only athlete in the room — and so the only one potentially subject to the proposed requirement to give a urine sample — she didn’t take the floor to testify as to how she felt about the matter.

Macomson said afterward that she could not speak to a reporter without first getting the permission of Andy McNamara, assistant athletic director for media relations.

Dietz got one player to speak later on the phone, obviously he caught hell for it. I wonder who tells Craig and Andy what they can say to whom?