Internet reporting has NCAA exploring what rights are left

The Kickoff

June 12, 2007|By PETER SCHMUCK

Frankly, I didn't know college baseball was such a hot media commodity, though I did watch the gripping Cal State Fullerton vs. UCLA super-regional playoff game on ESPN2 on Sunday night.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association has become so protective of its rights deal that an NCAA official revoked the credential of a Louisville Courier-Journal reporter and ejected him from the press box on Sunday for blogging from the University of Louisville baseball field during a super-regional game.

Obviously, the NCAA and its broadcast rights-holders (i.e. ESPN) feel that blogs are equivalent to live broadcasts of the games and infringe on their exclusive broadcast rights. There may be a molecule of truth to that, but what is the real likelihood that anyone would choose a blog over a television broadcast? Or, for that matter, what is the likelihood that a national rights-holder has a Web blogger who is concentrating on University of Louisville baseball and might suffer from the local competition?

No doubt, the legal types will tell you that the rights-holder has to vigilantly protect the value of the broadcast rights that it purchased, but this might be the wrong battleground for that fight.

Ejecting newspaper reporters from college baseball press boxes seems pretty extreme, especially when you consider that about 95 percent of college baseball programs are begging for any type of media coverage.

The NCAA may be within its rights to control what happens in a college press box, but a heavy-handed attempt to control independent media coverage could come back to haunt the dozens of smaller sports that depend heavily on it for any kind of public support.

New media frontier

It should be obvious to sports fans that the nature of media has changed in the Internet age, but that should only magnify the importance of independent coverage when national rights-holders also own some of the biggest sports news sites on the Web.

The Courier-Journal has hinted at a test case to see just how the First Amendment applies to Internet reporting from publicly owned facilities. In a constantly evolving cyber-world, that's something a lot of us would like to know.

No surprise

The second game of the NBA Finals took a huge ratings hit on Sunday night, which should come as a shock to no one, since it went head-to-head with the long-anticipated series finale of HBO's The Sopranos.

The overnight rating showed a 24 percent drop in viewership in the nation's 55 largest television markets compared to last year's Game 2 between the Miami Heat and Dallas Mavericks.

Considering that Game 1 got the worst rating ever for a Finals opener in prime time, the NBA probably ought to consider itself lucky it wasn't outdrawn by my Titans on ESPN2.

See ya' Agent Zero?

I suppose it's hard not to roll your eyes at the rationale employed by Wizards star Gilbert Arenas to justify his announcement that he'll opt out of his contract next year and test the free-agent market.

Arenas pointed to the birth of his second child as one of the reasons that he will try to maximize his value by pulling out of his $65 million deal a year early. Obviously, he's not going to get much sympathy from Wizards fans when he's already made $40 million from the original contract and stands to make $25 million more over the next two seasons, but he'll get no criticism here.

He signed a contract that allows him to test the market one year early. He has every right to do that and shouldn't be criticized if he does. The Wizards agreed to that deal, too.

Mutiny on the bounty

The auction house that placed a $1 million bounty on Barry Bonds' record-breaking home run ball has been persuaded to rescind it by baseball security officials who are concerned about the safety of fans scrambling for the valuable souvenir.

Not that it's going to make one bit of difference that Heritage Auction Galleries will not guarantee the million. Everybody knows the ball is a lottery ticket, so somebody could get squashed - or drowned, depending on where it lands - in the battle for it.

peter.schmuck@baltsun.com

Listen to Peter Schmuck on WBAL (1090 AM) at noon on Saturdays and Sundays.

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