Tweets From Hog Practice Closes Door on Media, Fans
Bobby Petrino’s first season at Arkansas wasn’t a lot different from previous coaches at Arkansas with regard to access to the program by the media and the fans. Spring ball in 2008 was pretty much open to everyone although videotaping was restricted to the first 20 minutes.
August camp that year was open for the first two weeks and then the gates were shut as Petrino and his staff geared up for the season opener.
Four seasons later the policy is a lot more restrictive. Fans and the media were allowed to view the first two practices this spring. The two Saturday scrimmages are open and of course the Red-White game.
The changes are largely the result of Petrino’s displeasure with the tweeting that took place during an open practice last August after running back Knile Davis broke an ankle and was lost for the season.
I was at that practice. Fans sitting all around me began to tweet and text message the news that Davis had gone down during a scrimmage and had been carried inside the Broyles Center.
Seeing this reporters had little choice but to follow suit. But it was what happened next that changed Petrino’s attitude about open practices.
On a Razorback message board the word was quickly posted that an x-ray had revealed that Davis had suffered a broken ankle.
To this day I am convinced that this information came from someone working for the athletic department. Certainly we in the media didn’t have that information that quickly and I doubt anyone tweeting in the stands knew. But it didn’t really matter who did it. Petrino was furious because Davis’ parents didn’t learn the news from him.
Twitter, texting and the various forms of social media are not going away. Open practices are. That’s just the way it is.
As a reporter I can still do my job as long as Petrino and his staff make themselves and the players available to us on a regular basis after the practices. So far they’ve done that and there is no indication that the policy is going to change.
The consensus on messages boards seems to be who cares anyway? Petrino’s teams are winning. Whatever he wants to do with regard to practice policies is fine with them. Barring some sort of the professional survey there is no way to know how most other Hog fans feel about this issue but I suspect that a large majority of them don’t care either.
The old days when fans could attend all spring and August practices are over. The same goes for the media. I have some great memories of those days. Like the time quarterback Brad Taylor was out with an injury and his backup broke a finger taking a snap during the early part of a Monday practice. I was shooting video at the time. I continued to shoot as team trainer Dean Weber came over and examined the kid’s injured finger. The tape was still rolling as Lou Holtz conversed with Weber.
Finally Lou walked toward me. He was not happy. I figured he’d chew me out for video taping what had just happened. Instead he strolled up in front of my camera and announced that he was now down to his third quarterback for the upcoming game even though he wasn’t sure who the third team quarterback was. I took that video back to my office and aired it on the 6 pm news. It was a huge scoop.
These days something like that would be impossible.
Times change and people in my business have no choice but to change with it. There are a lot of good things about the way we in the Hog media do our jobs today and there are a lot of things about the old days that I don’t miss at all.
The bottom line is Petrino’s teams win.