BRENTWOOD – It’s an early rite of college football season. Conferences bring in coaches and top players to answer questions from reporters, meet, greet and munch on a buffet. The media take home lots of stories to write. The leagues, schools and teams enjoy loads of publicity.
Nothing is free and now that schools are slashing budgets the Media Day tradition is going away — at least this year — for some mid-major conferences trying to save money.
“Our main job is to distribute revenue back to the schools,” Kyle Schwartz, the Ohio Valley Conference’s assistant commissioner for media relations, said Thursday. “Anything we save by not having an in-person media day, we can give back to the schools. Maybe that’ll help them with some of the tough economic decisions they’re having to make.”
The OVC is not alone in scrapping its annual media days.
The Big Sky Conference had Montana playing for the Football Championship Series title last December but canceled its session planned for Park City, Utah. The Southern Conference — home to three-time national champ Appalachian State — cut its media day in a batch of cost-saving measures.
But even some Football Bowl Subdivision leagues are cutting back to save money. The Sun Belt Conference, with 11 schools, announced June 10 that the annual trip to New Orleans will be replaced by a video conference with coaches and players.
“We’d been on quite a string on doing it here in New Orleans and people liked coming down,” Sun Belt assistant commissioner John McElwain said. “It kind of gave people a chance to mix business with pleasure as New Orleans is certainly known for many things.”
Media days help fill the thirst in late July for football stories before college teams start practicing in August.
Leagues are going high tech to replicate media days.
The Sun Belt will use video streaming, allowing reporters to watch online. The Southern Conference is considering a similar approach for July 28. The OVC is working on a teleconference call for coaches and players still to be scheduled in either late July or early August.
Conference USA will use a video teleconference to make coaches and selected players available on July 30.
“We certainly understand the economic issues that face media members and all of us right now, so we want to take advantage of new media and still be able to provide great access,” assistant commissioner Russ Anderson wrote in an e-mail.
But not everyone has been forced to turn the page just yet.
The Southeastern Conference’s annual three-day event remains on schedule for Birmingham for July 22-24. The Atlantic Coast Conference gathers July 26 and 27. The Western Athletic Conference scratched its basketball media day in a budget move but will gather in Salt Lake City between July 28 and 30 to talk football.
Conferences started studying the costs and benefits last year. Budget numbers late in 2008 accelerated decisions.
Some leagues are saving more than others.
The Big Sky estimates at least $30,000. The Sun Belt more than $30,000. The OVC has three members less than an hour away, helping keep its costs to approximately $14,000 to pay for a meeting site, food and hotel rooms.
The travel parties at these conferences are not big. But even a bare-bones group includes the head coach, a player, the athletic director and a sports information director with costs quickly topping a couple thousand dollars.
League officials hope the economy rebounds, allowing them to go back to the traditional media day though decisions past this year have not been made.
“It’s kind of a wait and see deal,” Big Sky assistant commissioner Jon Kasper said. “To me, once these things get cut they’re really, really hard to bring back.”
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