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Closing Camp to the Media is Potentially a Huge Mistake

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NCAA Football: Big Ten Media Day David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Rutgers fans love seeing the local media get their “comeuppance.” To a lot of fans, they are perceived as the enemy—whether that’s true or not. (Spoiler: It’s not true.) So, when NJ.com announced that new head football coach Chris Ash was limiting media access during summer camp, fans got a kick out of it.

But, this move by Ash may seem like a smart one on the surface—it helps the team come together without distraction and possibly hinders the opponents from knowing some plays—it has to potential to blow up in Rutgers face.

Is that old nervous instinct in your gut rumbling a little, Rutgers fans? It is for me. Let’s try to play this out logically and explain why Rutgers fans should be a little nervous.

Had Ash opened camp to the media more than the six times he has planned, the reporters who cover our beloved Scarlet Knights would be busy. You’d see stories on position battles, feel good articles on what players overcame during the season, and maybe a column or two on how practice has changed under Ash as opposed to what former head coach Kyle Flood ran. Whatever the Ash equivalent of Club Ice is, the media would cover that.

So, in essence, there’d be a ton of content for fans, good press for Ash, and plenty for the reporters to do over the next few weeks. What’s a possible consequence? Maybe a trick play or formation leaks out before the Washington game—but during year one, when the team is a bit undermanned, I don’t think that’s the end of the world.

Now, let’s play this out as is. Ash has really cut down on the amount of time the media has at camp. But, guess what? The media still has a job to do. They still have to write stories. Maybe they write about Michigan or Penn State, and catch some recruit’s eye toward that school.

Maybe they write about women’s soccer or lacrosse or Steve Pikiell’s summer vacation (please write about his summer vacation, I’ll read it 1,000 times). And then fans ire gets up because, hey, why aren’t they covering football?

Or, when stuck without something football related (and you guys love to tell me how important football is), what does a good reporter do?

He or she starts digging.

One fan on Twitter told Keith Sargeant to work his sources. Sarge is a good reporter and that’s exactly what he’s going to do. He’ll look for word from donors or others who are at camp and try to get the scoop. But let’s say that source says something—even off the record—that is a bit of talking out of school.

Something that catches the reporter’s ear.

That reporter is going to keep digging. Rutgers is a public institution, and they often give up public documents—even our own Bob Cancro is a fan of the Open Public Records Act. This is how the story of Flood and the academic issue came up last season. Sources talk. Reporters dig.

They often find things no one wanted them to find.

Now, Rutgers is in a much different position than they were last year during Flood and Julie Hermann’s tumultuous era. One hopes that the Scarlet Knights’ athletic department has their ducks in a row. But you never know. It’s an unlikely outcome, but it seems like Ash is taking a risk not that he doesn’t need to take.

Maybe it’s the paranoid Rutgers fan in me. I have no inside information, and I am more optimistic about the future of basketball, football and the rest of the department than I ever have been. But I’m still a Rutgers fan and I still have that paranoid nervousness in my gut about this stuff.

Should this happen, the initial reaction from fans would probably be to call the reporters vengeful. But it’s truly not. It’s people trying to do their jobs and make a living. They have to work and if they come across a story, they have to follow it up and write about it. That’s why Ash should essentially hand them a daily story.

It seems to me that Ash might be opening himself up to long term trouble for short term gain. Instead of giving the media something easy to write about each day, they are opening themselves up to a possible problem—whether it’s turning recruits to another school, ignoring the football program entirely until September, or finding a deep seeded problem that no one knew about.

Let the reporters come to practice, Chris Ash. It’s the easy solution to a potential problem.