Sunday while the Louisville Cardinals were destroying the Oklahoma State Cowboys 20-2, the NCAA revoked the media credentials and ejected a reporter, Brian Bennett, from the press box because he was live-blogging the game. The NCAA's action has resulted in a fair amount of attention, with a lot of comments mostly about how stupid the NCAA is for doing this. Let's face it, the NCAA is an easy target. A lot of people believe that the NCAA is a bunch of moronic boobs running a Stalin-esque organization, but let's try not to be so reactionary because there is a whole lot of good that can come out of this. Let me explain:
Josh Centor over at the NCAA blog Double A Zone gives us an explanation of why the NCAA did what they did:
Due to the NCAA’s broadcasting agreement with ESPN, bloggers are not permitted to update their sites with in-game coverage from the baseball press box. In-game updates include providing readers with the score, inning of the game, roster moves, etc. The policy was enacted at a baseball game, but applies to all NCAA championship events.
Centor points out that the policy applies to all NCAA championship events. If that's the case, why did it get enacted now?
CSTV had planned on live-blogging the college baseball regionals, as had Baseball America. Now they can't because ESPN owns the broadcast rights and possibly asked the NCAA to enforce them. I don't have any inside info on that, but it would make business sense for ESPN to cut off some other major media outlets, wouldn't it? ESPN doesn't want you watching the game on their TV channel while browsing someone else's web site (especially a competitor) - even if ESPN has no plans for live blogging or much Internet coverage. It would be in their best interest to kill a competitor's (CSTV) ability to establish a foothold in the marketplace.
The NCAA didn't have much of a choice but to enforce their policy. If they didn't enforce it, they'd potentially be in breach of contract and I think we know how nasty ESPN can get about the fine points on contracts. In enforcing their policy, the NCAA opened themselves up to a lawsuit. I'm not a lawyer, but I'm guessing they have a pretty good chance at losing this one, and there's nothing wrong with that. It puts the issue into the courts and the blogosphere can end up with some guidelines as to what is allowed and not allowed regardless of what a broadcaster like ESPN wants to control.
The NCAA chose to oust the blogger and force the issue. Now they should get sued by a newspaper, preferably the Louisville Courier-Journal whose blogger got canned. They should lose that lawsuit and then we'll have a position on whether or not someone can live-blog an event as it's being broadcast on ESPN or any other network. It would be presumptuous of me to come right out and say that this is what the NCAA had in mind when they pulled this stunt, but I don't think it's that far-fetched, either.
Unfortunately, in order to believe the aforementioned possibility you'd first have to believe that the NCAA isn't an arcane and outdated organization being run by complete nincompoops. I wonder if I'm asking the impossible?