It’s not about promoting a school’s brand

THIS is the look you want your program to have heading the NCAA Tournament?

Bradley University, you just disgraced your fans who have waited since the 2005-06 season to return to this pinnacle. Your players, who have given everything they have each and every practice and then some, are overshadowed.

Why? It’s because a long-time beat reporter, Dave Reynolds from the Peoria (Illinois) Journal Star, has had his access reduced. Do I see Youngstown State doing this? Never. Most schools around the country aren’t this boneheaded.

Bradley University, you screwed up. You made what should’ve been a celebration about the Braves winning their first Missouri Valley Conference Championship in 31 years into a outlandish farce.

This was a team where former Green Bay Phoenix coach Brian Wardle, a former Horizon League coach, took over in the 2015-16 season and built a team from a five-win program his first year. The Braves are 20-14 this season, putting back-to-back 20-win seasons.

The talk this week should be Bradley’s rise back to the NCAA Tournament, making it back to glory after a Sweet 16 appearance in 2006. Instead, this fan base and players have to endure questions about why its long-time beat reporter Reynolds has limited media access.

Reynolds was told by the school’s assistant director of athletic communications Jason Veniskey that, “You don’t promote the Bradley brand, and basically we don’t want you here.” Some way to treat a beat reporter who has been there for almost three decades. That was in a commentary posted March 15 on pjstar.com.

I have covered YSU basketball for 20 years. There’s been nothing but a good relationship with both coaching staffs throughout the years. Frankly, to hear this situation at Bradley deeply disturbs me. A journalist job is NOT to promote the school’s brand. Your sports information department, the team itself or some other arm of the university is to do this for you, not a beat writer. He is not held accountable to the university.

As I’m writing this, the Bradley athletic department issued a statement on Saturday afternoon on its Twitter account.

“The Bradley Athletics staff appreciates the importance of having a media presence presenting fair and accurate coverage. We recognize that the media is not responsible for promoting the Bradley brand and that was never our expectation.”

Uh, I don’t know about that.

“We did not handle this situation appropriately and for that we apologize. Peoria Journal Star reporter Dave Reynolds will have equivalent media access to cover the Brave and Bradley Athletics will continue to work on its relationship with the Peoria Journal Star. We are one day away from Selection Sunday and our focus and attention needs to be on the success of our student athletes.”

Good. I certainly hope this isn’t lip service by the university and they actually mean what they say. A public apology to Reynolds is certainly due. Maybe your next news conference?

The job of the beat reporter is to fairly and accurately report on what happens on their beat. Reynolds has done that for years. He’s a three-time Illinois Sportswriter of the Year for gosh sake.

I’ve written for years how atrocious the YSU men’s basketball program has been, even a column about how former coach John Robic should be removed in 2004, one season before the current University of Kentucky assistant coach was released. I went down the following day to the weekly news conference. At no time was I ever restricted in my coverage of the team. Not then. Not ever.

Bradley, you need to tell your athletic staff how to properly handle the media. If you have, you need a refresher course.

As for the Braves fans and players, I sincerely hope you enjoy your run in the NCAA Tournament. Reynolds will tell you all about their exploits, as he should. That’s what he’s paid to do, not endorse Bradley’s brand.

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