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The Daily Wildcat

 

USC’s Lane Kiffin might not think so, but fans have a right to know

Tensions have always existed between football coaches and the media, but USC head coach Lane Kiffin took it to another level on Tuesday by suspending Los Angeles Daily News reporter Scott Wolf for two weeks of practice.

On Wednesday night, Wolf wrote on his blog that the ban was lifted after various local sports editors spoke with USC athletic director Pat Haden. Still, Wolf should never have been banned in the first place.

Here’s what Wolf wrote on Sunday, which lead to the suspension.

“USC kicker Andre Heidari underwent surgery last week to repair a torn meniscus in his knee and will be sidelined about three weeks.

Heidari suffered the injury in the season opener against Hawaii and did not accompany USC to its game against Syracuse on Saturday.

Walk-on Alex Wood filled in for Heidari and kicked six extra points. Coach Lane Kiffin does not discuss injuries and has not said what sidelined Heidari or when he will return.”

Seems harmless enough, right?

Something clearly happened to Heidari during the Hawaii game. So Wolf went out and found a source to confirm his suspicions, something people in my business refer to as journalism.

USC didn’t see it this way.

The Trojans punished Wolf because of his article. They banned him from attending practices for two weeks and revoked his credentials for their next home game, a Sept. 22 meeting with Cal.

Kiffin never addresses injuries and USC has a media policy stopping any reports on injuries or game-strategies gleaned from in-season practices, according to the LA Times.

Apparently Wolf got too close to this imaginary boundary and the Trojans pounced, even though he didn’t cite his information from practice and found the information from an outside source.

Naturally, not everyone agrees with this decision.

“From our standpoint, (Wolf) was doing his job,” said Gene Warnick, the sports editor for the Los Angeles Newspaper Group. “This wasn’t something that was part of practice. We were just trying to report the news.”

Not to completely fall into party lines, but I wholeheartedly agree with Warnick’s point and football fans everywhere should agree too.

The public has the right to know about the status of a team, especially in this day and age, and if the information is gotten legally, it should be fair game.

Of course, Arizona isn’t all warm and fuzzy about injury information either.

Trust me, don’t ask coach Rich Rodriguez about an injury during the week. The response will be short and you’ll feel very stupid for asking.

Though, after Wednesday’s practice he was at least able to make light of the matter. Before answering any questions from the media, Rodriguez joked, “Now don’t go asking me any questions about injuries.”

When it comes to withholding injury information, “You just have a policy that’s set for your team and it makes it easier on the [players’] families to follow that procedure the way we do, I think,” Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez seems to understand that the people have the right to know. He just prefers to let the family and friends know first before the media.

Still, every Thursday Arizona releases an NFL-inspired injury report. It’s not a perfect world of transparency — the media doesn’t have any open access from then until game day — but at least it gets the job done.

Unfortunately, around the Pac-12, it looks like coaches are starting to lean more toward secrecy.

Washington head coach Steve Sarkisian doesn’t like information being released from practice, so on Wednesday he joined the Kiffin train of thought as the Huskies sent out an oddly specific press release saying “all visitors and members of the media are hereforth prohibited from reporting on strategy or injury-related news observed during practice,” as per The News Tribune.

Teams in the Pac-12 trying to keep up with USC, what a surprise. I guess it doesn’t matter if it’s on the football field or with totalitarian policies — everyone wants to emulate the Trojans.

Let’s just hope accessibility remains the status quo here in Tucson.

— Kyle Johnson is a journalism junior. He can be reached at sports@wildcat.arizona.edu or via Twitter KyleJohnsonUA and WildcatSports

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