The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Wednesday December 7th

NCAA Rules Don't Apply To the Press

Last week, Maikranz, the adviser for The University Times, UNC-C's student newspaper, sent an e-mail to the College Media Adviser's Listserv voicing concern about the NCAA's policies.

According to the e-mail, one of Maikranz's student reporters frequently writes recruiting stories using a reliable source. This has drawn the attention of the athletic department, which called upon the NCAA.

The NCAA's Brad Hostetter, according to Maikranz, replied, "This isn't permissible because the institution would be releasing information on prospects prior to signing. We discussed this in our staff meeting this morning, and that was the view of everyone there."

But not everyone with the NCAA necessarily agrees with what Hostetter told Maikranz. A consultant I was referred to on Friday by the NCAA seemed shocked to learn that any member of the NCAA would harbor such an opinion, let alone the entire organization. But maybe he wasn't in on the meeting that Hostetter attended.

The consultant quickly hung up with me with the promise of finding out more and returning my call. For whatever reason, that didn't happen.

According to Maikranz's email, UNC-C's athletics department reacted cautiously and warned the students to act within the same guidelines of the university, which is a member of the NCAA. But the university can't enforce this request says Mark Goodman, director of the Student Law Press Center.

"A public college or university cannot control what the paper publishes, even if it funds the paper entirely," Goodman said. "As a result, the NCAA can't force the university to try to require such limitations."

The university agreed to the NCAA's policies when it joined the organization, but the paper, like any other media, did not. The NCAA should not assume it can silence student newspapers because they appear university-managed.

According to the Joyner v. Whiting decision made in 1973 by the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, schools cannot withhold or terminate funding based on content. So, even the issue of funding cannot empower the school to control content. The paper is not under the school's jurisdiction, and it certainly is not under the NCAA's jurisdiction.

The interesting part is that the athletic department's story is a little different. Tom Whitestone, assistant athletic director for media relations, says the paper requested intervention.

He said the paper brought some flyers promoting NinerOnline, the University Times' affiliate, to the department's attention with questions of their legitimacy. Whitestone said the department took the flyers to the NCAA, which expressed concern about the media promising updated recruiting information. The NCAA has since asked that this practice be ended, expecting the paper to operate per university rules.

"This might be well and good for the athletics department, but we want the student media to be treated like any other media," Whitestone said.

The athletic department filed an appeal with the NCAA last week.

Outstanding. But when did it become sports information's job to fight for the newspaper? What action is the paper taking? To my knowledge nothing, although Maikranz has told the students to continue their practices, but worries they might lose their press credentials.

But Goodman assures me the paper can fight any retribution by the NCAA.

The point is that a precedent has been set. I dare the NCAA to try to break it. But even more than that, I encourage Maikranz and his students to continue fulfilling their responsibilities as journalists. Make the NCAA find out the limitations of its power.

Kellie Dixon can be reached at kldixon@email.unc.edu.

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