Bradley University is heading to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 13 years, but what should have been a week of celebration for the Braves and their fans turned sour after the school’s athletic department limited access to the team for the man that had been covering it for nearly three decades.
Dave Reynolds, a beat reporter for the Peoria Journal Star, writes that he was told by the team’s sports information director “basically we don’t want you here.”
“One of the players I wanted to talk with was Nate Kennell, and I motioned to Jason, ‘I’d like to talk to Nate.’ [Veniskey] said, ‘I want to talk to you for a minute.’
“He pulled me aside and said their policy of me not given extra coverage opportunity was still in place, and I was not allowed to do any interviews. I told him, ‘The newspaper received the invitation.’ He said, ‘That was directed to (Huett), not to you.’ I said, ‘He doesn’t cover the team. I have for 29 years.’
“He responded by saying, ‘You don’t promote the Bradley brand, and basically we don’t want you here.’ I said, ‘Jason, that’s not my job to promote the Bradley brand. You know that.’Peoria Journal Star
It is a gripe that was echoed by the team’s coach Brian Wardle. Reynolds told his colleagues that Wardle had complained to him that he was always looking for the negative slant to stories about the team.
Bradley University issued a statement about the incident on Twitter. The school doesn’t seem to be backing down from its position.
Just four hours later though, the school changed its tune, when President Gary Roberts issued a statement of his own directly to The Journal Star.
“The article in the Peoria Journal Star on Saturday, March 16, relating to the Bradley men’s basketball program’s interaction with Peoria Journal Star writer Dave Reynolds took me by surprise. I knew there were issues between Dave and Coach Wardle in the past and I was under the impression that those issues had been resolved.
“I do not know for sure what happened between Dave Reynolds and representatives of the men’s basketball program other than what is recounted in the article. I am also unaware and unclear about any policy that the men’s basketball program has informally applied to Dave or anyone else. I will certainly look into the matter. What I can say at this time is the following:
“1. I personally and Bradley University institutionally do not believe that it is the job or duty of anyone in the media or any media outlet to promote Bradley’s brand. It is the media’s job to report the news and facts in a truthful and unbiased way and occasionally to express opinions that are reasoned and based on accurate facts as best they know them.
“2. There is certainly no formal policy at Bradley University that allows for barring or limiting access to any member of the media or any media outlet. If that has occurred, it was inconsistent with Bradley’s general attitude toward the media and what I would regard as the implicit policy of the University.
“3. Going forward, all employees of Bradley University will be informed that it is Bradley’s policy that all members of the media are to be treated on a non-discriminatory basis when it comes to access to information and people.
“I hope this clarifies the position of Bradley University that some have called into question.
“Bradley’s men’s basketball team has come a long way and accomplished much this year. Everyone associated with Bradley should be proud and excited for this outstanding group of young men who have distinguished themselves not only on the basketball court but in the classroom and the community as well. We want very much to focus on these young men and their accomplishments and to prepare for our participation in the NCAA Tournament. This time should not be about a quarrel between adults that may have led to missteps that will not be repeated. Go Braves!”Bradley University President Gary Roberts’s statement to the Peoria Journal Star
Even if the school president hadn’t reversed the athletic department’s decision, there still wouldn’t have been a change to Dave Reynolds’s access to the team during the NCAA Tournament. The NCAA controls media access to the teams involved in the Tournament.
Reynolds issued his own statement in which he accepted Bradley’s apology and thanked Gary Roberts for creating a media policy for the school and its representatives.