PHILADELPHIA (AP) – In most news items, their names and titles are simply reduced to flacks, spokespeople or school officials.

But most sports information directors provide an invaluable service to the media and the fans they serve even if they are ultimately anonymous to most of the general public.

There are more than 1,800 members of the College Sports Information Directors of America and most of them would rather promote academic All-Americans instead of fielding calls about the latest scandal.

But when a coach goes off the deep end or players end up in the police blotter instead of the box score, the SID is usually the first one who gets the call.

And when the soccer player that no one has ever heard of is named a conference’s honorable mention selection, it’s the SID’s job to pump up the news like it was a front-page story and try to get it in the newspaper and on television.

“Our job is to provide as much positive publicity as we can for our schools, for our student-athletes and for our coaches,” said Ball State’s Joe Hernandez

Hernandez took over as president of CoSIDA at this week’s College Sports Information Directors of America’s annual workshop in Philadelphia that dealt with various media-related topics, from gambling to handling sensitive situations.

La Salle’s Kale Beers and Temple’s Larry Dougherty were part of Wednesday’s panel that talked about just how prickly the media-university relationship can become when scandal hits schools.

For La Salle, it was last year’s mess that saw three basketball players charged with rape and the resignation of both the women’s and men’s basketball coaches.

For Temple, it was basketball coach John Chaney’s use of a “goon” who broke the arm of a Saint Joseph’s player.

Phone calls flood the office worse than telemarketers at dinner time, only they can’t hang up on the media members and school officials demanding instant information – even if they don’t have it or aren’t allowed to talk about it.

Beers’ school-issued cell phone was temporarily disconnected, even with the bill paid in full, when he went too far over his allotted minutes.

“It was that out of control,” he said. “It was in the hundreds on a given day, on my home phone even.” Every person on the beat with a pen and pad or a microphone wants just a minute of someone’s time. Those little minutes rapidly turn into chunks of a day, especially in a big market like Philadelphia.

Beers acknowledged La Salle made a mistake by not making officials available to the media earlier in the investigation which only forced some media outlets to grasp at any type of source, reliable or not.

His advice to several hundred SIDs in attendance was to make officials available, even for a bland sound bite.

“The thing that hurt us was we weren’t talking,” he said.

The situation at Temple seemingly changed by the hour. Was Chaney suspended? Would he coach in the postseason? Those were questions Dougherty didn’t always have the answers to, but he said he made sure the media did once he was aware of any developments.

While the SIDs know the media is needed to promote their product, the increase of coverage from cable television, magazines and the Internet has put an added pressure on the profession.

“A good SID will be there for their media both ways,” Hernandez said. “The ultimate goal is to put as positive a spin as we can on it to protect our student-athletes and our coaches.”

AP-ES-07-06-05 1943EDT


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