Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Blackistone, et al.

I don’t get the Saturday paper at home. But I looked at the DMN website Saturday morning and saw only one small article and thought little of it. I figured I would write something, if anything, later. I didn’t think to look at the columnists. My mistake. Little did I know that Kevin Blackistone did his best impression of Ivan Drago in the first few rounds of the last fight in Rocky IV. Punch after punch after punch. Uppercuts, jabs, hits to the body. You name it.

My impression really is this. Turner pissed Blackistone off. SMU pissed Blackistone off. The article reads like Blackistone wanted to go on a rant about SMU in general and needed some material to fill 800 words so he asked Watkins what was wrong with SMU and then Blackistone filled in the gaps. Blackistone is a little revisionist about the record crowds in Fort Worth and in Austin that did not exist until recently.

Part of Blackistone's beed is that he wants an extension for Tubbs. It is also theorized that it was because Turner blamed part of SMU’s woes on the DMN- if the DMN covered SMU more, there would be more support. I think I have said several times, be careful what you ask for; there is little about SMU sports that is worth talking about positively. Those that complain of the lack of coverage would soon complain about the negative coverage. Looks like I was right.

Anyway, there is way to complain about such things, and the President of the University quipping about such things in a press setting ain’t it. You go to work; you lobby; you take them to lunch; you invite them to your offices; you meet them in their offices; you call relentlessly. And at the end of the day, it still may make little difference. During the brief time I was in politics, the staff I worked on used to marvel at (envy is another word) the press coverage George Bush got as Governor of Texas. Like him or hate him, he ran the press in the state of Texas like a well-oiled machine. He got better coverage for three reasons: (1) he was a bigger story than our relatively small race; (2) he (and his staff) worked harder at it; and (3) he (and his staff) was just better at it.

And that is how it is at SMU. As long as SMU athletics is a small story, as long as SMU athletics doesn’t work that hard to change things and as long as SMU athletics doesn’t do a very good job of selling itself, nothing is ever going to change. SMU athletics becomes a bigger story if it becomes relevant in Texas football and basketball again. The athletic department will be better served to reexamine itself and stop pointing fingers (Turner: blaming the DMN) and making excuses (Turner: SMU isn’t big enough to fund multiple projects at once).

Which is why the Blackistone column and today’s Watkins article are good things. The process is good. And it is something that probably needed to happen years ago. When you junk the football coach, you examine the football program. When you junk the AD, you rightfully examine the entire athletic department. And that is what is happening right now. It also gives us a chance to hear what the people in power really think. I prefer this to some asinine column fondly wishing Copeland farewell and whitewashing his time at SMU.

Both Blackistone and Watkins list several things wrong with SMU athletics. They omit a few, too. I'll address each one over the week. But generally, I see the issues as: (i) lack of success on the field; (ii) financing and fundraising and facilities; (iii) alumnai and fan support; (iv) community support; and (v) media relations. Obviously, all are related issues. If I am leaving something out, let me know.

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