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The fine line of covering college athletes

POSTED February 26, 2013
BY Patrick Tiscia
Twitter: @PatrickTiscia

When I worked at The Register Citizen, Saturdays, for the most part, were a pretty quiet during the high school sports season.

During those shifts I'd write my column for Sunday, work on a feature or two and then search the Internet to see how local athletes were doing in college. I enjoyed working on those stories and it was always cool to see those players doing well.

Last week, Litchfield County Sports went to watch former Torrington basketball and current University of Albany player Sarah Royals in action at Hartford. Rick Wilson and Tim Gaffney, in my so-called "expert" opinion, put together a great story/video package you can currently view on this site. To me, it was the perfect amount of coverage.

I bring this up today because I have always struggled on determining how far is too far regarding coverage for college athletes.

Let's use the coverage on football's National Signing Day two weeks ago as an example.

Locally, when covering one of these, we usually have a reporter and photographer on hand. We take a picture of the official paper signing, interview the player and coach and run a nice package the next day, whether it's here online or in the newspaper.

For a player on the radar of a National powerhouse, it's complete chaos. Multiple TV cameras, hoards of writers, family, friends and fans swarm the scene as the athlete goes through the charade of picking out the hat of his college choice.

The networks then cue up the disturbing footage of the middle-age coaches doing handstands in celebration of securing the rights to the young kid, with the odds of them knowing the academic history of the player at .001 percent. Even more disturbing is the video of the middle-age fans at bars, on a weekday morning no less, going bananas that their college team signed the player they wanted.

In my opinion, the Michigan and Ohio State football programs of the world are glorified minor league teams. Between the ticket prices, the money TV networks make off advertising their games and, of course, the insufferable coaches acting as if winning or losing is the only thing that matters in life, it's easy to see these players are not treated as true college athletes.

This may sound crazy to some writers, but covering a story on a local athlete who went on to college success is a lot more enticing to me than having to write about Division I megastar who went on to win a championship and then have the title stripped because he/she received illegal funds.

Thankfully, though, stories such as Sarah Royals' and Gary Robinson's are still out there. Those are the ones I'll be chasing.

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