Have you ever watched a Big 10 basketball tournament game and wondered, how does CBS’ Tracy Wolfson go about getting permission to get close to the Michigan State Spartans and Wisconsin Badgers’ bench during a timeout? Or how about when ESPN’s Holly Rowe is mere steps away from amped up Florida State Seminoles or Miami Hurricanes football players ready to do battle, while she calmly delivers the keys to the game as told to her by the head coaches?
Like with most things in life, there are a bunch of regulations and processes to follow for members of the media to get credentials for college sporting events. Due to the level of access media members have to the facility, team benches, and additional otherwise closed off areas, universities and NCAA communications personnel are understandably very guarded about who can obtain a pass to cover certain teams and events.
Just like students have to apply to get into college, media members and organizations also need to submit applications to universities in order to request that their journalists, photographers or analysts can roam close to the field of play on game day. These applications are usually reviewed by university athletic communications directors, and sometimes schools will have individuals assigned to review the applications raised for specific sports.
In the case of high profile tournaments or events, such as the College Football Playoff, there are additional requirements addressing who specifically can put in for credentials on behalf of a media organization. The media credentials section of the 2021 College Football Playoff website states “credential requests will be considered only if they are submitted by the sports editor, sports director/producer, or photo editor,” which indicates that they only want senior/experienced media personnel to work the biggest games of the college football season.
On a general level, universities and governing bodies like the NCAA do not owe any individual or media organization anything when it comes to granting media credentials. The credential policy is very clear among many university websites that the college has the right to refuse/reject an application, and also has the ability to revoke a previously granted credential if they so choose. Additionally, receiving a credential for a prior game, event or tournament does not automatically guarantee that an individual will be more seriously considered for a credential to a future contest.
However, universities do state that they give preference to outlets who consistently cover their sports, rather than smaller outlets who may request one off access for a special project or motive.
The University of Nevada writes in their media credential policy “Priority is granted to media entities that cover the University of Nevada on a regular and substantial basis, which includes coverage of press conferences, open practices, home and road games…”
While it looks like most universities do not grant media credentials to individuals under 18 years of age, they do include special language about allowing students involved in a university media outlet to participate in coverage of their school’s games, as availability will allow. Clemson University addresses this group of aspiring media professionals in its own section:
“Clemson Athletics will aim to foster an environment conducive to the career growth of student media by providing students with first-hand experience and insight into the working relationship between athletic organizations and professional media. As such, student journalists seeking credentials will be subject to this policy. Students are strongly encouraged to connect with Clemson Athletics sport contacts and full-time beat reporters for protocols relating to media availability and conduct for each sport to ensure their seamless integration into this professional environment."
Since the universities and NCAA have ultimate say on whether an application is approved, it pays to be prompt, detailed and clear with requests so they cannot be rejected due to incomplete or vague submission.