Intimidating the press

The past couple years have obviously been difficult for the men’s basketball program. Most of us would just like to forget about the most recent scandal that has so disturbed life for the faculty, the administration and students, and move on. If we do want to transcend our past mistakes and begin developing a truly clean record, however, Coach Dan Monson’s threat to withhold Minnesota Daily press credentials on account of the sports editor’s criticism of the program is definitely not the proper way to proceed.
The editor, Josh Linehan, wrote an Oct. 13 column titled “Basketball program must die,” and just as it sounds, it advocated the suspension of men’s basketball at the University. Before Monson’s threat was made, assistant program director Brad Ruiter requested a meeting with Linehan and Editor in Chief Julia Grant, to discuss their concerns, several of which are justified.
Though Linehan used Gophers forward John Blair Bickerstaff’s underage and public consumption ticket from last year to support his contention that the basketball program needs to be shutdown, he did not mention that the charges were eventually dropped, according to Bickerstaff’s lawyer. (The Daily ran a clarification on Oct. 17.) In addition, a men’s basketball official says two of the three Gophers football players who Linehan claims were arrested recently had their charges dismissed.
While these are important elements necessary to ensuring the opinion’s fairness, it does not justify Monson’s response. Circumventing the normal channels a refusal of press credentials would entail, the basketball coach used his position and words to intimidate the college newspaper and its editorial staff.
In fact, he has no official control over who receives and does not receive press passes. That is the task of media relations, which strongly states that revoking the Daily’s passes was never formally discussed. The Daily did receive its press passes with other media the day following Linehan’s second opinion piece, which, though not a recantation, was seen by local media and other journalists as sign that the Daily had caved-in to the head coach’s demands.
Monson should not have made such a threat. He should be disciplined for speaking beyond his authority.