While several Division I football programs have instituted official practices restricting media access, Division II Virginia Union is restricting media access in a far less official way. Following a 21-20 loss to rival Winston-Salem State last week, members of the team prevented reporters from capturing video of the postgame handshake line by knocking away their phones.
John Dell of the Winston-Salem Journal and Steve Gaither of HBCU Gameday were the only media there, and they both faced the same problem. Gaither posted video of a coach trying to pry his phone out of his hands to Twitter.
This Virginia Union coach tried to pry mine out of my hands. Very classy. @VAUnion1865 @CIAAForLife pic.twitter.com/ANpdIZLLfB
— Steven J. Gaither (@stevenjgaither) September 17, 2017
Top college football programs can get away with restricting media access to a certain degree because, even if it’s a bad look, they know publications and websites need to cover them. A small school like Virginia Union does not want to alienate the only two reporters who care about their program.
Here’s what James said about the incident on his HBCU Gameday podcast:
“We’re giving these guys press, and then for this type of thing to happen, it’s just very disconcerting. How are you going to be able to appeal to people to come cover your games if they think their equipment might be taken?”
Coach Mark James quickly went into damage control. Dell wrote a column saying he wouldn’t hold any grudges after James called to apologize. On his podcast, Gaither mentioned he has not yet responded to James’ attempt to reach out.