The exclusion of the University of Kentucky student newspaper from a round of interviews with the men's basketball team provides an opportunity for new President Eli Capilouto to communicate his standards for the sports empire he now oversees.
It might be an acceptable tactic in private business or political campaigns to punish reporting you don't like by limiting a journalist's access to information and interviews. (We'd bet a lot of PR pros would advise against it.)
UK is a public institution, however. A public university, no less, and punishing a student journalist for asking the wrong question is anathema to everything a university should stand for.
UK associate athletics director for media relations DeWayne Peevy excluded the Kentucky Kernel from Tuesday's interviews because a Kernel sports writer had contacted a couple of UK students to confirm that they are basketball walk-ons. This violated a policy barring media from contacting players without going through Peevy's office. This policy is to protect student athletes' privacy. At the time of the call, the reporter didn't know if the two students, whose phone numbers were in a public directory, were players; the point of the call was to find out.
Never miss a local story.
UK officials shouldn't be meting out "punishment" (Peevy's word) to student journalists for seeking accurate information.
If any institution should respect the First Amendment's guarantees of free speech and free press, it's a university.
One of the toughest challenges facing college presidents these days is holding powerful and popular sports programs, such as Wildcat basketball, to standards befitting an academic institution.
This admittedly is a trifle in the history of UK sports transgressions. But it's important, nonetheless, at a time when Capilouto is making first impressions and creating expectations. Seeing to it that the Kernel gets its interviews would help set the right tone for his relationship with UK sports.
And Big Blue fans should consider this: Sports programs that get too big to be held accountable by their universities are often cruising for the kind of scandals that bring the punishment from the NCAA.