Miami University’s student-run radio station, WMSR, had its football broadcasts relocated last August to make room for Miami University football coach Don Treadwell’s family in the Yager Stadium press box.
According to WMSR’s general manager Dan Basar, the radio staff was notified several weeks prior to last year’s opening game that their original location in the press box would no longer be available.
“[WMSR] got an email from the athletic department basically saying that the new coach, Don Treadwell-last year was his first year at Miami-had requested additional space in the press box for his own purposes,” Basar said. “As a result there was no longer going to be room for WMSR.”
According to Mike Pearson, the assistant athletic director of communications and technology, providing space in the press box for the coach is standard procedure at Mid-American Conference (MAC) schools.
“It’s very common that other MAC schools make space almost unanimously for the head coaches part,” Pearson said. “It may even be part of the contract.”
A provision made in MAC policy three years ago requiring that space in the press box be provided for an instant-replay team contributed to the issue, Pearson said.
“[The coach’s reserved section] was in a different space before, but then when instant-replay came into a mandatory situation with the MAC, then we had to do a lot of shuffling.” Pearson said.
Shortly after being notified of its removal, WMSR received another email informing them of the relocation.
“Our initial reaction was a lot of concern because we weren’t sure where we would be broadcasting or even if we would be able to broadcast,” Basar said. “They were very apologetic about it but they said ‘we’re going to have to put you outside.'”
According to Pearson, the only location available for WMSR was the stadium’s outdoor camera deck.
“It’s not the traditional photo deck, but they are open spaces at the press box levels,” Pearson said. “They are outdoors, but we did accommodate them with awnings-covered space to sort of protect them from the elements.”
Though Basar thanks the athletic department for the shelter provided, he said that despite the awning WMSR is still very exposed and at risk for equipment damage.
“There is that tarp overhead but if it’s raining the rain is coming in from really all sides,” Basar said. “We had a game last year where it was pouring rain for the entire game and we were scrambling to find plastic bags and towels to try and dry stuff off because all of our equipment got very wet.”
WMSR has gotten lucky so far according to Basar-the $3,000 dollars worth of broadcasting equipment has yet to be damaged. However, Basar said that equipment damage is not their only concern.
“The biggest problem that we have had has been the wind,” Basar said. “There’s really no way to cancel out that wind noise in the broadcast, so if you’re listening to our broadcast you can hear the wind blowing in the background; you can hear the tarp that’s above us bouncing back and forth.”
Along with these concerns, Basar expressed the unavoidable circumstance WMSR will face in the coming months-winter.
“It’s going to get really cold,” Basar said. “Those guys have to stand out there for the duration of the broadcast and even when you’re wearing a winter coat, hat and gloves, standing outside talking for three hours gets pretty cold.”
WMSR brought the issue up with Patricia Gallagher Newberry, chair of the Committee on Student Media Organizations (COSMOs), which oversees 11 student-led media organizations by hiring the top two student leaders in each and allocating student fee dollars.
According to Newberry, she has taken note of WMSR’s predicament, but it’s up to WMSR to take further action.
“Our committee does not take up the cause for our groups-we give them advice,” Newberry said. “Really we want them to be their own advocates.”
Newberry gave WMSR recognition for the role it plays at Miami.
“They should definitely have the same rights as any other media organization,” Newberry said. “They are there to do the work of journalism-they’re there to cover the games. They’re doing a really good job covering sports at WMSR-it’s become a real badge of honor for the station.”
According to Basar, WMSR has taken steps to find a solution but has made little progress.
“We have talked with nearly everybody in the media relations part of the athletic department … ” Basar said. “When it comes down to it you’re either saying no to student radio or you’re saying no to the coach of the division one football team-Don Treadwell is the highest paid guy at Miami.”
According to Basar, he understands that the athletic department can’t simply force out the MAC or scoreboard officials, but he believes an alternative needs to be found.
“It’s the athletic department,” Basar said. “If they set aside money to do it-if they made this a priority, and they were willing to make some changes and maybe partition off a portion of the press box-they could definitely do it.”
According to Pearson, though the athletic department would like to find a solution, the press box WMSR previously occupied was approximately six by nine feet and could not be shared adequately.
“We’re doing all that we can to help facilitate to the needs of WMSR-they’re very valuable to us,” Pearson said. “We want to take care of our student stations, and we go to great lengths to make them feel as comfortable as possible.”
Though they seem to be at a stalemate, Basar said he acknowledges the athletic department’s efforts.
“This situation is a really difficult one for us,” Basar said. “On the one hand I would really like to be able to get a booth to broadcast football properly, but on the other hand the athletic department in every other area is incredibly helpful to us.”
According to Basar, informing Don Treadwell of WMSR’s difficulties may lead to finding an alternative.
“I guess in a perfect world if Don Treadwell was aware of the repercussions of [WMSR] not being in the booth maybe he’d have a talk with the athletic department and work out a way to get us back inside,” Basar said.
Out of respect to the system, WMSR has not contacted Treadwell directly according to Basar.
“We have always sort of respected the chain of communication that the athletic department has,” Basar said. “Media organizations contact the sports information director for that sport-which in this case is Mike Pearson-and then that sports information director is the one that initiates contact with the coaches.”
Basar said he hopes Pearson will consider informing Treadwell of the situation. Treadwell was unavailable to comment Thursday due to coaching obligations.
According to Pearson, for now WMSR will have to make do with the camera deck.
“Short of adding more permanent space, I don’t see it happening in the foreseeable future,” Pearson said. “We realize what the students do for athletics so we want to accommodate them as much as we possibly can. There are just circumstances in football where space has run out-we just don’t have it anymore.”