WXOU, athletics resolve press row issue



After months of talks with the athletics department, Oakland University’s radio station, WXOU, has finally found a home to broadcast at men’s basketball games — a new press row.

Sportscasters from WXOU previously enjoyed a spot on the game operations table courtside until last November, when they were permanently relocated to the upper floor of the O’rena for men’s basketball broadcasts.

The new press row is currently being built behind the location of the game operations table and is meant to accommodate WXOU, as well as various other media organizations, including The Oakland Post.

“This is very exciting for all media in general,” said OU Student Congress President Samantha Wolf. “I think this was the best option.”

News of the construction of the new press row came a month after a deadlock in the meeting last August between WXOU, OUSC, the Athletics Department and administration, when Dean of Students Glenn McIntosh emailed Wolf and WXOU Director Sean Varicalli to inform them of the change.

“We got the press row. The target date for the construction is Nov. 1,” Varicalli said.

While WXOU’s struggle to regain a courtside broadcasting location appears to have ended in success, the time took to make the decision is disappointing to Wolf.

“It has been over a year since this problem started. Meetings and solutions should have taken place right when the issue came up,” Wolf said. “This was brought into people’s light last year.”


Communication breakdown

Prior to WXOU’s removal from the game operations table last November, communications problems between the radio station and the athletics department created a divide between all parties involved.

Matt Pocket, a sportscaster who arrived at OU in 2009 and the person who first pointed out the communications issues, did not initially have a place at the game operations table.

“When I started, we were on the baseline,” Pocket said. “It’s tricky, but a sportscaster should be able to do that. I did it in high school.”

After being invited to broadcast from the game operations table, Pocket committed a broadcasting error, and was chastised for it by current Assistant Athletics Director Scott MacDonald.

“The game was against Southern Utah, we (the O’rena) got a new HD (video) board,” Pocket said. “It was one of our first games with it. I did not know at the time that we did not have instant replay … and I was looking for a replay on a big play … Drew Maynard throws down this nasty dunk … I don’t understand everything at this point so I flip my mic on and I’m like ‘We gonna get a replay? That was nasty. We gonna get a replay? No? That’s lame.’ I got some emails about that.”

Pocket’s relationship with MacDonald then deteriorated, culminating in a one-word email response to Pocket’s request for a broadcasting location for the Nov. 28, 2011 game against the University of Tennessee. The email read simply, “Outside.”

MacDonald, in an interview last August, did not acknowledge the email and instead praised his relationship with Pocket.

“If I sent something like that it would have been completely joking; because I have a good relationship with Matt and it might have been in a joking manner,” MacDonald said. “I don’t know if I sent that but if I did it would probably have been inappropriate but if I did it was a joke because Pocket and I have a very good relationship.”

Pocket, after receiving that email, began to vocalize his concerns about the relationship between WXOU and athletics, eventually speaking with Wolf and Varicalli, who took the issue to the Dean of Students.

Frustrating meetings lead to a long-term solution

Representatives from WXOU, OUSC and the athletics department then met several times during the summer, with no one agreeing on a solution of where to place WXOU for men’s basketball games.

The Aug. 28 meeting was the last to take place between the parties involved, but also shed more light on what the real issues were.

During the meeting, Athletics Director Tracy Huth said he had no knowledge of communications problems and had no definitive plans to create a press row, saying that would create further problems. He instead suggested that all media outlets that are not commercial would be broadcasting from the upper deck of the O’rena as well.

“This year we will move to extract the media off of the operations table,” Huth said. “We will move the personnel that should be on that table back to that table. As of now, that press row will be the area that WXOU was in last year on the West Concord Side beginning between the filming booth and the video board operations. That will become the actual press row. Looking into putting a press row behind the game operations table … will entail moving permanent seats, moving season ticket holders, in order that we place the media in there. No matter what we do in the O’rena, given the situation, there’s going to be a trickle down or some sort of domino effect.”

Between that meeting and the email Varicalli received from McIntosh last month, the athletics department changed their minds and started the process to build an actual press row, ending the issue of where WXOU will be placed.


Hope for the future

While all parties involved benefit from the creation of a new press row, the process has brought about changes to WXOU. Pocket will be resigning from his position at the end of the week.

Pocket’s absence from the sports department at the college radio station leaves a void for experienced on-air broadcasting of games.

Wolf’s attitude toward the working relationship between the Athletics Department and all student organizations has also changed.

“I think it’s okay that happened,” Wolf said. “I think (The Oakland Post), me and Sean are on the lookout to be aware of things. I am hopeful of the future relationship with the Athletics Department with regards to communication. We can get a lot more done working together.”




Contact Local Editor Mark McMillan via email at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @Markamcmillan