The long-time Associate Athletic Director for Media and Public Relations - formerly called the Sports Information Director (SID) - at Ole Miss, Langston Rogers, announced his retirement. According to our old enemy:
Though he’s behind the scenes, the man has forgotten more sports knowledge than most of the rest of us will ever know. And he was also a fierce defender of Ole Miss athletics. Every month or so, I could always count on an 8 a.m. phone call with an irritated Langston on the other end, saying something like "Why would you write something like that about Greg Hardy?"
More negative slant, Brandt! The beat writer for the Clarion Ledger also hinted at "the occasional professional disagreement" between he and Rogers. We wish Langston well and post what sorts of things Brandt might be talking about after the break.Because of our imaginary friction, Brandt did not divulge the specifics of his "professional disagreements" with Rogers, though we could speculate. Hinted at by the anecdote above, sometimes it seems like Langston would be perfectly satisfied if every newspaper in the country would just reprint the game recaps coming out of corporate headquarters. Coverage happens at the athletic department, everybody else needs to just print that coverage. This is not to say that Sports Information does poorly with their recaps and statistics, but Rogers falls firmly into that camp of Rebel fans, who see any criticism (or sometimes realism) as just mean-spirited and harmful to the athletic program.
I speculate that this applies doubly when that criticism falls on student athletes. Staff members in athletics can be fiercely and personally protective of student athletes, so much so that writing "so-and-so did not play so well today" can be interpreted as a personal affront. Many have heard the story of how one of Langston's predecessors once called my state legislator, when he read that I had written negative things in The Daily Mississippian about Ethan Flatt's performance in a game against Auburn. I can hear it - and sometimes agree with it - "why do these folks have to write this kind of stuff about these kids?" Outside criticism is often seen as unfair.
For these reasons, you get the feeling Rogers would just rather that the internet didn't exist. NAFOOM, Red Cup Rebellion, and, to a lesser extent, the message boards at Rivals and Scout are very public forums for people to talk frankly about the performance of Rebel athletes, coaches, and administrators. Where these conversations were once confined to the local watering holes - evaporating as soon as they began - they are now recorded. They are googleable.
Even the chief criticism about Rogers - he excises any medium he cannot control - is founded in an admirable quality - he does not want negative things being written about his team. He is protective of the rhetoric surrounding his players, coaches, and colleagues. That's respectable, even if it means that he hates this website.
However, I hope, from the perspective of a fan, that whoever is chosen to fill Rogers' shoes will be more open to new media. Starting a blog that is written by athletic department staffers is not being open to new media. SBNation attempts to utilize the forum of "blogs" to give the public more access to the teams they love, and for a number of professional franchises and athletic departments, it has worked. But to open up means less control over what gets said. It's a trade-off. If our athletic department is willing to give up some control over the message in order to gain the potential benefits of a more excited, involved fan base, then it ought to open up to folks like us. If not ... well, then we can keep doing the same thing and hope we don't get left behind.