The lack of media coverage for high school sports and for female athletics were some of the key issues discussed by the Spotlight on Sports panel at the "Deseret News and all that Jazz Teacher Training Session" held here Saturday afternoon.
"We're not in the business of dictating what the public wants to see," Brad Rock, Deseret News Jazz beat writer and a member of the panel, told the 100-teacher audience during the 90-minute panel presentation. "We're more a reflection of it."Rock also said that the media would probably cover prep sports more, particularly girls' and women's sports, if the public demanded it, pointing out that women's gymnastics has received great coverage in recent years. He classified media coverage as a numbers game with limited space and manpower available.
Craig Bolerjack, KSL-TV sportscaster and moderator of the five-member panel, said there's not enough room for women's athletics. "There's not enough TV advertising money available . . . the money is the real issue."
He also cited the lack of manpower and resources in getting coverage for 50 prep games on a given night. "I've called Pizza Huts next to high schools to get scores," he said. "I beg for phone calls with scores."
Panel member Jim Yerkovich, Judge Memorial High School basketball coach/aca-demic vice principal, stressed that there's over 20,000 people attending prep basketball games on a given Friday night in the greater Salt Lake area and that this is more than for any single Jazz game.
Anne Handy Jones, Weber State University assistant women's basketball coach, and another panel member, said that she doesn't have the answer on how to increase media coverage or attendance for girls' and women's sports but that Utah's attendance for female athletics is probably lower than many other areas, although it is getting better.
Handy said she expects no more than 400 to attend a weekend Wildcat women's basketball game in the Dee Events Center while as many as 5,000 attend University of Montana women's games in Missoula. She said at the pro level, men's sports are too big and have crowded out the women.
One teacher in the audience theorized that watching sports is kind of a vicarious experience and that there just aren't enough women around who have had experience in female athletics. Thus, there are few women who can go to a game and really get involved with the emotions of it like men do.
Yerkovich said that there are some sports where women simply generate a lot more intrigue than men and vice versa. For example, he said that there's just no contest in the popularity of women's gymnastics vs. men's gymnastics but that physically, women simply can't do many of the things than men can do in sports like basketball.
Women in locker rooms was another issue debated by the panel. Bolerjack said that reporters want to get the players' emotions before they cool off and that entrance to locker rooms is necessary.
"I feel strongly that women should have equal access to the locker rooms in the pros and college," Gordon Chiesa, Utah Jazz assistant coach, and panel member said. He predicted that this issue would be no big deal in 10 years or less.
Handy said she just wished reporters were on hand at women's games period. "Reporters aren't exactly knocking down our doors," she said.
Yerkovich explained that for prep athletes, locker rooms are more like a home to youngsters and so he said there are times when he would feel justified in denying reporters access to locker rooms.