I know PR when I see it

I’ve worked in communications long enough to know good public relations and Sunday’s Yahoo “article” on Michigan basketball coach John Beilein is a prime example.

Yahoo “expert” Dan Wetzel does an expert job of playing hand maiden to the PR folks at UofM. Check out this journalistic tour de force:

. . . Through the years, the one constant has been Beilein. Even when West Virginia and Michigan allowed him the chance to coach elite talent such as Trey Burke and Mitch McGary, he remained the same. Now paid about $1.7 million annually, in charge of a large Big Ten operation, he’s still the one who cuts up the game and practice film. That’s how he did it at Erie, that’s how he’s still doing it.

“We’re talking about every practice, plus games,” said assistant Bacari Alexander. “He cuts it personally. He’s an old football coach from his high school teaching days, reel to reel.”

. . .

They might not all know his back story or understand the lessons he learned on those bus rides through snowstorms home from Saint Anselm or Niagara County CC or someplace they’ve never heard about. They realize the wisdom he imparts, however. They never question the strategy.

“There is a humility about John Beilein that is something to be admired,” Alexander said. “He is just a guy who really benefitted from sweat equity. He is a guy who has coached at every level and, regardless of the roster he had, he maximized it. Every stop. Here at Michigan, it’s just more of the same.

I’m a Michigan fan and John Beilein appears to be a good person as well as an excellent basketball coach. I just can’t get past the PR fingerprints all over this story. There is the detailed back story of all the little places Beilein coached, how he still does his own yard work, and how he cuts his own game film, all very old school. There are the quotes from friends and family, swooning in their praise. All of this could very well be true, but why write it?

You don’t have to knock people down, tear them apart, but to me this story could have gone so many other more interesting directions. For example, Beilein is getting paid $1.7 million a year and the NCAA signed a 14-year broadcast deal in 2010 (for just the tournament) with CBS and Turner Broadcasting for $10.8 billion. Tell me again why players don’t get paid? College sports are huge business, and everyone seems to making out like bandits except the players, you know, the ones who do all the work.

And with Kevin Ware’s injury, Coach Beilein’s pay and benefits package could have been a great segway into talking about how players are treated after an injury. Do they get workers comp? Are they kept on scholarship? Are all their medical expenses covered? We know there have been instances where “student-athletes” have gotten shafted after getting hurt, as Chris Hayes discussed in a segment on his new show last night.

Isn’t Beilein a more complicated figure than this? I would love to learn how this working class guy who gets paid a ton of money connects with his players. Does he feel that Michigan and the NCAA are exploiting these kids? What does he do to ensure that his kids graduate?

Just like Coach Beilein, I’m sure Mr. Wetzel is a good person, he just shouldn’t write up the stuff the PR flacks at Michigan give him.

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