Last week, CBS Sports college basketball commentator Billy Packer referred to “60 Minutes,” the CBS news magazine program, as a “cancer” and “sleazy, short-sighted, lazy journalism.” The reason for his anger was a “60 Minutes” story critical of the Fresno State men’s basketball program.
Eight of 10 scholarship players on the team missed games because they were ineligible, suspended, in rehabilitation or quit. Four of the players are convicted felons. As a member of the media, Packer should have realized his comments were unfounded.
Packer’s argument that broadcasting the facts contributes to stereotypes of college basketball players is ridiculous. The statistics mentioned above are a matter of public record. For CBS to ignore the bad and just focus on “good” things about college basketball is a dereliction of its duties and responsibilities to report the facts objectively. CBS did not just mention one or two players and blow their troubles out of proportion; most of the team had run-ins with the law. In fact just two days after the story aired on CBS, two Fresno State players were arrested for pointing a handgun at a man and poking him with samurai swords.
During the current Tournament season, CBS has broadcast many positive stories about college basketball. Its decision to go with the “60 Minutes” story was a gutsy move, given its large NCAA broadcasting contract as well as other sports coverage contracts. “60 Minutes” covered a relevant news story; because the facts may or may not contribute to people’s perceptions about college basketball is not the fault of “60 Minutes.” A cleaned-up image for college basketball starts with cleaned-up standards – not hushed-up media.