Thursday, May 20, 2010

Who Needs Access?

Back at the 1996 NCAA men's basketball tournament, or at least TigerBlog is pretty sure it was the 1996 tournament, then-OAC staffer Vinnie DiCarlo was standing on the court the day before the games, when the teams have open practices.

DiCarlo was wearing his all-access pass, when one of the fans in the stands asked him what his pass meant.

"It means," Vinnie said, "that I have access to all."

TigerBlog has been to, by his count, a lot of NCAA tournaments, mostly in basketball and lacrosse. Back when he was a novice at the experience, he was fascinated that he had a pass of any kind and the access that goes with it.

There's something special about having access, all or otherwise, at an NCAA event. The entire crowd goes one way; you get to go another, through the secret door or on the magic elevator. It's like the media version of getting one of Willy Wonka's golden tickets.

TigerBlog has saved several of the credentials he's gotten through the years, as do many people who get them. For what reason? Who knows.

The NCAA quarterfinals for men's lacrosse are here Saturday, with Notre Dame against Maryland at noon and North Carolina against Duke at 2:30. TB's role in this event includes being the media coordinator, which includes putting together the credentials.

For the regular lacrosse season, TB made one kind of pass. It had a picture of a game from last year at Class of 1952 Stadium, and it said "Princeton men's lacrosse 2010."

These passes were used as season, single-game, photo, anything. One pass fits all.

For Saturday's event, TigerBlog has passes labeled "media," "photo," "medical," "official," "VIP," "ESPN," "team bench," "participant" and of course the granddaddy of them all, "all-access."

What's the difference between, say, participant and team bench? Well, each team has a certain number of players who can be in uniform, and they get participant passes to get into the stadium. During the game, of course, they're in uniform. The team bench passes are for coaches, equipment people, non-dressed players, etc.

Of course, each team also gets two medical passes, for a doctor and trainer.

And VIP? That's for the hospitality area. Unlike the other passes, a VIP one doesn't get you into the stadium, only into the hospitality area. VIPs also need to have a ticket to the game.

TigerBlog's philosophy on credentials is to keep it as simple as possible, as the lacrosse passes for the regular season suggest.

TB's experience with the National Football League suggests that the league doesn't share that philosophy, what with the "limited access" and "temporary access" passes. The NFL has so many different kinds of passes that they print up poster boards that have pictures of each pass on them so that the security people can keep them all straight.

In past years, TB tried to have more complicated credentialing for regular season football, until it dawned on him one day what the point of all these passes is: to give you access to certain areas and not to others.

On a regular Princeton football Saturday, there's no need to have, say, a difference between a photo pass and a media pass. It's not like access will become restricted from any place in the stadium anyway.

Then there's the whole issue of enforcement.

Two weeks ago, TB had an all-access pass for the Ivy League men's lacrosse tournament at Cornell. TB was there for the semifinals Friday and the final Sunday, and he went everywhere on Schoellkopf Field. At no point did he display his credential or get asked to show it.

The same is true for any Princeton event here. Maybe it's TB's authoritative way of carrying himself. Or the "Princeton Athletics" shirts that the staff here wears.Ti

The event here Saturday will be a little different, and the NCAA championships will be even tighter to get around.

Also back in 1996 - TB is sure about this one - TB worked for the University communications office when then-President Bill Clinton spoke on campus at graduation. TB was a liaison for the national press corps, and part of his job involved helping issue credentials.

This time, credentials were a must, and nobody was walking one inch past the line where they were supposed to be.

Unlike an NCAA championship event, the people doing the checking carried very, very big guns.

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