Last week, UCSB announced through its website a deal with Clear Channel Communications to broadcast the majority of the remaining UCSB baseball schedule on its Santa Barbara-based AM affiliate, KTLK 1340. The coverage will amount to 14 of the last 20 games on the schedule, every Saturday and Sunday Gaucho game for the remainder of the season.
While this is undoubtedly good news for UCSB Athletics, the handling of the deal undermined the only station in Santa Barbara that has been with the baseball team all season long, UCSB’s own student-managed, volunteer-run KCSB. From the first pitch of the season at San Diego State in February, KCSB has provided the most thorough, consistent, live coverage of UCSB baseball over the past four seasons and plans to continue to do so for the rest of 2004, despite KTLK’s new presence.
It is not the reality of the deal itself that has turned heads toward KCSB’s sports staff but rather the manner in which the staff was informed: through a release on the UCSB Athletics website. KCSB was never contacted directly by anyone in the UCSB Athletic Dept. about the deal before the new coverage was announced, despite its immediate consequences for the station. Fortunately, KCSB will still be able to go ahead with its schedule as planned for this season, but this has little to do with the deal between Clear Channel and UCSB and more to do with the capabilities of Big West Conference opponents to accommodate two visiting radio stations. In the future, the effect of such coverage could be much more problematic for KCSB, as Clear Channel would receive priority over KCSB when only one station could be accommodated.
This is not the first time that Clear Channel and the UCSB Athletic Dept. have made a deal that has carried heavy implications for KCSB. In 2003, when KEYT 1250-AM was sold to an Oxnard-based group that changed the station to a Spanish-language format, the Athletic Dept. scrambled to find a home for UCSB men’s basketball, with KCSB as the primary carrier of women’s basketball. However, Clear Channel, which owns 1,229 radio stations across the United States, pursued women’s basketball as part of the deal, despite the fact that KCSB and UCSB Athletics had already arranged for the women’s games to be covered several months beforehand. Before the deal was made, Athletic Director Gary Cunningham was quoted in the Santa Barbara News-Press as saying, “It would be a tragedy if none of our games were covered on local radio,” with no regard to KCSB’s contribution to UCSB Athletics. While Cunningham’s statement certainly does not reflect the opinions of every individual in the Athletic Dept., it, combined with the new agreement for UCSB baseball and Clear Channel, begs the question of whether the true mission of UCSB Intercollegiate Athletics is an educational one, or is it all about the money?
KCSB has made a philosophy out of covering issues, events and music that is largely untouched by the mainstream media, a philosophy which has guided KCSB Sports throughout its coverage of UCSB Athletics. KCSB Sports regularly covers UCSB Athletics with a volunteer staff of 17, all of whom utilize KCSB as an opportunity to learn the craft of radio. As a result, not only is KCSB able to provide the most consistent radio coverage of UCSB Athletics in Santa Barbara, but it is also able to provide staff members with an unparalleled educational experience in broadcast sports journalism.
While the short-term effects of the new deal between Clear Channel and UCSB may seem inconsequential, the long-term effects and future deals between both entities could afflict KCSB and such education in a much more negative way. When considering such a deal, UCSB Athletics should remember that it has a responsibility not only to the success of its own student-athletes, but also to its relationships between the university and the other students that are greatly affected by its decisions.