Shannon Ryan covers national college basketball for the Chicago Tribune. She also covers the Illinois Fighting Illini in both college football and hoops. Ryan also votes in the national poll each week. Pretty prestigious and exciting; so we had her join us for an interview.
PMB: How do you go about the process when you vote in the polls each week, i.e. how much attention to pay to the previous week’s polls, how much study do you put in before casting your ballot, how much do you value the input of other voters?
SR: Every week I do a top 25 college basketball poll for the Tribune. So obviously I have to pay very close attention to nearly every game in order to monitor teams and how they’re trending. I enjoy seeing the other polls for the fun of it, but I am only influenced by my own poll and how the teams played in the previous week.
PMB: Are you satisfied with how the system plays itself out on Selection Sunday? If not, what changes would you make toward the selection committee?
SR:I think Selection Sunday is one of the most anticipated days of the sports calendar. I love watching the reactions of players every season. As far as non-event sports events go, it’s one of the best. A few years ago, I served on the mock draft panel that the NCAA hosts for media members. I can assure everyone that it is a very tough process. All of the conspiracy theories about rivals being matched to play or a team with a supposed clear path are purely coincidental based on the data the committee must go off of in order to determine the brackets. I’m very glad that when the field was expanded a few seasons ago the NCAA did the right thing and did not make it an uber-tournament of 90+ teams.
PMB: I certainly agree. A mock draft panel? That sounds like something right up my alley. With both revenue producing sports at Illinois seeing coaching changes in the same year, was that about as hectic a year of work that you’ve ever had?
SR: I was certainly busy. Covering a team 2 ½ hours away from home is a bit of a grind in the first place, but covering the teams’ play along with the coaching firings, searches and hirings made it a 24-hour job. But I’m not complaining. Illinois fans are very passionate and they certainly paid attention to all that was written as they followed the search very closely. When you know people are anticipating the news you’ve written, it really makes the hard work worthwhile.
PMB: What are your thoughts on how the basketball coaching search was handled and how the media covered it? Did you see a difference between how it was covered locally vs. in Champaign?
SR: I think all of my colleagues and I worked as hard as ever to cover the search fairly and accurately. Unfortunately, schools don’t like it when the media uses sources to report information. But I take pride in thoroughly researching the facts and making sure I use multiple sources who are “in the loop.” I think Illinois fans in Chicago were just as interested in reading these near-daily breaking stories as the fans in Champaign were and I think the Tribune dedicated as much space to the search as the more local Champaign papers did.
PMB: How come all the information about their search leaked so much this time? It seems like everyone knew what was happening days before it was announced?
SR: I really am not sure. This was my first season covering Illinois basketball (I’ve covered Illinois football for three seasons). I’ll chalk it up to solid reporting. :)
PMB: How much have you gotten to know Tim Beckman, and how is your relationship with him different from what you had with Ron Zook? How different is the style with which each coach handles(d) the media?
SR: I have not had much experience dealing with Tim Beckman yet. And without camps or the season having started, it’s hard for me to say what his approach and relationship with the media is like. So far, I’ve enjoyed talking to him and appreciate his enthusiasm. It always makes for a better quote when someone is as jacked-up as Beckman.
SR: I don’t think it’s up to the media to manage fans expectations. I simply reported the news that was out there. It was a fact that Shaka Smart was offered the job, so that raised fans expectations. I never injected opinion into my stories, I just reflected the status of the search. If I did mention the fans’ expectations, it was a reflection of their collective mood based on the fans I had spoken to and heard from during my reporting.
Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports Bank.net, an official Google News site generating millions of unique visitors. He’s also a regular contributor to Chicago Now, Chicago Tribune.com, Fox Sports, MSN, Walter Football and Yardbarker
A Fulbright scholar and MBA, Banks has appeared on live radio all over the world; and he’s a member of the Football Writers Association of America, U.S. Basketball Writers Association, and Society of Professional Journalists. The President of the United States follows him on Twitter (@Paul_M_BanksTSB) You should too
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