Bradley University has barred longtime beat writer Dave Reynolds of the Peoria Journal Star from participating in a media event for the men's basketball team's upcoming 2019 NCAA tournament appearance.
The Braves, who are heading back to the big dance for the first time in 13 years after winning the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament championship–for the first time since 1988–on Sunday against Northern Iowa, received an automatic bid to the tournament with their conference championship win. The team held a media information event on Friday afternoon leading up to Selection Sunday. The Illinois-based publication received an email regarding the event and sent Reynolds.
Per his account of the interaction, Reynolds, who has covered Bradley for 29 years, was approached by assistant director of athletic communications Jason Veniskey while covering a team media information event on Friday after asking to speak to one of the Braves' players, Nate Kennell. Veniskey told Reynolds that he was not allowed to conduct any interviews as the University had a policy in place that prevented him from receiving “extra coverage opportunity,” according to the Journal Star.
“He pulled me aside and said their policy of me not given extra coverage opportunity was still in place, and I was not allowed to do any interviews," Reynolds recalled. "I told him, ‘The newspaper received the invitation.’ He said, ‘That was directed to [the publications' sports editor, Wed Huett], not to you.’ I said, ‘He doesn’t cover the team. I have for 29 years.’
“He responded by saying, ‘You don’t promote the Bradley brand, and basically we don’t want you here.’ I said, ‘Jason, that’s not my job to promote the Bradley brand. You know that.’"
Reynolds was then told that the decision had been made by "Bradley University," as a whole. He added that he spoke with the Braves head coach Brian Wardle, who echoed the same stance as Veniskey had articulated.
Wardle said that his rescricted time was in part because the beat reporter was seeks a negative slant in his stories about the team. The same talking points were repeated to Huett, who was told that his publication's coverage of the team consisted of “half-truths and misleading stories” that were unfair to Bradley's program. Huett also said the university threatened to curtail the paper’s access to Bradley altogether.
Bradley basketball released a statement addressing Reynolds' limited access but did not explain what led to the reduction.
"During the 2018-19 season, the amount of access granted to Peoria Journal Star reporter Dave Reynolds was reduced," the program said in a statement. "At the time his access to the Bradley Basketball program was limited, we discussed the issues that led to the policy change with Peoria Journal Star Sports Editor Wed Huett and the level of access has remained consistent for the last several weeks. Our focus is on preparing for the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship."
The Athletics Department later elaborated in a separate statement and apologized for their handling of the situation. They have granted Reynolds "equivalent media access" once again.
"The Bradley Athletics staff appreciates the importance of having a media presence presenting fair and accurate coverage," the second statement said. "We recognize that the media is not responsible for promoting the Bradley brand and that was never our expectation. We did not handle the situation appropriately and for that we apologize. Peoria Journal Star reporter Dave Reynolds will have equivalent media access to cover the Braves and Bradley Athletics will continue to work on its relationship with the Peoria Star Journal. We are one day away from Selection Sunday and our focus and attention needs to be on the success of our student-athletes."
Reynolds is a three-time Illinois Sportswriter of the Year and has been covering Bradley University for almost three decades.