No Other Alternative

by Will Stewart,, 2/27/02

Editor's Note: this article is very lengthy, but we encourage you to read it fully and completely. It contains important information regarding's position regarding media access to the Virginia Tech Athletic Department, our attempts to gain media access, Virginia Tech's refusal and policy, and the reasons why we have filed suit against Virginia Tech.

By now, you have no doubt heard that is suing the Virginia Tech Athletic Department for media access. This is a regrettable turn of events, one that we are frankly shocked we have been forced to embark upon. But over the last three years, our polite requests for media access through the proper channels have repeatedly been refused by the Virginia Tech Athletic Department, without adequate explanation or clarification.

When we submit a formal request for media access, we are told by Virginia Tech "We do not credential independent internet-only media." When we ask "Why not?" we are told, "Because that is our policy."

Media access is vital to the survival of this business. Numerous other businesses that operate in our field, covering Virginia Tech athletics, have access to VT players, coaches, press conferences, press releases, and administrators, while we do not. Of all the publications and media outlets that cover Virginia Tech athletics on a regular basis, only TechSideline (referred to as TSL) has been refused media access. It has put us at an extreme disadvantage, and for us to compete, survive, and grow, we simply must have access, access which has repeatedly been denied without a cogent explanation as to why.

In August of 1999, I, as owner of TSL, decided to partner with SportsWar LLC. I quit my prior career to help SportsWar turn TSL, up until then my part-time love, into a business. TSL was incorporated, infused with capital and a full-time staff and built into a full-time, news-gathering and reporting organization. The marketplace of readers has noticed our hard work; over the past two years we have grown our readership considerably to now over 250,000 individuals haling from every single state and a multitude of countries spanning the globe. TSL launched a significant and rapidly growing paid subscription publication, the TSL Extra, to augment its online publication, which is supported exclusively by paid advertising clients. Throughout this time of great evolution, our business has maintained and strengthened its dominant position.

Since August of 1999, we have formally requested media credentials/access from Virginia Tech five times and have been refused every time. In addition, direct appeals to Virginia Tech Director of Athletics Jim Weaver and Virginia Tech President Dr. Charles W. Steger have proven frustrating and fruitless. Despite our great success in building the business and its readership, Virginia Tech's response to our requests for press access has not evolved, remaining all the while a firm, curt "no" without any further clarification.

There is no indication that Virginia Tech's policy is ever going to change with regards to granting media access to TechSideline.

As a survival measure, we therefore find it necessary to sue to remedy this wrong. Our business continues to suffer due to our lack of media access to the Virginia Tech Athletic Department. We have exhausted all non-legal avenues and must now pursue legal action. It is distasteful to us and most disappointing, but we have no alternative.

The remainder of this document is:

1.) A brief statement of Virginia Tech's published policy with regards to granting media access to web sites.

2.) A further detailing of our position and why TechSideline should be granted media access to the Virginia Tech Athletic Department (we provide linked documents that break down and clarify our position in much greater detail).

3.) A history of media access/credential requests, and Virginia Tech's refusal of such. Also included is a recounting of TechSideline's direct appeals to Jim Weaver and Dr. Charles Steger.

4.) Documented inconsistencies in Virginia Tech's application of their stated access policy towards independent web sites -- instances in which Virginia Tech has indeed granted media credentials and interviews to independent web sites while refusing the same to

5.) A list of other universities and organizations that have granted media credentials to in the past.

6.) Notes concerning a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request that made to Virginia Tech early this year.

You will see from the sequence of events listed below that we have done everything we can to resolve the situation amicably and diplomatically. We have followed athletic department procedure by requesting media access through the Sports Information Department (SID), we have appealed personally to Mr. Weaver multiple times, and we have appealed to University President Charles Steger. All of our efforts have been rebuffed, so it is with great regret that we embark on the action of suing the Virginia Tech Athletic Department for media access, merely so we can be allowed to conduct our business in the proper manner, on a level playing field with our competition.

This is not in any way a personal issue between any member of our organization and any employee of Virginia Tech, either inside or outside the athletic department. This is not vindictive or spiteful on our part. On the contrary, as most of you already are aware, TechSideline has always tried to be a friend to the University and its athletic department.

We are suing Mr. Weaver, the individual, because in order to file the type of lawsuit we are filing, we must sue an individual; we cannot sue the institution "Virginia Tech." Since the refusal of media access to TechSideline is at Mr. Weaver orders, we have chosen to sue him as the policy setter in the athletic department.

The remainder of this document is long, detailed, and factual. We strongly recommend that you read it fully as well as the linked attachments, in order to gain a complete understanding of our efforts, our position, and our opinion that we have no recourse except to file suit.

Virginia Tech's Position

Virginia Tech has consistently refused media access to by quoting its policy that it only grants access to "Virginia Tech's official web site, the visiting team's official web site and the Big East Conference's official web site" (from the 2000 and 2001 Virginia Tech Football Media Guides, on page 4 of each guide). Despite numerous attempts by us over the past three years, Virginia Tech has never been willing to engage us in meaningful dialog or to provide a cogent argument on the merits or lack thereof of its "policy."

Update, 2/6/04 -- beginning with the 2002 VT Football media guide, Virginia Tech changed their policy for credentialing online media to the following (page 323, 2003 football media guide):
Accreditation Guidelines

• Only full-time, salaried employees intending to provide actual game coverage may receive a credential.

•A requesting media agency must represent a collective, organizational editorial voice, not simply the offerings of a single individual.

• Membership in a writer’s association does not automatically qualify an agency for credentials.

•A media agency may assign one of its credentials to its on-line entity.

• An on-line entity, not associated with a traditional media agency, may qualify for one credential, subject to the following conditions:

An on-line entity may receive a credential only if its own full-time staff writes a majority percentage of that site’s own material.

On-line entities that focus primarily on Virginia Tech Athletics and also sponsor message boards or chat rooms, may receive credentials provided they adhere to a policy that requires that a posted message or opinion is identified with the actual name and city of the individual.

Any on-line service that is recognized as an outlet intended primarily for the purpose of delivering news related to the recruitment of student-athletes will not qualify for credentials.

On-line entities will not receive photography credentials.

On-line entities (other than those identified above) registering 20,000 legitimate unique users per month in each of the past 12 months will be given first consideration. "Real-time" transmission of digital images, audio and data, including live game play-by-play and statistics, of any home game is the exclusive property of Virginia Tech and/or its rights holder(s). "Real-time" is defined as "live continual coverage or description of an event."

Our Position

Our position is simple: is a large, widely read publication dedicated full-time to covering Virginia Tech athletics. As such, our requests for media access to the Virginia Tech Athletic Department should be treated fairly and in accordance with requests made by any other newsgathering and reporting organization. By law, Virginia Tech, as a public university, is required to have a public policy for deciding who is to be granted press access, and importantly this policy must be reasonable, and it cannot be arbitrary. Not only is this the law, it is sensible and makes for fair business practice. is a media outlet staffed by full-time personnel. At over 250,000 individuals, its readership surpasses that of many other media organizations that are regularly granted access to the Virginia Tech Athletic Department. Our readership comes from every single state and numerous foreign countries. We think it obvious that our business should be granted media access. Whether our audience is online or off is completely irrelevant.

We feel that Virginia Tech’s blanket exclusion of "independent web sites" is not fair, just, or legal. Instead of screening web media for legitimacy, as it does with other forms of media, Virginia Tech simply refuses access to all web sites, except for those listed in its published policy. If Virginia Tech were to invoke a similar policy in, for example, print media, by granting access only to "Virginia Tech's official newspaper, the visiting team's official newspaper, and the Big East Conference's official newspaper," the policy would be an obvious violation of the United States Constitution's First Amendment, which guarantees freedom of the press. Similarly, Virginia Tech's policy with regards to web sites is an obvious violation of our First Amendment rights to freedom of the press.

Interestingly, Virginia Tech athletic officials have stated on numerous occasions, including to me personally, words to the effect of, "If we granted access to, we would have to grant access to everyone with a web site." This is, of course, patently untrue. In the same fashion that Virginia Tech screens other media for legitimacy, they can screen web media for legitimacy. They simply refuse to put forth the effort. This lack of effort is hurting our business and preventing us from operating effectively.

Moreover, adding insult to our injury, Virginia Tech's current "policy" is not consistently or fairly applied. On numerous occasions, the Virginia Tech Athletic Department has granted access to other independent web sites while denying access to In fact, there is a current, ongoing inconsistency where total access is being granted to an independent web site, while the same is denied to (more on this later).

History of Efforts to Gain Media Access

After incorporated as a full-time publication in early August of 1999, we arranged a meeting with Virginia Tech's Associate Athletics Director for External Affairs, Dave Chambers. The meeting was held on September 1st, 1999, at 11:00 a.m., and was attended by myself, James Arthur (who was's business development manager at the time), Mr. Chambers, and Dave Smith, Virginia Tech's Sports Information Director.

The meeting was very cordial, and in this meeting, James and I presented Mr. Chambers and Mr. Smith with a document titled "Media Credentials for Web Sites, and the Case for" The document, which was 11 pages long, very reasonably explained what set apart from other independent Virginia Tech sports web sites, and it addressed possible concerns and objections the athletic department might have.
To view this document as a PDF, click here

Along with the document, we gave Mr. Chambers our media credential request for the 1999 football season. The very next day, despite our lengthy and convincing presentation, Virginia Tech, in the person of Dave Smith, drafted a letter denying our credential request. The denial did not address any of the points regarding our business or our presentation, instead simply, "It is our policy that only the official/designated web sites from the two competing schools are eligible for press credentials."
To view's 1999 credential request as PDF, click here
To view Virginia Tech's 1999 media access denial as a JPG, click here

On February 4, 2000, we requested media access for three men's home basketball games and three women's home basketball games. The request was faxed to Assistant Sports Information Director Bryan Messerly, the contact for basketball media credential requests. Within four days, Mr. Messerly responded with a denial letter dated February 8, 2000 that briefly stated, "Our policy is that only the official/designated web sites of the two competing schools are eligible for press credentials."
To view's Feb. 2000 basketball access request as a PDF, click here
To view Virginia Tech's denial as a JPG, click here

On August 10, 2000, drafted a credential request for the 2000 football season and sent it to Dave Smith. Virginia Tech responded within 12 days, in a letter dated August 22, 2000. The refusal letter was again very brief and stated only, "… our position on web sites has not changed."
To view's 2000 credential request as a PDF, click here
To view Virginia Tech's 2000 media access denial as a JPG, click here

On November 27, 2000, Mark Massey, the Chairman and Founder of SportsWar,'s parent company, drafted a four-page letter to Virginia Tech Director of Athletics Jim Weaver and sent it to him via Federal Express. The letter was also copied to a number of individuals within the athletic department, as well as key Virginia Tech personnel outside the athletic department. It once again outlined our position in great detail, including addressing any objections or concerns the athletic department might have.
To view Mark Massey's Nov. 2000 letter to Jim Weaver as a PDF, click here

After approximately two weeks, on December 14, Mr. Massey received a brief reply from Dave Chambers (not Jim Weaver) that did not address any of the points of our letter. It said simply, "As per our policy for issuing press credentials (copy enclosed), it provides in part that credentials are issued to print, print, television, and radio media, as well as the official web sites of Virginia Tech, the visiting team, and the Big East Conference. Furthermore, representatives staffing web sites (other than the aforementioned) shall not be accredited for credentials."
To view Dave Chambers' Dec. 2000 letter to Mark Massey as a JPG, click here

In February of 2001, SportsWar's president, Matt Welsh, drafted a letter to Virginia Tech President Dr. Charles W. Steger, apprising him of the situation and asking him for his help. Mr. Welsh's letter included a statement that bluntly implied that SportsWar had exhausted all diplomatic avenues and would next pursue legal action. The letter was a plea to Dr. Steger to step in and moderate the situation before legal action was necessary.
To view Matt Welsh's Feb. 2001 letter to Dr. Steger as a PDF, click here

The letter to Dr. Steger was answered by a call from Mr. Weaver to Mr. Welsh. Mr. Weaver told Mr. Welsh that he (Mr. Weaver) had met with Dr. Steger and other University officials, and that Virginia Tech was not going to issue media access to

At one point, Mr. Weaver made the statement to Mr. Welsh, "You ( are not media," a statement which we consider to be demonstrably false. Mr. Weaver then went on to say, "You can't tell me that Will Stewart is a journalist." He then explained to Mr. Welsh that Will Stewart could not possibly be a journalist because he has an engineering degree. Mr. Welsh again attempted to get to the crux of the matter and discover what reasoning was behind Virginia Tech's policy. He was met with another curious response. "We (Virginia Tech) already have a website," Mr. Weaver said.

Mr. Weaver's phone call was followed by a short letter from Dr. Steger to Mr. Welsh, dated April 4, 2001, in which Dr. Steger essentially refused to get involved, and he referred the matter back to Mr. Weaver.
To view Dr. Steger's Apr. 2001 response to Mr. Welsh as a JPG, click here

Mr. Welsh requested a face-to-face meeting with Mr. Weaver, which was granted, and on April 19, they met in Mr. Weaver's office in Blacksburg. The meeting was cordial, but Mr. Weaver refused to explain his position or engage in a meaningful dialog as to its merits or lack thereof other than to state, "We are not responsible for promoting your business." Mr. Welsh's subsequent offer to accept media access for TechSideline on a probationary basis was flatly refused, as was his suggestion that Virginia Tech could easily implement a policy to differentiate between web-only media organizations that deserve media access and those that do not (suggested guidelines were spelled out back in August of 1999 in the presentation Media Credentials for Web Sites).

On August 13, 2001, drafted a media access request for the 2001 football season and sent it to Dave Smith.'s 2001 media request did not include press box access, just access to practices, press conferences, and interview access to players coaches, and administrators.
To view's 2001 media access request as a PDF, click here

On August 23rd SportsWar's attorney faxed and overnighted a three-page letter to Jerry Cain, Virginia Tech's General Counsel, advising him of the situation and our intent to file suit for judicial relief barring a last minute turn of events.
To view SportsWar's letter to VT's General Counsel as a PDF, click here

On August 25th, we received Virginia Tech's rejection of our 2001 access request. Their reply was dated August 23rd, the same date we FAXed our letter to Virginia Tech's General Counsel.
To view Virginia Tech's 2001 media access denial as a JPG, click here

Legal action was tabled at the time due to various business concerns and time constraints.

On February 7, 2002, drafted a media access request for 2002 spring football football season and sent it to Dave Smith. This request included access to practices, scrimmages, press conferences, and interview access to players coaches, and administrators.
To view's 2002 spring access request as a PDF, click here

On February 13, 2002, we received Virginia Tech's rejection of our 2002 spring access request. Their reply was dated February 12.
To view Virginia Tech's 2002 spring access denial as a JPG, click here

On February 26th, SportsWar's attorney sent a five-page letter to Jerry Cain, Virginia Tech's General Counsel, outlining our legal position and other arguments.
To view SportsWar's second letter to VT's General Counsel as a PDF, click here

That's where things stand today.

Summary of Documents's 1999 "Media Credentials for Web Sites" doc.

View here (PDF)'s 1999 football access request

View here (PDF)

VT's refusal of 1999 football access

View here (JPG)'s Feb 2000 basketball access request

View here (PDF)

VT's Feb 2000 refusal of basketball access

View here (JPG)'s 2000 football access request

View here (PDF)

VT's refusal of 2000 football access

View here (JPG)

Mark Massey's Nov 2000 letter to Jim Weaver

View here (PDF)

Dave Chambers' Dec 2000 reply to Massey's letter

View here (JPG)

Matt Welsh's Feb 2001 letter to Dr. Charles W. Steger

View here (PDF)

Dr. Steger's Apr 2001 response to Welsh's letter

View here (JPG)'s 2001 football access request

View here (PDF)

VT's refusal of 2001 football access

View here (JPG)

SportsWar's August 2001 letter to Virginia Tech's General Counsel

View here (PDF)'s 2002 spring access request

View here (PDF)

VT's refusal of 2002 spring football access

View here (JPG)

SportsWar's February 2002 letter to Virginia Tech's General Counsel

View here (PDF)

Mark Massey's Letter to Jim Weaver

Of all the documents linked above, Mark Massey's letter to Tech Athletic Director Jim Weaver in November of 2000 best clarifies and explains's position with regards to media access for TSL. It is important reading, so the full text of that letter is included in this article:

Dear Mr. Weaver:

I hope this letter finds you well. I am President of SportsWar, L.L.C., the parent company of, formerly known as I am writing you in the hope of opening a direct dialog regarding the issue of press access for TechSideline. As you may recall, we have repeatedly attempted to address this issue with you in the past, but we were not permitted to communicate with you directly, nor were we given any satisfactory explanation for being denied press credentials or access to players and coaches for purposes of conducting interviews for our publication.

I must say that I am appalled by the lack of cooperation we have received on this matter from you and your department. TechSideline garners one of the largest (if not the largest) Hokie readerships in the world. Our readers, who reside in every state and many different countries, enjoy our publication for its deep, partisan, yet independent viewpoint on their favorite topic, The Virginia Tech Hokies. At last count, our readership had surpassed 250,000 individuals, a number that continues to grow. Our loyal readership is deeply appreciative of the hard work put into the publication each day by its committed and passionate staff. The readers know that TechSideline’s goal is to bring Hokie fans the best coverage possible; what they don’t know is that this goal is being unfairly and severely compromised by you and your department for reasons unknown. We know our readership, which is comprised of the most dedicated fans, friends and alumni of Virginia Tech, would find this lack of cooperation quite disturbing. Ironically, I think most of them would agree that TechSideline is a valuable asset to the promotion and continued success of Virginia Tech athletics.

While I do not understand your actions or motivations, it is my sincere hope that we can resolve any issues that you may have with regard to TechSideline, and move forward without further delay. I would welcome the chance to meet with you and to personally resolve your concerns (if any) at your earliest convenience.

The reason I am contacting you instead of the Virginia Tech Sports Information Director is because I have been led to believe, wrongly I hope, that TechSideline's press access requests have been denied under your direct orders. As you can imagine, I would like to know and understand what formal policy criteria are being used in making this judgment. Additionally, I expect to be permitted to address any issues or concerns that you may have, with the goal of quickly moving forward. Toward this end, let me take the liberty of addressing a few concerns that you may have:

  1. HokieCentral’s very name includes the word "Hokie", a registered trademark of Virginia Tech. This is perceived as trademark infringement by Virginia Tech and this is the only reason why we have denied your press access requests thus far.
  2. As you may know, we had been using the name HokieCentral with the knowledge and permission of the Virginia Tech Licensing Department, a department with which we have enjoyed an open and professional relationship. Nevertheless, we certainly have no intent or desire to misuse any of Virginia Tech’s trademarks. Therefore, we have complied with the recent written request we received – a request which represents an apparent change in policy at VT regarding our use of the word "Hokie" in our publication’s name. As mentioned above the new name of our publication is TechSideline ( If, indeed, this was the reason for our being denied press access in the past, let us clear the air and move forward.

  3. If Virginia Tech permits TechSideline access, it must permit every other Web site the same access.
  4. Generally, the concern is that any fan can start a web site and claim to be "media," and that if VT allows one Web publication access, it will not be able to deny access to other Web publications, regardless of their lack of merit or acceptance by the public as media. has built a significant business over the past six years; it has a full-time, professional staff and, most important, it is widely read by a large base of readers. In other words, it is widely accepted as media by consumers as well as the traditional media organizations with which it competes. In fact, TechSideline enjoys an active and verifiable readership (circulation) of over 250,000 people, making it one of the most widely read publications covering Virginia Tech athletics, notwithstanding the fact that our competitors enjoy the benefits of complete press access that we have been unjustly and arbitrarily denied.

    Furthermore, granting TechSideline press access does not mean VT will be forced to grant the same access to a fly-by-night Web site with little or no audience, just as VT is not forced to grant access to one guy with a typewriter and a mailing list as a result of its granting access to The Richmond Times Dispatch.

  5. There is no room in the press box.
  6. If this is the case and Virginia Tech’s formal written policy is to issue press credentials on a first-come-first-served basis (as opposed to by the size of verifiable readership), then we are willing to be inconvenienced (if there is no alternative) by being left out of the press box during the sporting event in question. However, we feel the lack of room in the press box is no justification for denying our writers other access that does not suffer from the same physical constraint of "not enough seats". In other words, we believe we deserve and should be permitted all other access to coaches, players, conference calls, press conferences, etc. as enjoyed by other media representatives.

    Of course, if there is room in the press box, there is no reason we should be excluded from using it. Frankly, we believe TechSideline’s stature in the marketplace dictates that it be included ahead of most organizations who now enjoy access, yet who devote far fewer resources and less time and effort to covering Virginia Tech athletics. (Of course, we are not the stewards of Virginia Tech policy in these or other matters. We would, however, like to see a written copy of the rules and policies in this regard, if any exist.)

  7. TechSideline’s (TSL) message boards are a haven for potential misinformation and therefore Virginia Tech will not cooperate with TSL in any way for fear that it may convey legitimacy upon the message boards found at TSL.

Mr. Weaver, I can understand your concerns about Internet message boards. Many coaches and athletic directors share your concerns, as do we at TechSideline. Nevertheless as you can appreciate, message boards have their positive aspects as well as their negative. The upside of Internet message boards is that they permit the generation and maintenance of an enthusiastic community where fans can get together and talk about their favorite team ad nauseum with other similarly disposed individuals from around the world. Anecdotal and empirical evidence suggests that fan loyalty and energy is permanently raised by this new and revolutionary ability to come together. Moreover, new fans are now more easily born to a program as they are welcomed, included, and enthused with that energy as they become part of a very real and global community that meets every day on line.

Message boards have been enthusiastically and naturally accepted by fans at all levels of sport, and as a consequence many media organizations have embraced them as well. In fact, the following media organizations, which enjoy press access to VT athletics have message boards as conspicuous parts of their Virginia Tech Web presence:, The Richmond Times Dispatch, The Roanoke Times, The Washington Post,,,,, etc. Obviously the presence of message boards in these cases is not deemed as a reason to deny press credentials, nor should it be. To deny TechSideline press access on the basis of its message boards would likewise be neither fair nor appropriate and would lead one to believe that a double standard exists at Virginia Tech.

While on the topic of message boards, it is worth mentioning that unlike the other media organizations mentioned above, TechSideline’s message board is painstakingly monitored around the clock for misinformation, personal attacks, foul language, etc. People who engage in any of the above are summarily dismissed and banned from participating. While this is not necessarily relevant to the press credential question, I thought you should know that we take this responsibility quite seriously, which is something that cannot always be said about the message boards of our competitors.

As you may know, SportsWar, LLC owns other similar publications, one being TheSabre (, which covers University of Virginia sports and enjoys a good working relationship with the UVa Athletic Department. TheSabre adheres completely to the standards asked of all other media credentialed by UVa. UVa granted press access to TheSabre two years ago. Since that time, the relationship between the two parties has become increasingly cooperative, professional and beneficial. I can tell you for a fact that the coverage enjoyed by UVA fans and alumni via TheSabre is without question significantly better than that enjoyed by Virginia Tech fans and alumni via TechSideline. This is only because of the Virginia Sports Information Department’s penchant for openness and fairness. Virginia Tech fans, of course, deserve to have the same access. The staff at TechSideline seeks and deserves full media access so that the publication may fully cover Virginia Tech athletics (to include among other things interviews with coaches and players) and be permitted to fairly compete in the marketplace for the hearts and minds of Virginia Tech fans and alumni.

Incidentally, for what it is worth, I believe that UVa fans and alumni would strongly agree that TheSabre’s presence in the marketplace is not only unique, but also that it provides a valuable, yet unintended asset to the promotion and continued success of Virginia’s athletic program now, and in the years to come. I am also confident that the fans and alumni of Virginia Tech would strongly echo these sentiments as they relate to TechSideline and Virginia Tech’s athletic program.

Mr. Weaver, whether it be your intention or not, TechSideline is simply being treated wrongly and unfairly by Virginia Tech. This unfair treatment is significantly harming TechSideline’s business as well as the ability of its large readership to get the full access that they rightly deserve through TechSideline’s unique perspective – a perspective they cherish in each of the hundreds of articles we write and publish each year solely on Virginia Tech athletics. As you can imagine we are quite upset; the staff and I cannot understand why Virginia Tech would take this inequitable and anti-competitive position, but I am certain that all of us have better things to do with our time.

Thank you so much for your kind attention to this matter. I look forward to your reply and I would welcome the opportunity to speak with you, if necessary. It is my sincere hope that this has merely been a misunderstanding between the two parties and that we can rectify this situation without further delay or incident.

Sincerely and respectfully yours,

Mark T. Massey
President & CEO
SportsWar, L.L.C.

Documented Inconsistencies

It should be noted that while Virginia Tech was refusing media access to for the last two years under its "policy" of not granting access to independent web sites, it was, in truth, not consistently or fairly applying its policy.

We have uncovered six documented cases in the last three years of other independent web sites being granted access to Virginia Tech games, coaches, players, or administrators:

1.) November, 1998: Michael Ingalls of (now requested and was granted media access to the 1998 Virginia/Virginia Tech football game in Lane Stadium. While on the sideline during the game as a media representative of, Mr. Ingalls took several rolls of film, including a photo of Ahmad Hawkins kneeling in the end zone after his game-winning catch. The photo was used on the cover of the 1999 Virginia Football Media guide.
To view a scan of the cover of the 1999 UVa Football media guide as a JPG, click here
To view a copy of the sideline pass and the envelope it was mailed in as a JPG, click here

2.) December 20, 1999:, an independent Florida State web site, was granted access to interview Frank Beamer.
To view a scan of a printout of the interview as a JPG, click here

3.) January 24, 2000: Michael Ingalls of requested and was granted a press pass for the Virginia/Virginia Tech men's basketball game in the Richmond Coliseum. Note that Virginia Tech controlled media access for this game because it was a "home" game for the Hokies.
To view a copy of the's access request as a JPG, click here
To view a scan of's press pass as a JPG, click here

4.) August 9, 2000: was granted access to interview Virginia Tech QB Michael Vick.
To view a scan of a printout of the Vick interview as a JPG, click here

5.) November 17, 2000: In Bill Roth's "Kroger Roth Report," he wrote "Last week, a station from Denver asked for an interview even though it's not a "real" radio station - just a couple of guys in a studio who send their signal out via streaming audio on the Internet. There was no real broadcast … But since they went through the trouble of setting up an interview through Tech's Sports Information office, we had a nice, brief talk."
To view a scan of a printout of Roth's column as a JPG, click here

6.) Lastly, Virginia Tech grants complete access to, Coach Beamer's personal web site. While on the surface this may sound reasonable, it should be noted that is not an official Virginia Tech production -- it is produced by an independent company, and is therefore an independent web site. Virginia Tech is directly violating its own stated policy by giving total access to, an independent web site, while denying access to, an independent web site.

Summary of VT Media Access Given to web sites

1998 photograph shot by's Michael Ingalls in Lane Stadium

View here (JPG)

Dec. 1999 interview with Frank Beamer

View here (JPG)

Jan. 2000 media access request to VT by

View here (JPG)

Jan. 2000 media pass granted to

View here (JPG)

Aug. 2000 interview with Michael Vick

View here (JPG)

Nov. 2000 interview given by Bill Roth to "a couple of guys with streaming audio on the Internet"

View here (JPG)

Media access granted to, an independent web site


Other Schools and Organizations Granting Media Access to

In the last two years, (and later requested media access to a number of road games:

  • In the late stages of the 1999-2000 men's and women's basketball seasons, requested media access to a number of road basketball games.
  • Prior to the 2000 football seasons, requested media access to all road football games.
  • During the 2001 football season, requested media access to all road football games, with the exception of Virginia Tech at Rutgers. also requested access to the 2002 Toyota Gator Bowl, Virginia Tech versus Florida State.

Out of these requests, the following access requests were granted:

  • Men's basketball:
    2/12/00, VT @ Rhode Island
    2/27/00, VT @ Duquesne.
  • Women's basketball:
    2/20/00, VT @ Duquesne
    2/27/00, VT @ Dayton.
  • Football: 
    11/11/00, VT @ Central Florida
    10/6/01, VT @ West Virginia
    1/1/02, Toyota Gator Bowl, VT versus Florida State.

Of the listed games, due to budgetary constraints, was only able to attend the men's basketball game at Duquesne (2/27/00) and the football games at West Virginia (10/6/01) and the Toyota Gator Bowl (1/1/02). At both games, Will Stewart attended the game as a working media representative from, sat on press row, and had locker room and post-game press conference access.

In addition to the Central Florida football game, other football access requests may have been granted without being informed. Many Sports Information Departments will not inform the requestor of a positive response to an access request, and will merely set up a press table spot for the requestor and make other arrangements. Syracuse 2000, Temple 2001, and Pittsburgh 2001 were the only football games where and were explicitly notified that access was denied.

Virginia Tech's Response to SportsWar's Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Request

In January of 2001, SportsWar requested, under Virginia's Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), a number of documents, including but not limited to:

1. Copy of all media credential/access requests for all Virginia Tech football games, men's basketball games and women's basketball games and the responses thereto (whether granting or refusing such requests) from June 1, 1998, to January 12, 2001, inclusive.

2. A list of all individuals, entities or media granted or denied access to weekly Virginia Tech football team press interview sessions during the 1998, 1999, and 2000 football seasons. If any such request was denied, an explanation as to the reason for such denial should also be provided.

To view SportsWar's FOIA request as a PDF, click here

Virginia Tech was able to provide most of the information we requested. In the information we received, we noted that every press box and field-level access pass for individual football games was recorded. The records kept for basketball games were not as inclusive and were in fact nearly non-existent.

From the information we received, we were able to glean two key points:

1. Despite the high level of detail in the football access records,'s media pass for the 1998 Tech/UVa game in Lane Stadium was not recorded. There is no record of's representative Michael Ingalls' presence on the field, except for the sideline pass he was issued, which we included as documentation above.

2. Virginia Tech athletic officials have stated to me that a reason they refuse us access is because if they give access to, they "would have to give access to everyone with a web site who requested it." While this statement is patently false, it is nonetheless quite interesting that in Virginia Tech's very detailed records, we found only one media access request from an independent web site other than for the three-year period covered. Rob Swiger of requested press passes for one football season and was refused. Mr. Swiger no longer is involved with and no longer requests media access. The point is, there is only one web site consistently asking for press access at Virginia Tech:

Conclusion has a verifiable audience that is larger than many competing newsgathering and reporting organizations, which have for years been regularly permitted media access (as they should) to Virginia Tech athletic events, athletes, coaches, press conferences etc. In addition to its very large and growing advertising-supported publication, TechSideline recently began TSL Extra, which provides it with a significant and rapidly growing subscriber base.

TechSideline spends more money covering Virginia Tech athletics than most any other newsgathering and reporting organization. TechSideline is media. TechSideline should have access. Virginia Tech’s current policy is unfair, indefensible, and unconstitutional. Virginia Tech’s current policy is harming our business and denying our readership the full access that it rightly deserves through TechSideline’s unique perspective.

TechSideline is merely requesting that it be permitted to compete on an equal footing; we are not asking for anything that would prove injurious or harmful to Virginia Tech in any fashion. While we are deeply frustrated that we have been forced to take Virginia Tech into a court of law to simply be granted the media access our business clearly deserves, we sincerely feel we have been left with no other choice.

How Can You Help?

Ultimately, Virginia Tech's refusal to grant media access to hurts not just us, but you, the Hokie fan. This site, and your enjoyment of it, could be greatly improved with access to players, coaches, and administrators for interviews and information.

Since many of you donate money to Virginia Tech athletics, some of you in very large amounts, you should have your say in how the athletic department is run, including the issue of granting media access to If VT's refusal to grant access to TSL is against your wishes as an athletic fund contributor (or season ticket buyer, or just as a fan), then your voice needs to be heard.

Click here to find out how you can help.



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