The USC football program has suspended access to the team for two weeks for Orange County Register and Southern California News Group beat writer Luca Evans.
USC coach Lincoln Riley took issue with a story published Thursday, according to Katie Ryan, Director of Football Communications. In the story, Evans wrote about a conversation that two players had while preparing to talk with the media. USC contends that Evans violated its policy prohibiting reporting on anything outside of media availabilities in the practice facility.
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Ryan had earlier in the season brought up concerns to SCNG editors about Evans, who is on his first season on the USC beat. They included asking a question when a press conference had been concluded and talking to players and coaches in areas on campus that weren’t designated as media availabilities.
The Southern California News Group, a partner of this news organization, contends that the suspension is an overreaction, and in a letter sent Monday asked Riley, Athletic Director Jennifer Cohen and USC President Carol Folt to reconsider.
In the letter signed by Sports Editor Tom Moore, Orange County Register Senior Editor Todd Harmonson and Southern California News Group Publisher Ron Hasse, the SCNG asked for the suspension to be lifted, “… in football parlance, USC is looking to kick him out of multiple games for a false start. We ask that this suspension be rescinded immediately.”
Cohen replied to the letter Monday evening writing, “As an institution, USC prides itself on treating the media as a respected partner and key constituent. We understand the responsibility of reporters is to fairly and objectively cover stories, news events, and their respective beats. As you know, our media policies exist to protect our student-athletes and promote a culture of trust that is critical to building successful programs.
“After careful consideration and in alignment with the sentiment above, USC supports the football program’s decision regarding Luca’s two-week suspension. We recognize this may be disappointing, but we hope you can understand the need to enforce our media policies as we strive to create a positive and comfortable environment for our players and coaches.”
“This is a huge overreaction to what the USC program perceived to be a policy violation. We clearly disagree and stand fully behind Luca,” Harmonson said.
After Tuesday’s practice, Riley answered two questions about the suspension.
“I don’t feel like we have too many rules, too many policies, but the ones we do have we take them serious because my first job is not to, even though it is part of my job, it’s not for the media, it’s not for the fans, it’s not anyone else, it’s protecting the players. That is first and foremost,” Riley said. “I know the article in question was not accurate, there were multiple policies broken and felt like it was far enough that we needed to act. We look forward to welcoming the reporter back when the time is up.”
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There have been no requests for corrections on the story and Riley declined to specify which policies were broken.
The suspension from USC football facilities and media availability runs through Sept. 28. Evans will continue to report on the program without that access.
Editor’s note: This story was written and reported by Southern California News Group executive sports editor Tom Moore and edited by assistant sports editor Brian Martin.