SAN ANTONIO -- In March of 2005, during the original 100 Games Project
, I felt like it couldn't hurt to ask. I called up Brian McCann, the sports information director at Cleveland State, a school that was organizing an NCAA subregional at the Wolstein Center. I explained that I ran a website about college basketball and had spent the season writing about games I'd gone to, and that I'd made it to 94. I asked him if I could apply for a media credential. "I cannot imagine that you are going to be eligible," he said. "But feel free to look over the application."
I filled it out carefully, and returned it. Within hours, I received a rejection e-mail, with the appropriate portion of the credentials criteria referenced. One credential may be issued to an online agency that (1) registers at least one million unique users per month in each of the 12 months before the tournament and (2) covers college basketball daily.
Brian called me afterwards. "I'm sorry," he said. "There are only two outlets that meet those criteria right now: ESPN.com and Yahoo Sports."
The next season, as it so happened, I started writing for ESPN.com. When I was there, I had no problem getting access, and I even went to the 2006 Final Four to cover George Mason. Four seasons later, after we warmly shook hands and parted ways, Butler made it to Indianapolis. I followed. But the one Final Four seat assigned to the magazine for which I write a monthly print column, Basketball Times
, was taken (rightfully) by the publication's longtime editor, John Akers. Once again, I ran into the solid wall the NCAA had built against online media, and I was told that there was nothing they could do. If not for the graciousness of friends in the league commissioner business, I wouldn't have even made it inside the building, and my book
would have ended with a scene in the Buffalo Wild Wings on Washington Street. When Gordon Hayward launched that shot in Lucas Oil Stadium, I was 20 yards away with a ticket laynard around my neck.
Last summer, NCAA media director David Worlock
consulted with the U.S. Basketball Writers Association, and the NCAA revisited and revised its criteria for online media access. Later on, I was in touch with John Akers about some article or another, and the topic switched to the 2010 Final Four. "I don't know if you heard, but there's a new policy," he wrote. "A lot of good it does you now, but your name came up a lot last year in conversations about guys who deserved credentials."
At the beginning, 100 was a dream
. It was achieved
In recent years, primarily due to repetition, the number hasn't meant much
here. Now, it means everything. One Hundred is why sites like Rush the Court
, that obsess over this sport at levels no print outlet has ever or could ever, can cover the NCAA Tournament from end to end. I turned my 2010-11 game list over to my friends and colleagues Basketball Prospectus
after they were denied access. Now they're in the door too.
The NCAA is an easy punching bag. It's an organization that has historically acted out of a narrowly-defined sense of moral correctness, and has been slow to embrace change or technological evolution in any form. But like any entity, it contains the capacity to adjust. I'm very, very proud to have been a part of this change, and that the template stumbled upon here seven years ago is now an establishment benchmark. An online outlet's worthiness is no longer based on popularity-based metrics, but instead is measured by its effort and its love of Our Game.
For reasons previously discussed and a few to be discussed later (hopefully a lot
later, like in April), this is the Last One Hundred
for me. There may be a 45 Game Project in the future, or a 60 or a 25, but I am done with triple digits forever. Tonight, here in San Antonio at 7:27 Eastern time, Season 7 will achieve 100 when Richmond plays Kansas. Of the five seasons where 100 was realized, this has by far been the most difficult. The economy is bad, gas is expensive. I am older now and there is a younger generation coming up behind me with a lot more energy than I have.
I'm not a big "legacy" guy. I know that The Mid-Majority will be forgotten when it's finally gone, or maybe occasionally referenced by a select few people for a few years. I know how fast this parallel world swallows its past. I only ask one favor. Say you randomly find yourself on a press row at the NCAA Tournament talking to a Robot microblogger (or whatever media types are called in the future), and my name comes up. He says, "That washed-up bozo with the sneakers and the stuffed basketball? Never liked him."
If that happens to happen someday, just reply softly: "If it weren't for Kyle Whelliston, you wouldn't be sitting there." * * *Traveling over 15,000 miles to 100 Division I college basketball games
that involve teams from the smallest 25 conferences (and live-tweeting every single one) may be too strange and abstract of a mission to impress a lot of people. But this has been the first
100 that was completely and totally funded by The Mid-Majority's reader-supporters. There have been no advertisements, no sponsorships, no subsidization by a multinational corporation. There is a direct accountability between us and the audience, and nobody in between. I made it to 100 games this year simply because the following people wanted me to.
This season would have been impossible without our army of Season 7 Members: Afi Ahmadi, John Templon, Trent Redden, Samuel Wasson, Joshua Leggette, Hillel Soifer, Robert Frueh, Mike Etheridge, Michael Rhinesmith, Ben Case, Frank Vitale, Kraig Williams, Scott Bohn, Mike Miller, Julia Prior, Rhett Umphress, Allan Lewis, Michael Hadley, Matt Konrad, Paul Hampson, Gidal Kaiser, Anthony Montana, Darin Keener, Bryon McKim, Michael Brodsky, Jeffrey Valler, Rod Truesdell, Brendan Loy, Rhett Butler, Travis Mason-Bushman, Rob Holub, Ken Bethune, Corey Schmidt, Terry Hobgood, Jay Warman, Steve Timble, Chris Crowley, Jonathan Tannenwald, Jacob Collins, Daniel Bradley, John English, Jeff Penders, Eric Reyes, William Harty Jr., Christopher Dobbertean, John M. Lee, Jeff Pojanowski, Mark Anskis, Robert Hartnett, Christopher Almaraz, David Bardwell, Jacob Buckles, Allen Keister, Roger Ahern, Randy Raab, Terry Pierce, Howard Kahler, Harry Jeffers, Mike Coronel, Bobby Atkinson, Manuel Sellars, Steven Del Rosario, Nathan Levitt, Walter Trujillo, Willie Hambrick, Roger Fellows, Garrett Wheeler, Louis Vice, Gregory Slagle, Ryan Laird, Brendan Devitt, Chris Tillman, Tony Carlucci, Sam Bingham, Timothy Gaige, Mark Mantonya, Mark Spenik, John Willmott, Ty Clark, Charles LaPlante, Christopher Coffee, Kevin Heaslip, Tom Felice, Jeffrey Carvell, Ed Lass, Jeffrey Fitzwater, Jon Hildebrand, Christopher Palmer, Ronald DiPaola, Bruce Pringle, Matt Sonnenberg, Eliot Johnson, Kevin Prigge, Asher Fusco, Matthew Whitrock, Thomas Antonucci, Benjamin Kennedy, Peter Feldman, Dennis Bretz, D. Coffman, Lance Rasmussen, Stephen Sterrett, Joe Geyer, Frank Tresnak, Griffin Pulliam, Andrew Stem, Dwight Strayer, Matthew Neff, Mark Slessinger, Christian Skogen, Thomas Lindell, Brian Floyd, Brian Dorsey, Mark Just, Jermaine Patrick, Grant Humphries, Matt Molinaro, Kevin Benavides, Ernest Logue, Mike Pettinato, Shankar Duraiswamy, Chris Hanford, Jonathan Kukulski, Nicholas Wynne, James Squire, James Bales, G.S., William Daniels, Marty Goodman, Mark Riley, Charles Flint III, Donald Anderson, and several others whose inclusion on this list would cause them trouble at work. Wink, wink.
The t-shirts will be ready once I get off the road and stop spending all my time writing things for this website.
Also, a very very very special thanks to all those who made the final stretch of the season possible, highlighted by the three-day, 2,200-mile Cannonbally Run
with a rented Mazda 3. Mike Miller, Gidal Kaiser, D Coffman, Amy Rensink, Nick Catrambone, Maggie Cooper, Corey Schmidt, Brendan Loy, Robert Iracane, Kraig Williams, Patrick Byrnett, Eric Skaugset, Ryan Gabbard, Frank Vitale, Craig Hanford, Robert Molnar, Gerritt Hinnen, Ben Case, Reilly McClure, Robert Frueh, Mark Spenik, Tyler Reisinger, Anthony Slosser, Jeffrey Fitzwater, Charles Fenwick, Donovan Potts, Matthew Whitrock, John M Lee, Matt Zemek, Jeff Grubb, Mark Anskis, Sam Walker III, William Fischer, Erik Nell, Andrew Burdick and Eric Reyes.
A special level of appreciation is owed to those who went above and beyond, who purchased scholarships in bulk or somehow bent over backwards to help Season 7 happen. Special thanks to Matt Zemek, Gary Moore, Todd Falkenberg, Nick Catrambone, Jennifer Ahearn, Timothy Burke, D.T. and Paul Hampson. And, standing at the pinnacle of Gratitude Mountain, once again: the mysterious T.F.
Thank you for an amazing ride, and it's been my honor and privilege to share it with you all. And it's not quite over yet.