Basketball coach bans newspaper coverage

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Head basketball coach John Cosentino told student journalists from the Southwestern College Sun that the newspaper was barred from covering the SWC men’s team, then ordered them to leave a pre-season practice the dean of athletics had earlier told them they could attend.

Cosentino chased Southwestern College staff members from the gym on three separate occasions when they attempted to take photos and interview players and coaches regarding the traditional season preview article on the men’s basketball team. Members of the athletic department told the journalism students that Cosentino was very angry about a series of articles in The Sun about alleged recruiting violations by a member of his coaching staff.

Senior members of the college faculty and former members of the athletic department all said they could not recall a coach attempting to ban student media from covering a team.

Cosentino ordered Serina Duarte, a sports photographer for The Sun, out of the gym during a preseason practice on October 11. SWC Sun adviser Dr. Max Branscomb said he called Dean of Athletics Terry Davis to ask if journalism students could enter the gym to report a pre-season basketball article. Davis said yes and met with Duarte for about 30 minutes before escorting her to the gym. In the meantime, Cosentino ended the practice and cleared the gym.

On Oct. 18, Sports Editor Amanda Abad and two members of the The Sun’s sports staff first approached the southwest entrance of the gym, which was locked from the outside.

They walked around the building counter-clockwise checking entrances and found one on the southeast side of the building that was unlocked.

They entered the gym and signaled to Cosentino that they were there to get some pictures and information about the team and its upcoming season. The student newspaper has covered men’s basketball at SWC since the 1960s.

Cosentino immediately began to yell “Class is closed! Class is closed!” while walking towards the journalism students. He opened his arms in a broad V-shape to shepherd the students towards the door, questioning how they were able to enter the gym as the door was locked. The students informed him that the door was not locked and that they opened it normally, with no assistance. He told them that “The door should have been locked,” “My class is closed to the public” and “I am going to double check to make sure the door is locked this time” as he used his body as a barricade to block any attempt to photograph the team in practice and to force the journalism students out the door.

Some young female bystanders who were allowed to attend the practice, the players and associate coaches stared silently at Cosentino as he ushered the journalism students out of the gym.

Cosentino and Davis have not responded to requests for interviews from The Sun to ask about the incidents and about student journalist access to sports events.

On Oct. 27, football reporter Steven Uhl was approached by Davis during the football game against Mt. San Jacinto College at Olympian High School. Uhl said Davis directed him to leave the sidelines and stand behind the endzone. Branscomb was contacted and he drove to the game. He said he spoke to Davis, who told him he did not direct Uhl to leave the sidelines, but cautioned him to be safe. Journalists from other San Diego County print and broadcast media were working on the sidelines as is typical for high school and college football. None said they were approached by Davis. Branscomb said Davis told him it was a misunderstanding and he had no intention of limiting access to reporters from The Sun.

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