Too Much Information?

By Staff

Coaching Management, 12.11, November 2004, http://www.momentummedia.com/articles/cm/cm1211/bbinformation.htm

When it comes to collegiate athletic department media guides and Web sites, the general rule is: the more the better. The more information you can give the media, fans, and recruits, the more effective these promotional pieces become.

A handful of schools are revisiting this idea, however, in the wake of privacy concerns. At Oregon State University, Sports Information Director Steve Fenk has decided to omit athletesí birth dates and middle initials after a state police lieutenant recommended removing the information because it can be used in identity theft.

"He said that if you have a birth date, you can just about do anything," Fenk says. "You can get a Social Security card, a birth certificate, whatever." Because beat reporters often ask for athletesí birth dates, Fenk included that information in private e-mails to writers covering Oregon State.

At least two other universities have withheld similar information. The University of Florida took athletesí birth dates, middle names, and parentsí names off its athletics Web site a year ago, according to its sports information department. The University of Miami kept the same information out of its 2004 football guides.

At Oregon State, the question of which details to include isnít settled, in part because this isnít the first time athlete bios have been at issue. In 2001, a gymnastics student-athlete received harassing phone calls from a man she suspected called her parents, who were listed in the media guide along with her hometown, and persuaded them to share her campus number by posing as a writer seeking an interview. Then this spring, a young woman disappeared from an off-campus apartment complex where several Oregon State female swimmers lived, and police suspected that the abductor had mistaken the victim for one of the athletes.

Although hometowns and parentsí names remain in the media guides, Oregon State removed mugshots of the swimmers from its online media guide, and Fenk says he can imagine a day when all athletesí portraits will no longer be included. "Thatís just my own theory," he says. "I can see it possibly getting to that point. Itís a really sad commentary."