Media descend on desert

Published: Saturday, January 6, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 5, 2007 at 11:30 p.m.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — As the sun goes down in the desert here Friday, the Camel Back Inn is awash with news media who've descended on the Phoenix area to cover the BCS National Championship.

No matter what happens Monday when the University of Florida matches up with Ohio State University, rest assured it will be televised, and written about, and blogged about and graphically illustrated by the throng of news media personnel who've come from all over the United States to cover the game and its buildup.

The BCS has supplied news media credentials to more than 14,000 people. Shawn Schoeffler, vice president of media relations for the championship game and the Fiesta Bowl, said the media influx for this game appears to be without precedent.

"This is the most media we've ever had for any bowl game I've worked at," said Schoeffler, who has been working with the bowl system for 14 years.

The spike in news media coverage is in part because of the timing of this year's championship. The BCS added a game this year, stretching the bowl system through Jan. 8. That allowed reporters to cover a bowl game in their home markets and still have time to make it out to Arizona for the championship.

Though deadlines are tough, there's little denying that members of the news media are being pampered here by the BCS.

The next few days are filled with elaborate dinners and more than a little bit of free food. In the Camel Back Inn's media workroom Friday, tables were covered with hot pretzels and small hamburgers. And, in homage to the game's corporate sponsor, Tostitos products were placed on tables everywhere.

And there's one additional perk: "There's all the free beer you can drink at the Camel Back," Schoeffler said.

The Camel Back Inn, a five-star resort overlooking Scottsdale's rolling landscape, is one of three primary hotels for news media covering the game.

Mark Long, a sports reporter for The Associated Press who covers the Gators and the Jacksonville Jaguars, is coy when discussing all the perks the BCS has rolled out this year. But after a long season of intense coverage, reporters view bowl games as a reward at the end of the year, much as the players do, Long said.

"I don't want to give away too many secrets (about the perks)," he said with a laugh. "But they're almost treating us too good."

Long arrived in Arizona on Monday and says what began as a trickle of reporters last week turned into a full-fledged flood by Friday.

"I can see the increased activity," he said. "You're starting to get a feel for the buzz."

The AP alone will have about 20 staff members in town this week from photographers to writers to television reporters. ESPN, which will start broadcasting Sports Center here Sunday, will bring about 70 people to town.

With the influx of media, Desert Gator Club President Gary Manton has been inundated with media queries.

"It's been insane," he said."It really has."

With Gator fans flooding in this weekend, it's sure to get even crazier for Manton — and the media covering the game.

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