Blogs and Commentary

posted 09.30.2011 at 11.48 a.m. by Jac Coyne

Morning Jac: Website Closure Puts MCLA Fractures on Display

The website, the seminal MCLA presence on the Internet, shuttered its doors on Thursday after operating for more than a decade, essentially eliminating the only public meeting place and clearinghouse for coaches, players and fans of the non-varsity league. The closure surprised many, including this writer, who had made visiting the site a daily ritual and had no inkling that the end was near.

As appropriate as a fawning eulogy for the site might be, it's more important to analyze why this happened. While Sonny Pieper, the founder of Collegelax and a long-time MCLA proponent, could probably cite fiscal concerns and time constraints in making his decision – Pieper declined phone and email interviews yesterday – the real reason for the site's demise is primarily based on hurt feelings and lingering bad blood among the numerous stakeholders in the MCLA community.

The genesis of the various relationships involved would require more space than is available here and outlining unpleasant details of past disputes would be counterproductive (and they certainly aren't unique to the MCLA). It is, however, fair to say that no one participating in the internecine feud is blameless. With that said, the association and its collaborators must get its act together to resolve their fractious tendencies and provide quality services to its membership.

One could argue that the closing of Collegelax is a direct result of the MCLA attempting to consolidate its public relations presence under its own umbrella, which is not a bad idea in itself. Over the past several years, the association has adopted – perhaps "appropriated" is a better word – many of the innovations created or proposed by CL, and tasked league-funded entities with sustaining them. The results, however, have been disappointing.

The live scoring during the past MCLA championships – once a responsibility of Collegelax and the only known record of the games themselves since the association does not produce box scores – was littered with inaccuracies. Four months after the final whistle of the national championship game between Arizona State and Brigham Young, the website, which is funded by the MCLA but run by an independent contractor, still does not have a complete box score. From a media standpoint, that's unacceptable.

A recent board decision by the MCLA has put the webcasting responsibilities of tournament games in the hands of another league-sponsored organization, usurping a function that had also been under the auspices of Collegelax. While there was certainly room for improvement with CL's video service, the MCLA's track record in joint ventures – which includes the dubious decision to subsidize a monthly print magazine with league dues – does not engender optimism that we'll necessarily get a better product. Fortunately for the MCLA, all of these inefficiencies are correctable.

At this point in the evolution of the MCLA, it could very well be that Collegelax has run its course as an effective outlet for the league. And, as mentioned before, the blame for this new development does not rest solely with the association, as Pieper has a history of intractability. There is also an underlying feeling that the end of CL is a case of Pieper "taking his ball and going home," and that the decision could be reconsidered in the near future.

Regardless, the shuttering of Collegelax should be an eye opener for everyone close to the MCLA because it illustrates a communication breakdown. Fortunately, the on-field product keeps getting better and the popularity of the league is increasing, which will ultimately help cure all of the current public relations ills. If the decision-makers involved can set aside personal squabbles for the greater good, there's very little to keep the MCLA from reaching its very large potential.