The Other 26: It’s Nate Wolters’ World, and We’re Just Living In It

Posted by IRenko on February 9th, 2013

I. Renko is an RTC columnist. He will kick off each weekend during the season with his analysis of the 26 other non-power conferences. Follow him on Twitter @IRenkoHoops.

It wasn’t that long ago when we were musing in this space about whether an early December ankle injury was hindering Nate Wolters’ performance. After missing two games, Wolters registered three straight games with a sub-100 offensive rating (per Ken Pomeroy), decidedly mediocre performances by Wolters’ high standards. But those would be the only three games this year where Wolters fell below that mark, as he emerged from his funk with a 28-point performance in a big win over New Mexico. Since then, Wolters has been as productive as ever. But none of us could have expected what happened on Thursday night. Wolters exploded for an incredible 53-point performance.

Nate Wolters Owned the Court on Thursday Night (South Dakota State Athletics)

Nate Wolters Owned the Court on Thursday Night (South Dakota State Athletics)

Wolters shot 17-of-28 from the floor, including 9-of-14 from three-point range. He added 10 points from the free throw line. He outscored the entire opposing team, IPFW, in the second half, 38-37. He scored in every which way — step back threes, drives through the lane, catch-and-shoot threes, drives along the baseline, threes off ball screens, pull-up jumpers … you name it, he did it.

Wolters is now averaging 22.2 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 5.5 assists per game. He commits just 2.3 turnovers a game despite using more than 30 percent of the Jackrabbits’ possessions. He shoots over 80 percent from the free throw line and over 40 percent from the three-point line. And perhaps most important of all, he has led his team on an eight-game winning streak that has buried an uneven start to the conference season and put the Jackrabbits in a first-place tie with Western Illinois. If you’ve yet to catch the Wolters show, fret not as there are some high-profile opportunities in the coming weeks. Next Saturday, the Jackrabbits welcome Western Illinois to Brookings, and you can bet that the joint will be jumping. And a week later, Wolters will take his talents to Murray, Kentucky to square off against Isaiah Canaan and the Racers in a premier Bracketbuster matchup.

On to this week’s Top 10, our Honor Roll, and the games to watch this week …

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Pac-12 Power Rankings: Week Two

Posted by Connor Pelton on November 27th, 2012

Here’s a look at the power rankings that Drew, Parker, Adam, and I have compiled after the second week of Pac-12 games (delta in parentheses):

  1. Colorado, 5-0 (-): After a 4-0 opening week that got Colorado into the national Top 25 rankings, the Buffaloes only played one game in week two. It wasn’t always easy on Sunday night against Air Force, but Tad Boyle’s squad went on a 13-3 run halfway through the second half to put away the Falcons and cruise to a 15-point victory. Freshman forward Josh Scott led the way with 20 points for Colorado. This was a nearly unanimous pick, with only Drew not picking the Buffs at number one. They now have a warm-up game against Texas Southern before traveling to play a good Wyoming squad on Saturday. Up Next: 11/27 vs. Texas Southern.
  2. Arizona, 3-0 (-): Just like Colorado, it was a one-game week for Arizona, who has only played three games since the nationwide opening night back on November 9. But the Wildcats continued their winning ways, throttling a Long Beach State team that hung with North Carolina for 30 minutes. An 18-3 run late in the first half erased any doubt about the outcome, and UA cruised to a dominating 94-72 win. The Cats easily managed their way through their first three mini-tests, dispatching Charleston Southern and UTEP before the 49ers. The 3-0 start has been good enough to boost them to ninth in the nation in the AP/Coaches polls. Zona now gets a small reprieve against in-state rival Northern Arizona before going into a rough four-game stretch through early December. Up Next: 11/28 vs. Northern Arizona.

    Freshman Forward Brandon Ashley Leads The Ninth Ranked Wildcats With 13.7 PPG (credit: John Miller)

  3. California, 6-0 (^1): The team that has won the most games so far in 2012-13 comes in at number three after two weeks of play. All three of California’s week two wins came in the DirecTV Classic, where it got two less-than-impressive wins before dominating a solid Pacific team in the classic final. Justin Cobbs was undoubtedly the player of the week in the conference, averaging 19.3 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 4.3 assists per game in Anaheim. The Golden Bears’ perfect record will be put to the test in their next three games, when they go to Wisconsin and host UNLV and Creighton in Berkeley. Up Next: 12/2 @ Wisconsin.
  4. Oregon, 5-1 (^1): Oregon got maybe the conference’s biggest non-conference road win in what, two or three years, on Friday? The Ducks went into one of the most hostile environments in the country and pulled out a 83-79 win against UNLV, building their record to 5-0 on the season. They’d eventually lose a hard-fought battle with Cincinnati the next night, but the fact that they were a couple bounces away from knocking off back-to-back ranked opponents in the same weekend was enough to boost them up a notch in this week’s rankings. Freshman guard Damyean Dotson was the surprise of the weekend, averaging 14 PPG. If he can continue that kind of production in the coming weeks, Oregon’s schedule sets up so it can escape non-conference play with only one loss. Up Next: 11/29 vs. UTSA.
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Honorary Pac-12 Members For 2012-13

Posted by AMurawa on October 29th, 2012

There are seven teams from other conferences across the country that will have three different Pac-12 teams on their schedule this year. While fans of Pac-12 schools will likely be rooting against these seven teams in those games against conference foes, whenever these schools face other teams from other conferences, it will be in the best interest of the league as a whole to have these seven teams win as much as possible. We all know the RPI may be a flawed metric, but it is a metric that the selection committee uses in one form or another to help select and slot teams in the bracket come March. And how the RPI is determined is quite simple: It takes into account your team’s winning percentage, the winning percentage of your opponents, and one step further, the winning percentage of your opponents’ opponents. In other words, even if your school isn’t playing one of these teams this season, since your team will be playing against three Pac-12 opponents of these schools, your RPI will get a boost if these teams win. So, without further ado, below we will list and give a brief rundown of the seven Division I teams with three Pac-12 teams on their schedule.

Arkansas-Pine Bluff (RPI: #302) – Last season, the Golden Lions started out by losing 19 of their first 21 games on their way to an 11-22 year. The sad thing is that was an improvement over 2010-11, when they lost their first 14 games and finished 7-24. There are some extenuating circumstances, however. For instance, two years ago their first 12 games – all non-conference games – were on the road, with seven games against teams from the top seven conferences in the nation. Last year was slightly better, with only nine games on their non-conference slate as true road games (the other four were neutral-site games). This year, though, head coach George Ivory is back to getting his team killed in the non-conference slate. Not only will UAPB play at Washington State, Arizona State and Oregon, but they’ll also make soul-crushing trips to San Diego State and Michigan State. But hey, give credit to Ivory for at least scheduling a trip to Hawai’i  to take part in the Rainbow Classic there. This team will have earned its preemptive vacation by the time its non-conference slate is done. The good news is that the Golden Lions have a pair of talented returning starters and a couple veterans coming back from medical redshirts. But let’s face facts. If UAPB comes out of its non-conference schedule with something like a 3-8 record, that will be an astoundingly good result. The Pac-12 will need this squad to clean up in the SWAC in order to get any benefit from having them on the schedule.

George Ivory, Arkansas-Pine Bluff

UAPB’s Head Coach George Ivory Is Not Adverse To Getting His Team Killed In the Non-Conference Schedule

Cal State Northridge (RPI: #324) – If anyone outside of the San Fernando Valley knows anything about the Matadors, it likely has to do with the fact that they were banned from NCAA Tournament eligibility last season due to poor academic performance. But, that’s in the past now, and CSUN used last year’s lost season to develop a bunch of youngsters. Between last year’s Big West freshman of the year, Stephen Hicks, classmate Stephen Maxwell, and sophomore point Josh Greene, the Matadors return the three most efficient high-use offensive players from last year’s squad. Throw in incoming freshmen Landon Drew (brother of UCLA point guard Larry Drew II) and Brandon Perry and this a young and talented squad. And, even better for Pac-12 schools, they have a manageable schedule. Their visits to UCLA, Arizona State and Utah comprise three of their four toughest games on the schedule and their non-conference slate is loaded with winnable games for them, including a trio of non-Division I opponents. But, the real test for CSUN will be how it can do in conference play this year, with the usual favorite, Long Beach State, being challenged by Cal State Fullerton and newcomer Hawai’i. But, if everything comes together, an upper-division finish in the Big West is not out of the question.

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Washington State Week: Breaking Down The Schedule

Posted by Connor Pelton on August 5th, 2012

Washington State released their 2012-13 schedule a week and a half ago, and while dates and opponents are finalized, all but seven times still need to be set. Today we’ll take a quick look at their slate and figure out which games we’re most excited about.

Click To Enlarge

Early-Season Tournament: After five fake games in Australia, then one real fake game against Saint Martin’s, the Cougars will play in the CBE Hall of Fame Classic to start the regular season. Washington State should roll over its first two opponents in the regional round, Eastern Washington and Utah Valley, but they are placed into the Championship Round no matter what happens in the first two games. Unfortunately for the Cougs, they draw the toughest opponent in Kansas for their first game, only made tougher by the fact that the games in this round will be played in Kansas City. They will face either Saint Louis or Texas A&M in the Championship or Consolation game, two teams that match up well with Wazzu. Overall, this will be a good way to start off the year. They should be able to snatch three wins, and playing a top-five team in a virtual road game will impress the selection committee come March.

Toughest Non-conference Game: Kansas without question. The Jayhawks return Jeff Withey and Elijah Johnson and will add four incoming freshman who will be ready to contribute immediately and ease the losses of Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor. Guard Royce Woolridge will get a chance to play against his former team in this one. It will be just his fourth regular season game after transferring from Kansas.

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ACC Game On: 12.14.11 Edition

Posted by KCarpenter on December 14th, 2011

It’s a slow basketball week in the Atlantic Coast Conference as students presumably take exams and wrap up their semester by focusing on their academics. Or play a lot of video games. Something like that. In any case, there is only one interesting matchup the entire week and thank your lucky stars — it’s going down tonight.

The Only ACC Game Between Sunday and Saturday

  • Florida International at Maryland at 7:30 PM on ESPN

Okay, so maybe this isn’t exactly a great game, but it’s all we have until Saturday so let’s try to look at the interesting parts about it. Isiah Thomas‘s team is not a good one. Despite a season-opening overtime win over George Mason, the team has only managed to win two more times. Two-point wins against the likes of Coastal Carolina and Stephen F. Austin aren’t impressive, but at least they are wins. FIU also has more than a couple of bad losses on the books including losses to Alabama State, Arkansas-Pine Bluff, and NAIA school Texas Wesleyan, a school best known in athletics for it’s dominance/scholarships in table tennis. Maryland should win this game to get its third win in a row. The reasons why the Terrapins don’t take this in a walk? The few strengths of the Panthers align well with Maryland’s weaknesses. The Panthers are a good offensive rebounding team while Maryland struggles on the defensive glass. Likewise, outside of the remarkable Terrell Stoglin, the Terrapins guards have had trouble maintaining control of the ball while the Panthers have been fairly effective at forcing turnovers. It’s a long shot, but if FIU gets easy buckets off turnovers, a good number of second chance shots, and gets hot against Maryland’s indifferent defense, they have a reasonable shot at the win. Otherwise, the Terrapins should dominate every other facet of the game, and, provided they take the game seriously, should win easily.

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RTC Conference Primers: #30 – SWAC

Posted by rtmsf on October 4th, 2011

For our complete list of 2011-12 conference primers working backward from #31 to #1, click here.   

Reader’s Take I

Top Storylines

  • Southern & Grambling APR Victims.  When the NCAA released its annual Academic Progress Rate report in May, the SWAC contained two of the five basketball programs facing a postseason ban in 2011-12 as a result of consistently poor scores over several years.  While this news shouldn’t surprise anyone who has followed the APR since it was implemented several years ago, the teeth of the rule is finally taking hold on individual institutions.  Southern and Grambling probably were not going to be in a competitive position to make the NCAA Tournament this season anyway, but this is something that each school must take seriously in order to secure their D-I existence.  The two institutions submitted APR improvement plans to the NCAA over the summer, and with good reason — without a considerable short-term jump in scores,  the next penalty is restricted membership in Division I.
  • Will the APR Eliminate HBCUs in Division I?  Southern and Grambling’s APR predicament highlights a harrowing situation among the two Division I basketball leagues comprising historically black colleges and universities.  With the APR cut line increasing from 925 to 930 as of next year, and a corresponding postseason penalty for programs failing to make that cut in the future, the SWAC  and MEAC could face an untenable situation where every one of its members is ineligible for postseason play, and ultimately on restricted status.  If the 930 threshold had been in effect last year, for example, only one school — the SWAC’s Alcorn State, with its 4-24 overall record and 944 APR score — would have been eligible for the NCAA Tournament.  The APR has been shown to correlate strongly with African-American enrollment, and at the low-budget HBCUs that comprise the SWAC and the MEAC, this development presents tremendous cause for concern.  Whether this is purposeful or not, we’ll leave for you to decide.
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2011 NIT Season Tip-Off Bracket Announced

Posted by nvr1983 on July 20th, 2011

Earlier today the match-ups for the 2011 NIT Season Tip-Off were announced. Unlike many preseason tournaments where the team that will advance is already pre-determined in this tournament you actually have to win to advance, which apparently is a novel concept for preseason tournaments. Like most preseason tournaments it features early-round games at a regional host site with a team from each region advancing to a different destination (in this case Madison Square Garden) for the semifinals and finals.

Scoop and the Orange hope to be back at Madison Square Garden

The host teams for the regional sites (November 14-16) will be Syracuse, Oklahoma State, Virginia Tech, and Stanford. Here are the match-ups for each site for the first round (full bracket here).

  • Syracuse versus Manhattan and Albany versus Brown
  • Virginia Tech versus Monmouth and George Mason versus Florida International
  • Oklahoma State versus Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Oral Roberts versus Texas-San Antonio
  • Stanford versus Fresno State and Colorado State versus Southern Methodist
The winners of the first round games in each region will play against each other with the team and the winner of that game will advance to play in Madison Square Garden for the semifinals and finals (and consolation game for the losers of the semifinals) on November 23 and 25. The losers of the first round games in each region will meet on campus sites on November 21 and 22.
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O26 Primers: Conference USA, Mountain West, Southland, SWAC and WAC Tourneys

Posted by KDoyle on March 9th, 2011

RTC’s Kevin Doyle, author of the weekly column, The Other 26, and the Patriot League Correspondent, will be providing conference tournament previews for all non-BCS conferences.

With three conference tournaments concluding last night, it is only appropriate that five more get underway today. Conference USA and the Southland Conference are two of the most balanced leagues in the nation, while the WAC and Mountain West were just the opposite as they were dominated at the top. The SWAC is always a bit of a mystery come Championship Week and tournament time, but Texas Southern is the class of the league this year and will no doubt do their best to bring respect to the league if they are fortunate enough to advance to the Dance.

Conference USA

The Favorite: UAB won the regular season title with a 12-4 record, but that means very little in the ultra competitive CUSA this season as five teams are just behind the Blazers. There is something to be said though about UAB’s strong play down the stretch and the steady play of Jamarr Sanders and Cameron Moore. These reasons alone amidst several injuries that Mike Davis‘ club has overcome makes UAB the slight favorite over the rest of the bunch.

Dark Horse: Southern Mississippi is one the teams that are nipping at UAB’s heels. Although they fell in their last three games of the regular season, Larry Eustachy’s squad proved throughout the year they can beat anyone in the conference. Having Gary Flowers roam around the pain never hurts either.

Who’s Hot: UAB has won their last four games and seven of eight heading into the tournament. As well as UAB is playing, it would be very easy for that to stop on a dime. Throughout each week during the conference schedule, it appeared that one team in CUSA was emerging as the top dog, but they would quickly fade. Can UAB keep their streak going all the way into the NCAA Tournament?

Player to Watch: Papa Dia, Southern Methodist’s senior forward all the way from Senegal, is enjoying the best season of his career as he is averaging 18.5 points and 9 rebounds a game. In each of the previous three seasons, SMU has been below .500; Dia and his teammates clearly have something to prove in this tournament.

First-Round UpsetCentral Florida over East Carolina. UCF was the nation’s favorite story in the early going as they jumped out to a 14-0 record with wins over Florida, Miami (FL), and Princeton. The Knights then went onto lose eight straight games, thus proving that their early success was a fluke. Now, UCF has won five of seven games and if they can regain that success they had in those 14 games, a victory over East Carolina is absolutely within reach.

How’d They Fare? After going 7-9 in the conference, Houston caught fire in the tournament to surprise everyone by winning the title. In doing so, the Cougars stole a bid from a team on the bubble and earned a #13 seed in the Tournament where they lost to Maryland 89-77. UTEP—the team Houston beat to advance onward—was trounced by Butler as a #12 seed.

Interesting Fact: The last team to win an NCAA Tournament game hailing from Conference USA not named Memphis was Louisville in the 2005 Tournament. The ‘Ville advanced all the way to the Final Four that year where they lost to Illinois 57-52 in the semifinals. Both UAB and Cincinnati also won Tournament games that year.

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Around The Blogosphere: 11.29.10 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on November 29th, 2010

If you are interested in participating in our ATB2 feature, send in your submissions to rushthecourt@gmail.com.

Top 25 Games

  • #12 Syracuse 80, Georgia Tech 76: “Syracuse is your Legends Classic champion and they won the championship game exactly how they’ve come to win most of their games this season. The Orange stalled early, took the lead around the half and held on for the close 80-76 victory over Georgia Tech. That said, the Orange also got something they haven’t gotten all year long…balance.” (Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician)
  • #12 Missouri 91, Arkansas-Pine Bluff 63: “I’m doing a lot of nit-picking for a 28-point win, but it is what it is.  Mizzou has only been sporadically great this year.  If it’s true that they’re suffering from “Play To The Level Of Competition”-itis, then we should see them play pretty well tomorrow … as Georgetown is a damn fine team.” (Rock M Nation)
  • #20 UF 55, FSU 51: “Despite the clear problems the Gators have, the play of the young bigs and a very good road win against a tough opponent will mean something. As the Gators roll towards Christmas and a tough non-conference schedule that includes several road games, Sunday’s win will hopefully be a sign of things to come.” (Alligator Army)
  • #21 UNLV 71, Virginia Tech 59: “The Malcolm Delaney Show was not enough to pull out a 76 Classic title and the Hokies lost to UNLV 71-59 in the Championship Game in Anaheim, CA.” (Tech Hoops)
  • Texas A&M 54, #24 Temple 51: “Oversized when one of our bigs were out of the game with foul trouble. Outrebounded as a result of that. Outhustled and outworked when the game was on the line. Texas A&M’s hard work through all 40 minutes of play allowed them to hand Temple it’s second loss of the year. I cannot take anything away from the Aggies. They wanted the win more than we did, and earned the 54-51 victory.” (Owlified)

Other Games of Interest

  • Northwestern 65, Creighton 52: “Excuses aside, there is not any time to dwell on it as a few more tests await this week for the Bluejays.    On Wednesday, an undefeated and likely ranked BYU Cougars come into the Qwest Center for a matchup in the MWC/MVC Challenge.  With prolific scorer Jimmer Fredette coming in and Creighton’s difficulty in keeping control of certain players, there is a lot to be worried about.  Then on Sunday, Creighton takes another road trip.  This time it is down to Lincoln to take on in-state rival Nebraska which is always a challenge in the Devaney Center the last few times as the Bluejays haven’t won in Lincoln since the 2004-05 season.  There is not any time for confusion–this stretch will be big if the Bluejays are anywhere near postseason NCAA contention come March.” (White and Blue Review)
  • UNC 74, College of Charleston 69: “First things first; it’s a better outcome than last year. It may not feel all that better, as UNC trailed often in the second half, but 74-69 is infinitely more comforting than 79-82. Of course, last year’s shocker and this year’s squeaker were both the result of one man, Andrew Goudelock. Last season he went 10 of 20 from the field and hit four threes to finish with 24 points. This year in Chapel Hill he was 11 of 28 with five threes to finish with 28. The early spurt in the second half to take the lead was almost entirely his doing, as he was draining some incredible threes from absolutely insane places. He’s a pretty impressive player. The difference is, this year he was alone.” (Carolina March)

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In Their Words: Life at the Mid-Major Level (part eight)

Posted by rtmsf on November 9th, 2010

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-10 and Mountain West Conferences and an occasional contributor.

To read the entire In Their Words series, click here.

Part Eight: MARKETING

Over the summer, we’ve spent time hearing about some of the next big-name recruits on their way to college basketball: Jared Sullinger and Harrison Barnes, Anthony Davis and Michael Gilchrist. We’ve heard the big-time schools announce their high profile games on their upcoming schedules: Kentucky going to the Maui Invitational and visiting North Carolina, Michigan State hosting Texas and going to Duke. But for the vast majority of Division I programs, they’ve been flying under the radar. There are at present 73 teams that participate in basketball in the six BCS conferences, but there are 347 total programs in Division I. Of those other 274 programs, there are certainly quite a few big-name programs: last year’s national runner-up Butler comes to mind immediately, as does Gonzaga, Memphis and a handful of other schools in conferences like the Atlantic 10 and the Mountain West. But, we were also interested in how the other half (or really, how the other three-quarters) lives, so we spent some time talking to coaches, athletic directors and other people around the country affiliated with some of those other schools — those non-BCS schools, those “mid-majors” — and we asked them about how they recruit, how they create a schedule, how they market their programs, and quite a few other things. Over the next eight weeks, we’ll let them tell you their story, in their own words.

To begin, let me introduce and thank this week’s cast of characters:

  • Andrew Roberts, Assistant Athletic Director for Sports Information, Arkansas-Pine BluffRoberts runs a tight ship at UAPB as the sole full-time member of the Sports Information Department.
  • Eric Brown, Assistant Athletic Communications Directory, Liberty – Brown is a graduate of Liberty University and former sports editor at the student newspaper, the Liberty Champion.
  • Chris Lang, Writer, Lynchburg News & Advance: Lang has been the beat writer for Liberty University since 2005 after having spent eight years as the Sports Editor at the Arizona Daily Sun in Flagstaff, Arizona.
  • Jessica Dickson, Assistant Athletic Director for External Relations, UMKC – Dickson has been in her current position, where she oversees marketing and promotions for UMKC, for just over three years.
  • Larry Williams, Athletic Director, Portland: Williams has been the AD at Portland for six years now following a five year stint as the head of licensing and product marketing at his alma mater Notre Dame. Williams was a two-time All-American offensive lineman with the Irish before starting 44 games in the NFL.
  • Kevin Keys, Associate Athletic Director for External Operations, Liberty – Keys is a ’77 Liberty graduate who enters his sixth year back on campus in charge of Liberty’s licensing, promotions and marketing.
  • Chris Caputo, Assistant Coach, George Mason – Caputo is entering his sixth season as an assistant coach for the Patriots after spending the previous three seasons as an administrative assistant and video coordinator under head coach Jim Larranaga.
  • Eric Reveno, Head Coach, Portland – Reveno heads into his fifth season at Portland having turned around a program from a team that was 18-45 in his first two seasons to a team on the rise with a 40-24 record over the last two seasons. Reveno spent his previous nine seasons as an assistant at Stanford, his alma mater where he was a Pac-10 Conference All-Academic Team selection as a senior.

So far, in regards to marketing, we’ve touched on the differences in the size of athletic budgets and the size of the media markets between some rather disparate programs classified as mid-majors. But regardless of the size of the program or the size of the market, a big key for mid-major programs is to get consistent media coverage. Coverage from their local media not only can keep the program in the minds of their fans and keep them up to date, but it can also introduce the team to new fans. Not surprisingly, schools in smaller markets generally have an easier time of getting local media coverage.

Media Coverage, Especially at the Local Level, is Important

Andrew Roberts, Assistant Athletic Director for Sports Information, Arkansas-Pine Bluff : Arkansas Pine Bluff is in a unique situation, because we have a local newspaper, the Pine Bluff Commercial, that does an outstanding job of covering the UAPB athletic department top-to-bottom, all sports, they all receive excellent coverage in our local paper. And then, there is a paper in Little Rock, the Arkansas Democrat Gazette and they cover football and men’s basketball extensively throughout the year. They’ll assign us a beat writer and he’ll cover us. The coverage was great.

Eric Brown, Assistant Athletic Communications Directory, Liberty: Our main media affiliates would be our local TV station here in Lynchburg, WSET. They do a good job of covering us since they’re right here in our area, and then our local newspaper Lynchburg News & Advance, they’re real good also. They’ve got a beat writer that covers us all the time.

Chris Lang, Writer, Lynchburg News & Advance: With basketball, we’re trying to cover all the Big South road games this year, where in the past we had covered mostly just home games. We don’t do a ton with the out-of-conference road games, because honestly Liberty is very unlikely to win many of those. I mean, if they go out to Florida, what’s the point of us traveling down there to watch them lose by 35 points or something. We do try to treat it like it’s a big time program, it’s the one program that’s right in our city and our backyard. We cover Virginia, Virginia Tech as well, but they are both an hour, an hour and a half away. Liberty is a growing program, it’s grown a lot in the five years I’ve been here for sure, it’s grown big-time, so we try to treat it as such.

Brown: Outside of that, there’s not a whole lot that will cover us regularly. The thing is, Charlottesville’s not too far away, but they’re gonna be focused on UVA. Roanoke is close, but they’ll be focused on Virginia Tech. So we’re kind of always competing with them, or in their shadow a little bit, because we may not get looked at as much in those areas because the focus is on Virginia and Virginia Tech. We’ll have a few other outlets cover us from time-to-time based on what we’re doing, but mostly it is the TV station and the newspaper.

In larger markets, getting consistent media coverage can be much harder, but it does happen.

Jessica Dickson, Assistant Athletic Director for External Relations, UMKC: Surprisingly enough, we are extremely lucky with the media coverage we have. Blair Kerkhoff (Kansas City Star) is who covers us the most and he really does seem to see the importance and the value of promoting UMKC, because we are the only Division I basketball program in Kansas City. He does a great job covering us. Now, where maybe Kansas or Kansas State or Missouri, the three Big 12 schools closest to us, don’t need to pitch stories to the local newspaper or to the radio stations or TV stations, that’s the difference with us, we do need to give Blair a call and say “hey we’ve got this student-athlete with this great story, can we get you in touch with the coach to talk about it”. And we work around his schedule and absolutely understand that where we thought something would run this week, it might get bumped because of something else and run the following week. But beyond the print, our media partner as far as broadcasting is Sports Radio 810, a fabulous all-sports radio station here in Kansas City. They cover us wonderfully, not only is that the home of our men’s basketball games, but our color commentator is Steven St. John, who hosts the morning show for the station and he’s a UMKC grad and covers us really well. They include us in their SportsCenter update, when they’re talking about what’s going on in the city. If we’ve got a game coming up that night, they’ll make sure to plug us. Anytime that we’ve got a game coming up where we want to get one of our coaches on the air, they’re more than happy to get them on for an interview. And then we’re extremely lucky in Kansas City to have a 24-hour local sports TV station called Metro Sports, they’re owned by Time-Warner cable and that’s been our television home since we went Division I and they’ll televise 15-17 of our men’s and women’s basketball games, and we get our coaches out to the studio on a weekly basis to do shows from their studio. So, we, for a mid-major school, get fabulous media coverage, especially when compared with some other schools.

While local media coverage is very important, getting on national television on a semi-regular basis is a goal as well for many of these programs, not only as a way to get the university’s name and brand out there, but as a way to build awareness for potential recruits.

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In Their Words: Life at the Mid-Major Level (part seven)

Posted by rtmsf on November 2nd, 2010

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-10 and Mountain West Conferences and an occasional contributor.

To read the entire In Their Words series, click here.

Part Seven: MARKETING

Over the summer, we’ve spent time hearing about some of the next big-name recruits on their way to college basketball: Jared Sullinger and Harrison Barnes, Anthony Davis and Michael Gilchrist. We’ve heard the big-time schools announce their high profile games on their upcoming schedules: Kentucky going to the Maui Invitational and visiting North Carolina, Michigan State hosting Texas and going to Duke. But for the vast majority of Division I programs, they’ve been flying under the radar. There are at present 73 teams that participate in basketball in the six BCS conferences, but there are 347 total programs in Division I. Of those other 274 programs, there are certainly quite a few big-name programs: last year’s national runner-up Butler comes to mind immediately, as does Gonzaga, Memphis and a handful of other schools in conferences like the Atlantic 10 and the Mountain West. But, we were also interested in how the other half (or really, how the other three-quarters) lives, so we spent some time talking to coaches, athletic directors and other people around the country affiliated with some of those other schools — those non-BCS schools, those “mid-majors” — and we asked them about how they recruit, how they create a schedule, how they market their programs, and quite a few other things. Over the next eight weeks, we’ll let them tell you their story, in their own words.

To begin, let me introduce and thank this week’s cast of characters:

  • Andrew Roberts, Assistant Athletic Director for Sports Information, Arkansas-Pine BluffRoberts runs a tight ship at UAPB as the sole full-time member of the Sports Information Department.
  • Murry Bartow, Head Coach, East Tennessee State – Bartow is entering his eighth season as the Buccaneers head coach, after having previously succeeded his father Gene Bartow as the head coach at UAB. Bartow has posted a 118-72 record in his years at ETSU and has racked up 241 total wins and four NCAA appearances in his 13 seasons as a head coach.
  • Eric Reveno, Head Coach, Portland – Reveno heads into his fifth season at Portland having turned around a program from a team that was 18-45 in his first two seasons to a team on the rise with a 40-24 record over the last two seasons. Reveno spent his previous nine seasons as an assistant at Stanford, his alma mater where he was a Pac-10 Conference All-Academic Team selection as a senior.
  • Jessica Dickson, Assistant Athletic Director for External Relations, UMKC – Dickson has been in her current position, where she oversees marketing and promotions for UMKC, for just over three years.
  • Todd Miles, Assistant Athletics Director for Media Relations, Long Beach State – Miles starts his third year in Long Beach following a seven-year stretch at Boise State where he was the primary media relations contact for the basketball team.
  • Gregg Bach, Assistant Athletics Director for Communications, Akron – Bach was named to his current position this past summer after having spent the previous eight years on the media relations staff in the Akron athletic department. His new job makes him the spokesperson of the athletic department.
  • Kevin Keys, Associate Athletic Director for External Operations, Liberty – Keys is a ’77 Liberty graduate who enters his sixth year back on campus in charge of Liberty’s licensing, promotions and marketing.

Last time out we introduced you to the marketing side of mid-major basketball programs and its range of athletic budgets from the one-man Sports Information Department on up. This week, we’ll take a look at another big difference between mid-major programs: the size of the markets in which they play. When these schools compete in small college towns, they can be the talk of the town when things are going well, but for those schools in bigger markets, they are in danger of being overshadowed and potentially lost in the crowd no matter how well they’re playing at the moment.

With So Many Entertainment Options in Big Cities Like LA, Finding Fans Can Be Tough

Andrew Roberts, Assistant Athletic Director for Sports Information, Arkansas-Pine Bluff: I definitely think it is an advantage (to be in a smaller market), here in the state of Arkansas. I’m originally from Texas, the Houston area, and two schools in that area are in our conference: Prairie View A&M and Texas Southern. They have at times been lost in the shuffle of everything else that is going on, because you’ve got professional sports franchises and other colleges in the city of Houston and high school football and they have sometimes voiced concerns with the amount of coverage they have gotten. There is just so much going on in the city from a sports perspective. At times, it’s just hard for those programs to get ample amount of coverage because there is just so much going on. You’ve got a lot of competition for coverage among those other entities, where in Little Rock its UAPB, its UALR and then that’s really it in the Little Rock area. You’ve got the Arkansas Razorbacks, but there aren’t any professional sports in the state, so there is probably more ability for the news outlets to cover local colleges.

Murry Bartow, Head Coach, East Tennessee State: It can go both ways playing in a small community. Our fans are very much diehard fans. We’ve got very hardcore fans, which is great if you’re winning, and if you’re losing, they let you know about it. It can work both ways, but I’d much rather be in this situation. Let’s say you’re a mid-major program in a big city, it’s tough, because you can easily get swallowed up from a media standpoint and a PR standpoint. In the newspaper, you might be on the sixth or seventh page, if at all, whereas when we do something good or bad, it’s going to be the lead story in our paper. No question, if we play tonight the lead story in the paper tomorrow is going to be about ETSU basketball. If you’re a mid-major in a big city, you probably have to flip to the back pages to see anything about your program. That would be something you fight. So I like the situation we’re in, but if you’re not winning, then it can obviously work the other way.

Eric Reveno, Head Coach, Portland: When you look at Gonzaga, as far as the city of Spokane, they are the biggest show in Spokane, by far. Portland is not the case, we’ve got the Blazers, we’ve got Portland State, we’ve got minor league baseball, we’ve got more nightlife, we’ve got more going on, which is good. But from a standpoint of getting corporate sponsorship and getting fans, if you’re a company in Spokane and you want to wine and dine your clients, you take them to a Bulldogs game, because there’s nowhere else to take them.

Jessica Dickson, Assistant Athletic Director for External Relations, UMKC: We’re not a small market, so I actually think it is a little more challenging for a smaller school in a large market, as compared to some of our league opponents who are in smaller markets where there’s not as much competition for entertainment. I don’t necessarily think that we directly compete with the Kansas City Chiefs for fans. I think that we as a mid-major school compete with that dinner-and-a-movie crowd, that’s a little more comparable to what our price point is. But we do have to compete. There are so many entertainment options in Kansas City, from the art to the theater to the ballet to the movies to concerts at the Sprint center to football games to Royals games to Wizards games. There are so many options of things for people in KC to do, so we have to come up with creative ways to keep UMKC basketball at the top of their minds.

Todd Miles, Assistant Athletics Director for Media Relations, Long Beach State: We’re obviously competing against UCLA, USC, everybody else in our league, the Lakers, the Dodgers… there’s so much to do here. Getting attention in a place like this is a lot harder here than it was at Boise State in terms of local media and stuff like that, but I would say it is probably an advantage in some areas too. You’re more apt to see North Carolina come and play us, or play UCSB like they did a couple of years ago than to see them visit, say some mid-major in a smaller market.

Gregg Bach, Assistant Athletics Director for Communications, Akron: I would say we compete for the professional sports fan in Cleveland, no question about that. That might change a little bit with what has happened with the Cavs and LeBron and all that this summer but certainly the last five or six years, that has been something that we definitely fight. It is not something where football overshadows basketball or basketball overshadows football within our department, I don’t know that we have that issue, but maybe fighting some of those outside things for what people are spending their entertainment dollars on. Even with Ohio State, we’re just two hours north of Columbus, but most of the state is into Ohio State and Ohio State football, so that’s something that we fight as well. I’m not saying someone is not going to come to an Akron game because they are necessarily going to an Ohio State game, but maybe they’re going to stay at home and watch the Ohio State game on TV or go to a sports bar, or something along those lines. So that’s something that we fight and that something we take into consideration a lot of times in terms of how you are going to schedule a game or how we are going to market a game.

Kevin Keys, Associate Athletic Director for External Operations, Liberty: There is no question that we compete with Virginia and Virginia Tech, as our town sits right in the middle between the two. Our philosophy has been for a long time, we’re not going to steal Tech fans or steal UVA fans, that would be a fruitless effort. But those fans don’t always have games at Tech or UVa on the nights that we are playing, whether that be football or basketball. We here are their hometown team and we reach out to them, that’s part of what I would say are our non-traditional fans, that we’ve really begun to grow our fan base with the success we’ve had. Those people are big sports fans and they come watch us. Does that mean they’re giving up wearing maroon and orange for Tech or blue and orange for UVA? No, it doesn’t mean that. But they become fans of ours. Ultimately, we’d love to think that some of them would become primarily Liberty fans, but that’s not our goal. Our goal is to put on a good show and maybe they’ll come to our games on a night when their team isn’t playing.

Putting on a good show is often a goal for these mid-majors, not only getting their fans to come to the games, but making sure they have a good time so that they are more likely to come back. And one of the big things is to create a game atmosphere that is not only fun for the fans and the student base, but also an environment that could aid the basketball team. The first step is getting the fans there.

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In Their Words: Life at the Mid-Major Level (part six)

Posted by rtmsf on October 26th, 2010

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-10 and Mountain West Conferences and an occasional contributor.

To read the entire In Their Words series, click here.

Part Six: MARKETING

Over the summer, we’ve spent time hearing about some of the next big-name recruits on their way to college basketball: Jared Sullinger and Harrison Barnes, Anthony Davis and Michael Gilchrist. We’ve heard the big-time schools announce their high profile games on their upcoming schedules: Kentucky going to the Maui Invitational and visiting North Carolina, Michigan State hosting Texas and going to Duke. But for the vast majority of Division I programs, they’ve been flying under the radar. There are at present 73 teams that participate in basketball in the six BCS conferences, but there are 347 total programs in Division I. Of those other 274 programs, there are certainly quite a few big-name programs: last year’s national runner-up Butler comes to mind immediately, as does Gonzaga, Memphis and a handful of other schools in conferences like the Atlantic 10 and the Mountain West. But, we were also interested in how the other half (or really, how the other three-quarters) lives, so we spent some time talking to coaches, athletic directors and other people around the country affiliated with some of those other schools — those non-BCS schools, those “mid-majors” — and we asked them about how they recruit, how they create a schedule, how they market their programs, and quite a few other things. Over the next eight weeks, we’ll let them tell you their story, in their own words.

To begin, let me introduce and thank this week’s cast of characters:

  • Andrew Roberts, Assistant Athletic Director for Sports Information, Arkansas-Pine BluffRoberts runs a tight ship at UAPB as the sole full-time member of the Sports Information Department.
  • Jessica Dickson, Assistant Athletic Director for External Relations, UMKC – Dickson has been in her current position, where she oversees marketing and promotions for UMKC, for just over three years.
  • Eric Brown, Assistant Athletic Communications Directory, Liberty – Brown is a graduate of Liberty University and former sports editor at the student newspaper, the Liberty Champion.
  • Kevin Keys, Associate Athletic Director for External Operations, Liberty – Keys is a ’77 Liberty graduate who enters his sixth year back on campus in charge of Liberty’s licensing, promotions and marketing.
  • Gregg Bach, Assistant Athletics Director for Communications, Akron – Bach was named to his current position this past summer after having spent the previous eight years on the media relations staff in the Akron athletic department. His new job makes him the spokesperson of the athletic department.

Our last topic in this series is marketing: how do mid-major programs get their name and their brand out there, how do they grow their program, how can they compete for fans in both large and small markets, and how does their limited budget affect their choices? To begin with, even though all of the schools we talked with are regarded as mid-majors, there are a wide variety of budgets and a wide variety of staff sizes even among this small sample, ranging from Arkansas-Pine Bluff on the very small end to Liberty on a larger scale. At UAPB, the full-time staff is extremely limited.

Marketing at Mid-Major Programs Requires Creativity

Andrew Roberts, Assistant Athletic Director for Sports Information, Arkansas-Pine Bluff: Full-time? Just me. No interns at the moment. No graduate assistants at the moment. We have some individuals that come and help us out on game days, which is really where I need people’s help, whether running shot clock or running game clock, setting everybody up. But as far as week-to-week, day-to-day operations in the office, it is pretty much just me, handling 16 sports. It becomes something where you really have to pride yourself on good time management, doing stuff in the most efficient manner possible, just because when you’re small-staffed you have to be smart about it, the way you go about doing stuff, because you don’t necessarily have the manpower of a USC or Duke who have that SID office with eight or nine people full-time.

Jessica Dickson, Assistant Athletic Director for External Relations, UMKC: I definitely, in my role as an individual at UMKC, have quite a bit more areas of responsibility than someone in a similar position at Kansas State, Kansas or Missouri. You can look at the staff directories and see that we have quite a few less people, so in our marketing department, which would be my area of external relations and marketing promotions, we have only three full-time staff members to handle fundraising, special events, ticketing, marketing, promotions, game atmosphere, licensing. If you add sports information in, then you add two more full-time staffers and beyond that we have two graduate assistants. Each individual has quite a bit more responsibility and areas of oversight than you would find at one of the bigger schools.

Eric Quinton Brown, Assistant Athletic Communications Directory, Liberty: I would say we’re not the typical FCS staff because we probably have more staff members than a lot of our counterparts do. We’re probably different in that we’re fortunate to be able to add positions in the last couple of years. I don’t know if there is a larger full-time sports information department in our conference than what we have. We have five full-time people. We have a director, an associate director and then three assistant directors and we’ll have a GA [graduate assistant].

And, as the sizes of the sports information or athletics communications departments vary, so too do the responsibilities that fall to the individuals in those departments. While at Liberty roles may be more clearly defined, at smaller schools there may be more of a do-everything culture.

Kevin Keys, Associate Athletic Director for External Operations, Liberty: I oversee all external communications, but I spend a lot of my time in the marketing portion and I spell sponsorship. My two graduate assistant students who work for me are specifically focused in the area of marketing.

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