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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Pac-10 Officially Rebrands Itself – A Nation Yawns

Posted by rtmsf on July 27th, 2010

The Pac-10 today formally announced several wholesale changes to its league at its annual football media days held in New York City this year.  You read that right — New York City – a mere 2,400 miles from its nearest current institution.  Attempting to rebrand itself after its June power grab of two additional schools who will begin conference play in 2011 (Colorado and Utah), Commissioner Larry Scott (a New Yorker himself) brought the league to the east coast in an outreach effort not seen in those parts since Oregon’s unsuccessful effort to market QB Joey Harrington as Joey Heisman on a 100-foot NYC billboard in 2001

It Takes More than Marketing

Does marketing a west coast league with predominantly west coast players who cater to west coast fans in the media capital of the world have any effect on the national conversation about the Pac-10?  Maybe if we were talking about the Lakers, but otherwise, probably not.  We submit that this is a largely symbolic move by Scott to signal to his constituents that he’s willing to try somewhat unconventional methods to further market the league and reach new fans.  He said as much in his comments today:

It seemed to be a bit of an excuse and that the Pac-10 in my estimation was very laid back and passive in terms of how it went about telling its story and promoting itself.  To me the disconnect was people worried about that but they were not really doing much about it.

The league has been solid if not spectacular in football over the past five years, and a couple of tremendous basketball seasons in 2008 and 2009 was followed up with an epic stinker last year.  Given the three-hour time difference, the league will always have an inherent disadvantage against early-to-bed types in the east, but there are fans of both sports everywhere who will tune in if there is a product on the field or court worth watching.  The Pac-10’s television contract is set to expire next year, and one of the major hurdles for Scott and his crew will be to figure out how to handle the Fox Sports Net problem.  FSN is the primary television broadcaster for Pac-10 sports, yet in many localities, the NBA or MLB or NHL will pre-empt Pac-10 out of area broadcasts.  A big weeknight game between Arizona and UCLA may only be visible to half of the country, with the result being that even if people wanted to watch it in New York, they might not be able to do so.

New Logo Featuring Mountains and Sea

Unless your name is King James, however, focused marketing usually helps, and Scott seems intent on maximizing the league brand prior to those television contract negotiations next year.  Some of the re-branding changes:

  • Starting next year, with Colorado and Utah on board, the league will be “mathematically correct” in calling itself the Pac-12.  It doesn’t roll off the tongue, but we do appreciate the attention to the laws of arithmetic in taking shots at the soon-to-be twelve-team Big Ten and ten-team Big 12.  We’re crossing our fingers that they’ve thought through the natural consequence that everyone is going to start calling the league the “12-Pac” now, though.  
  • The conference has a new, modern logo (see above) that features the natural beauty and outdoorsy lifestyle that the region is known for.  The old one seemed like something out of the 60s, and what was that thing behind the Pac?  The sun? 
  • A re-designed website that will feature streaming video called the Pac-10 Digital Network, including this marketing video that sorta scared us with its intensity

Of course, without a quality product and the ability to get it aired nationally from coast to coast, all of this is mere window dressing.  Props to Larry Scott for recognizing that the viability of his league will require some creative thinking and a proactive approach, but next year’s television deal is where the water will hit the sand.   Otherwise, those east coasters and midwesterners who already don’t care will continue to not care, and even with the West Coast adding people hand over fist, it alone still only represents about one-fifth of Americans. 

Share this story

10.22.09 Fast Breaks

Posted by rtmsf on October 22nd, 2009

It’s coming fast and furious now.  Eighteen days…

  • Adidas/Nike Flap at UCF.  So you probably know that Michael Jordan’s other son (the one not acting all wishy-washy at Illinois) is a freshman guard at Central Florida.  It didn’t take long, but Marcus Jordan has already become notorious in the national media for something other than his play on the court.  The issue is that UCF allegedly promised him during his recruitment that he could wear Nike shoes (hundreds of millions of dollars to the trust fund might have something to do with that), but the school has an airtight agreement with adidas that all of their sports teams will be outfitted with their shoes and apparel.  This is a huge deal for UCF, who, as a mid-major cannot afford to lose the $3M that adidas is paying for the privilege; but, it brings up issues of individual rights versus contractual obligations and appears to be getting messy.  The practical solution would be what often happens when a rich kid is in trouble – Daddy Warbucks swoops in with the checkbook in hand.  The Jordan brand could theoretically buy out the adidas contract and add UCF to their portfolio, but ultimately that would have to be Nike’s decision, and we’re not convinced there’s enough added value in a mid-level CUSA team to justify the cost.  Of course, bad publicity is still publicity, and there will probably be people somewhere out there that want to buy the shoes that MJ designed for his kid(s), so that’s another factor that the company may consider.  A final possibility is that Jordan could play in his bare feet, but that would probably reduce his height to 6’1.5 and his quickness by a factor of half. 
  • UK Lowballed Gillispie.  Word was released late last week that one reason Billy Gillispie pursued legal action against UK was because they lowballed him with an offer well below one year of his current salary and buyout ($925K).  Was there a single good decision involving Mitch Barnhart and Billy Gillispie over their two-year relationship?  Let’s recount:  1) hiring him (bad idea); 2) hiring him without a contract, instead relying on an MOU (worse idea); 3) hiring a driver for him and generally ignoring his extracurricular activities all over town (even worse idea); 4) firing him (ok, that was a good idea); 5) lowballing him with a $925k offer of settlement when he was owed $6M from the MOU agreement (horrible idea because it only pissed him off; a reasonable offer would have likely been accepted); 6) settling with him for $3.25M (anything ending this debacle now is a good idea).   
  • Preseason Stuff.  10 teams under the radar in 2009-10, Parrish’s top 10 point guards and top 10 wings, Goodman visits Notre Dame and Michigan State, Luke Winn’s 16 impact freshmen, and Seth Davis breaks down Cal.  The Big East media came out with its preseason awards here, and Zagsblog followed up with its preseason awards this week (Gody: POY; Oriakhi & Stevenson: ROY), but why aren’t Syracuse’s Wesley Johnson and Seton Hall’s Herb Pope (both made the all-Big East team) eligible for the “rookie” award?  Here’s the SEC’s, and it makes absolutely zero sense that John Wall was voted second for SEC POY but didn’t even make the all-SEC first team.  Florida #5 in the SEC East is just painful for Billy Donovan.  And once again, here’s Vegas Watch’s SEC preview, where we too came up with the conclusion that Florida is the fifth best team in that division.   
  • Quick HitsLarry Drew: the key to UNC’s repeat hopesKansas: moving forwardUCLA: facing a ‘rebuilding’ year in Westwood.  Memo to Dana O’Neil: It’s CORN HOLE not CORN TOSSButler & Purdue: seeking to play in their back yard next April.  Midnight Madness: a nice pictorial of several from CNNSI.  Jay Wright: talks about the Bataan Death March of Big East scheduling.  Illinois: back in the mix locally recruiting-wise.  Binghamton: freeze all records for investigation (h/t Carpy).  Rivalry: is UW-Gonzaga back on?  Memphis: makes a statement at Midnight MadnessIsaiah Thomas: yeah, that’s a 5’8 guyOne man’s bracket: not enough B10 teams, and JMU in the CAA?  Brady Morningstar: $500 and keep your nose clean for a year (at least Self suspended him for the semester).  Pitino: finally moving on?
Share this story

Urban Meyer = Marketing Genius

Posted by nvr1983 on April 13th, 2008

Here at Rush The Court we have often been critical of Billy Donovan (surprising since he has won 2 of the last 3 national championships) and I have to admit I am programmed to hate all things UF (no, I’m not a Seminoles fan), but I have to tip my hat to Gators head football coach Urban Meyer for his latest gem. Meyer, who has his own national title along with several highly rated recruiting classes that are going to be frightening over the next few years, recently held a contest where he offered a full-ride to any non-football player on the UF campus who could beat Louis Murphy, Chris Rainey and Deonte Thompson in a 40-yard dash. While nobody was able to beat the football players and win a scholarship, it generated a lot of excitement on and off campus for the Gators football program. Jemele Hill has a pretty good piece on the event and the surrounding hype.

It seems kind of like the circus event that would be featured on a tv show or a movie, but I kind of like it. It generated a good deal of hype getting out Meyer’s message about having “the fastest team in America” out to anybody who was watching including a bunch of 5-star recruits, and it energized a bunch of former HS athletes on campus while having very little expected cost. I mean seriously if you can beat a 4.27 guy over 40 yards, you can get a full-ride somewhere even if you don’t have any hands.

Meyer has been reading some marketing books too. . .

I haven’t heard of many other school pulling this kind of stuff although I could see it happening. If any of you have heard of it, let us know. I’m also wondering what the basketball equivalent would be. It would need to be something that was objective (no dunk contests) and wasn’t really a risk in terms of having to fork over a full-ride (no half court shot contests), but still realistic enough that people would convince themselves that they had a chance to get the excitement level high enough.

Share this story