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Athletics Department report to Regents, 9/20/2011

October 5, 2011

The EMU Athletics Department recently reported to the Board of Regents regarding capital improvements and departmental goals, and I thought some of what they shared was interesting.

A number of capital improvements have already been completed. These include work in the volleyball locker room, the track & field locker room, the gymnastics locker room, improvements in the Rynearson Stadium concessions (mostly funded through insurance from the fire last year), a new outfield fence at Oestrike Stadium, a back-up generator for Rynearson Stadium (I thought about the 2010 Army game and chuckled when I read that), new carpeting in the Team Building (football), and most visibly, signs in and around Rynearson Stadium. For some reason, however, those signs feature Andy Schmidt very prominently — couldn’t they find any pictures of the current team members? Ongoing and future projects include tennis courts (NCAA and recreational, with locker rooms), fencing and a new scoreboard for the softball field (after having to move several games this fall, perhaps EMU should consider improving the field’s drainage), a brick facade and a new locker room for Oestrike Stadium, new basketball and volleyball flooring, and new equipment for the rowing team.

As for the goals, one is student-athlete academic success, defined as maintaining a graduation rate at least equal to the student body. In 2010 they met this with the highest student-athlete graduation rate and highest student-athlete GPA in school history. 57 EMU students were named to Academic All-MAC teams. The next goal is competitiveness, defined by the men’s programs collectively finishing in the top third in the Reese Cup standings, and the women’s programs collectively finishing in the top half in the Jacoby Trophy standings. I don’t know why the goal is lower for women’s athletics. With 13 individual MAC champions, two team championships, and four MAC Athlete of the Year awards, EMU achieved the goal.

The most interesting part of the goals report was the last item, to increase actual football and men’s and women’s basketball attendance, with men’s and women’s basketball actual attendance (i.e. not reported attendance based on tickets sold) to increase annually, and actual football attendance of 15,000 per game for the 2012 season. Given that attendance so far this year is averaging just under 4,000 per game, EMU has a long way to go on this goal. There were six ideas on how they will make this happen:

  1. Create concepts in conjunction with University Marketing and Communications.
  2. Host football games in conjunction with EMU new student orientation.
  3. Football games versus historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs).
  4. Annual Huron “throwback” recognition games.
  5. Schedule home games versus premier opponents in basketball and football.
  6. Adjust game days and kickoff times for football.

I'd like to see throwback uniforms featuring the 1967-75 helmet.

The first point is fairly meaningless marketing-speak. “Leverage our synergies”, etc. The second point is a good idea, and is proven, since that’s what EMU did for the 2009 and 2010 season openers, with good results. This week classes started a week earlier, so this wasn’t an option. The third point is iffy. One the one hand, it creates a marketing opportunity, both with the fan/alumni base that HBCUs may have in the area and with marching band fans, but for the most part it also means scheduling FCS opponents, which is a downer for fans who want to see good competitive football. As for Huron “throwback” games, I think they just mean encouraging alumni from that era to attend and wear Huron apparel, but I’d like to see the team wear throwback uniforms. I don’t know what the jerseys looked like, but I love the 1967-75 helmet design. Scheduling home games against premier opponents is a nice idea, and I’m sure that Rynearson Stadium would sell out for the University of Michigan, but the trick is getting the premier opponents to come. Toledo has probably had more success with this (in football, at least) than anyone else, and it might be worthwhile for Derrick Gragg and others from EMU to sit down with some of the Toledo administrators to talk about how they’ve made it happen. The final point, “adjust game days and kickoff times for football”, is a little enigmatic. It could mean moving some games to weeknights to accomodate students who leave town on weekends, or more likely it means not scheduling games when the behemoth seven miles to the west is playing.

These are mostly good ideas for marketing EMU football, but they missed a big one. In fact, they missed the biggest one. As Temple athletic director Bill Bradshaw commented during a similar discussion, “We haven’t tried winning yet. I think we’ll do that next.”

Win games, and people will come.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. October 6, 2011 12:33 am

    When I was a Freshman, there was a game during orientation. All of us pretty much had to go and quite honestly that was my first game in a college atmosphere (I never went to games at the Big House until after I graduated and Central is roughly an hour away from where I live…not that I would have thought about going there). If I remember correctly, the games in that season were quite well attended but that had more to do with the Hurons winning (That was the Cal Bowl year).

    As far as scheduling tradtionally black universities, I think the bands were pretty cool but unless those teams are in the top tier of Division 1AA, I don’t really want to see that. I don’t think teams get better by lowering the bar.

    I will have to admit, changing the name alienated many alumni but I think having 1 winning season in 20 years does more to alienate a fan base than any name change. I think one of the things that would help in the win department is if EMU can schedule more than half of their games at home. Having to play half or more of your schedule on the road doesn’t help for your win-loss record.

    I’m not sure about scheduling premier teams at home. The would have to find teams that would be willing to take a pay cut to travel to Rynearson. They might be able to schedule teams that are in the Northwestern ranks to do that. If I remember correctly, the Spartans were willing to do home and homes. I don’t think the Wolverines would do it though.

    On the last point, I thought they were already sort of doing that. I do seem to remember some Thursday night games when I was student.

  2. Ralph permalink
    October 6, 2011 9:02 am

    It’s interesting to note that “winning” is not the number one goal. Put a winning product on the field or the court and the fans will come back. Pretty simple actually!

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