The Times West Virginian


April 24, 2014

HERTZEL COLUMN: NCAA football is thriving in the digital age

MORGANTOWN — The other day Baylor football coach Art Briles walked into his graduate assistants’ office and had to laugh at what he saw.

“There’s five guys sitting in there — a couple of GA’s and some office personnel — and they all are within a foot and a half of each other and not a one of them is talking to each other,” Briles said, describing the scene “Every one of them is on the phone.”

It hit Briles then that he is now officially existing in a new world.

 “What did we do in 1980?” Briles said, when asked about the subject in the recent Big 12 post-spring practice coaches conference call. “I guess back then you had to look at each other and talk. That’s just the way the world is now, though.

 “That’s where we live. That’s what we do. That’s how we communicate.”

 And yes, Briles said, he’s active on the social media.

 But, then again, isn’t everyone?

 Believe me, Paul Brown would roll over in his grave if he saw where the football world that he mostly invented had come.

 And Vince Lombardi, went ahead and perfected the world Brown invented, he, too, would be doing flips.

 The Internet and through it social media has changed the world of football, especially on the college level and as new, young coaches continue to come into the game, it’s effect can only grow and widen.

 Take what happened at Texas Tech in its last practice before its spring game, which drew a record crowd.

 Young Kliff Kingsbury, the coach, had this idea that would help his theory of “the more we can publicize Texas Tech the better it is.”

 At the close of the final practice he gathered his players around as if they were going to play “Bull in the Ring” but, instead, what he had up his sleeve was a dance off.

 That’s right, Texas Tech players going one-on-one in dance contest that culminated with him, tearing off his practice shirt to reveal a shirt that read “TOO TURNT UP” as he went head-to-head dancing against one of his players to the “Stanky Legg”.

 All of it, of course, was being videoed and put online.

 “The dance off did pretty well, from what I hear,” Kingsbury said.

 Translation, it got through to recruits everywhere that this might be a fun place to play football.

 That is one of the reasons Kingsbury makes such extensive use of the Internet and social media.

 “Letting recruits know what we’re about and what the university is like. We have our players on Instagram. It’s good for the fans. They feel like they know our kids better than they ever have and cheer for them on Saturdays,” he said.

 That, he feels, along with the free flowing, high-scoring game college football has evolved into is why popularity for the game is soaring.

 “A lot of it has to do with the inside looks the fans are getting with these teams and kids. The kids are Tweeting out on a daily basis. They feel that relationship with them. That has helped our game. They feel they know them,” Kingsbury said.

 At West Virginia, the use of social media and Internet had its roots in a meeting five or six years ago that was put together by WVU associate vice-president for university relations operations Tricia Petty, who gathered the athletic department to talk about social media.

 “None of us at the time knew much about it. I didn’t have a Facebook page. I didn’t have Twitter. She kind of opened our eyes to what was happening,” said John Antonik, now the athletic department’s director of new media.

 That meeting laid the groundwork and they begin digging in, using it for recruiting purposes at first.

 “That was obviously a way to contact kids. We’re going to go where the eyeballs are. That’s natural,” Antonik explained.

 But like social media, the involvement took off like a Homer Hickman rocket.

 “Today we have a Facebook page for every one of our sports,” Antonik said. “Now, anything we put on our website goes on those pages.”

 The explosion was such that it actually forced a change in the approach WVU took.

 “It used to be we were using the website to attract people to the Facebook pages. Well, now we are using the Facebook pages to bring people back to our website.” Antonik said.

 Just how has it grown?

 “I keep track each month how many likes we have, how many followers we have,” Antonik said, searching his files. “For instance, the football page has 154,547 likes and men’s basketball has 54,261 likes. Compare that to the university which has 209,996 likes for the entire university Facebook page ‘It’s Proud to be a Mountaineer’.”

 As it is at other schools, the coaches have input, usually depending upon their interest level in social media, on their sports pages.

 At Oklahoma State, for example, head football coach Mike Gundy is deeply into social media on all levels.

 “I’m very active. I’m involved in orchestrating and starting the in-house services not only in recruiting but in marketing. At Oklahoma State we have to do everything possible to keep people involved and be on the cutting edge of everything new,” he said.

 “It keeps our fans involved. They get to know some of the coaches and some of the players. There are so many people out there on the social networking sites now. We are trying to bring people closer to use and what better way than to use our social networking resources?”

 WVU is very much the same, with any number of ways of reaching its fans both through ticket and merchandise sales, which is handled by Nathaniel Zinn, and information, which is Antonik’s bailiwick.

 Game stories, features, video interviews, rosters, statistics … it’s all there and it all cross promotes.

 The coaches have their own Twitter handles and some have Facebook pages, the idea being to inform and interact with the fan base.

 “It helps us get better,” Antonik said. “We look and see what the responses are. It’s a guide for us to gauge what our fans are thinking.”

 Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel.

Text Only
  • Wheeling holds off Post 17 rally in state tourney opener

    Wheeling Post 1 pitcher Mo Felt nearly went the distance in a 7-6 victory over Fairmont Post 17 on Tuesday afternoon at the West Virginia American Legion Baseball State Tournament at Hawley Field.

    July 30, 2014

  • Big ‘I’ golf coming to Pete Dye

    The Trusted Choice Big “I” National Championship will make its first trip to West Virginia when Pete Dye Golf Club hosts the 46th annual installment of the event Aug. 5-8.
    The Pete Dye course, ranked No. 45 on Golf Digest’s ranking of America’s 100 Greatest Courses and No. 9 on Golfweek’s ranking of Best Modern Courses, will host 160 of the best junior golfers from 40 states during the 72-hole stroke play event.

    July 30, 2014

  • Scott sees swift title contention for Lakers

    Byron Scott was a key component of the Los Angeles Lakers’ Showtime teams, a smooth shooting guard with sizzling competitive fire. He believes his purple-and-gold championship pedigree makes him the ideal coach to return the struggling 16-time champions to NBA contention.
    “This organization is all about championships, period,” Scott said Tuesday at his introductory news conference. “We don’t look at Western Conference finals, Western Conference championships. We look at (NBA) championships. And we know we have some work ahead of us, but I’m excited. ... I love challenges anyway, so this is going to be fun.”

    July 30, 2014

  • Opinion: People running NCAA may not be bumbling idiots

    Two down, one big one to go.
    And with it a growing realization that maybe the people running the NCAA aren’t the bumbling idiots everyone has been making them out to be.
    The NCAA’s agreement Tuesday to create a $70 million fund to diagnose concussions and brain injuries does more than just give some former and current athletes a bit of peace of mind — if no real money. It also extricates the organization from another serious threat to its existence, one that could have potentially bankrupted it if everyone who ever suffered a concussion playing college sports were somehow able to cash in.

    July 30, 2014

  • Steelers Camp Footbal_time2.jpg Bell looking for more decisive, productive season

    Le’Veon Bell kept watching the tape over and over, equal parts pleased and puzzled by what he saw.
    There were times during his rookie season when the Pittsburgh Steelers running back would place his hand on an offensive lineman’s back and wait patiently for the hole to open.
    Sometimes, one would appear. Sometimes it wouldn’t, mainly because whatever sliver of daylight existed had already been swallowed by darkness while Bell was still trying to read the blocks in front of him.

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • smallwood-wendell(1)-2.jpg Charges against Smallwood dropped

     West Virginia University running back Wendell Smallwood took to Twitter mid-afternoon Tuesday to express his feelings after charges of witness intimidation against him were dropped by the state of Delaware.
    It took him only three words to say what was on his mind: “God is Good.” Smallwood is now free to return to West Virginia and rejoin his Mountaineer teammates when they open camp for the 2014 season Thursday.

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • dungy0725 (1).jpg Rice, Dungy sideshows stain NFL

    The National Football League guards its reputation as aggressively as lineman are paid to protect a quarterback.
    So, as training camp opens around the country, how odd is it to see Commissioner Roger Goodell’s 32-team NFL empire battling bad headlines and stinging criticism from all quarters?
    Anyone want to talk to the new quarterback for his early assessment of playing with the best and biggest players in the land? That would be business as usual. Nothing has been routine about the early days of camp this season.

    July 30, 2014 2 Photos

  • Post 17 #7 Post 2 #12 mw.JPG DeVaul wraps up final season as Post 17’s leader

    If you were to ask players on Fairmont American Legion Post 17’s roster who they looked up to, you’d find a familiar pattern.
    Sure, you may get some Andrew McCutchens or some Derek Jeters as replies. But if you want to find out the real answer, just look into the dugout.

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • Big ‘I’ golf coming to Pete Dye

    The Trusted Choice Big “I” National Championship will make its first trip to West Virginia when Pete Dye Golf Club hosts the 46th annual installment of the event Aug. 5-8.

    July 29, 2014

  • Charges against Smallwood dropped

    West Virginia University running back Wendell Smallwood took to Twitter mid-afternoon Tuesday to express his feelings after charges of witness intimidation against him were dropped by the state of Delaware.

    July 29, 2014

Featured Ads
NDN Sports
House Ads
Auto Racing Photos
Auto Racing Breaking News
Auto Racing Standings