Schools take different approaches in promoting new coaches Print
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Thursday, 10 May 2007 02:55
NCAAF Headline News

 RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -Butch Davis has been everywhere for North Carolina this offseason.
On a billboard overlooking a busy highway in Burlington, staring back at newspaper readers in a full-page ad, even in streaming video form filling up fans' e-mailboxes. It's all part of the Tar Heels' aggressive attempt to boost season-ticket sales, attract new fans and cash in on their new coach's popularity.
``We've tried to do everything we can to highlight the excitement around the football program,'' said Rick Steinbacher, the school's associate athletic director for marketing.
Promotional blitzes such as North Carolina's have become increasingly common throughout college football, with schools capitalizing on coaching changes by focusing their marketing campaigns around their new leaders - especially if the hiring generates the kind of buzz Davis did when he took the job last November.
But during this critical mid-spring ticket-selling period, not every school with a new coach needs to make a glitzy sales pitch.
North Carolina State, with coach Tom O'Brien, is in the middle of a comparatively low-key campaign. O'Brien is featured in the Wolfpack's ticket mailings. But officials say there's less need to attract first-time season-ticket buyers because they've sold out their entire allotment of season seats every year since 2001.
Instead, the focus is on keeping the current customers satisfied and informed, said Dick Christy, N.C. State's associate athletic director for external operations who oversees the Wolfpack's ticketing operations.
``Ours has been more of a campaign of managing demand and making sure we're giving equitable priority to our Wolfpack Club members,'' Christy said. ``Clearly, Coach O'Brien has been a focal point with our ticket information, brochures, renewal calls ... (but) the key for us is making sure that we communicate how seats are assigned, and if tickets were available after the priority process, how they would be made available.''
A similar situation on a larger scale exists at Alabama, where Nick Saban is now in charge.
Fan enthusiasm at Bear Bryant's former school is always high - the Crimson Tide drew a record 92,138 last month for their spring game. But after hiring the former Miami Dolphins coach, it was impossible for 'Bama to sell any more tickets, said Daniel Hopper, the school's director of marketing.
``We were already sold out when we hired coach Saban, and all it has really done for us is create a rather lengthy waiting list,'' Hopper wrote in an e-mail.
In Chapel Hill, the Tar Heels hope Davis can help give them the attendance boost they crave.
North Carolina sold about 31,000 season tickets last season, and ranked eighth in the 12-team Atlantic Coast Conference with an average of 48,857 fans for seven home games during a 3-9 finish that ended with the firing of former head coach John Bunting. Kenan Stadium, which seats 60,000, was only at 81 percent capacity for those games.
``We want to sell Kenan Stadium out,'' Steinbacher said. ``That's a stretch goal. We're going to keep working until we get there. We know where we want to go, and we know we're working as hard and as aggressively as we can to get there.''
The campaign started from the day in late-November that Davis was introduced as coach - a departure from when North Carolina usually starts selling season tickets, which this year are $240 for six games.
Clint Gwaltney, associate athletic director in charge of ticket operations, expects to sell as many as 35,000 season tickets. That's about a 15 percent increase over last year's total, which Gwaltney attributes to Davis and the marketing effort.
``We did some things different. In years past, we hadn't started selling until April 1,'' Steinbacher said. ``We've done things a lot sooner, a lot more aggressively. We've tried to do things on a mass approach ... but also some direct-targeting pieces, all highlighting'' the buzz surrounding Davis and the program, he said.
Meanwhile, N.C. State - which also went 3-9 and fired its coach, Chuck Amato - was fifth in the ACC with an average home attendance of 56,540. The Wolfpack's 57,583-seat Carter-Finley Stadium was 98 percent full for its seven home game days in 2006.
Officials expect to reach their sellout threshold of about 36,000 season tickets sold, each costing $290 for seven games, Christy said.
``We've had a waiting list going since we hired Coach O'Brien, which is a pretty positive thing,'' Christy said.

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