Our Take: Basketball marketing
AU is spending its final season in the Colonial Athletic Association this year, but few students have taken the time to bid the athletic conference that we spoke so highly about farewell. In recent statistics taken by the CAA, AU ranks dead last in home attendance and the closest university averages at least 1,100 more fans per game.
Student enthusiasm for sporting events has been dismally low for sometime. Losing records over the past several seasons in basketball, which remains the most visible sport at AU, have not helped to improve student spirit. Even when a sports team does produce a winning season at AU, it is still not enough to draw students to the games. This past volleyball season is a perfect example that a highly successful team cannot draw crowds at AU.
AU has begun to move in the right direction this year with the addition of a new marketing director to the athletic department and the hiring of two new basketball coaches.
Peter Sauer, the previous marketing director, left AU in the midst of academic scandal. His successor Chris Cordes has already expressed a strong desire to make good on his commitment to bolster attendance through scheduling several pre-game parties between basketball coach Jeff Jones and members of AU's Greek community and students.
There is a part of this new marketing campaign that should be stopped immediately is the flier that has been spread throughout campus this past week with the headline, "The Doctor is In!" The flier refers to the return of Men's Basketball forward Patrick Doctor after an 11-game suspension for academic integrity violations. We previously stated in this space that the sanctions given to Doctor were too low. Although Doctor is a standout player, AU should not use a figure like Doctor as its marketing image when his suspension was the embodiment of everything that AU does not stand for academically.
When administrators told students they wanted to move to the Patriot League, they said they wanted to affiliate themselves with schools of a higher academic caliber. If this is the true intention of moving AU to the Patriot League, then the athletic department must take care to ensure that they implement the same academic standards to their marketing strategy.
With the move to the Patriot League next season there should be plenty of opportunities to develop strong athletic rivalries in a league where the teams will be greatly competitive. These rivalries along with a few winning seasons should provide the necessary formula to move AU's attendance figures to respectable levels.