Whether it's the intense speculation about this year's college football bowl season and which teams will play in the BCS championship game, or the heightened prominence given to March Madness, otherwise known as the NCAA Basketball Tournament, interest in college sports might be stronger than it's been in decades. It's also driving traditional and online media coverage.
“The rabid sports fan now is going beyond the sports pages of USA Today... and that means heading to sites like Rivals.com and Scout.com, as well as into the blogs,” says Zachary Rosenfield, director of communications for sports content company AccuScore.com. “The audience these days is more apt to want to get deeper into the numbers and look for all sorts of... information.”
Mark Beal, managing partner at sports and entertainment agency Taylor, credits online message boards and other Web sites for moving college sports media beyond game recaps to human interest about student athletes.
“Rivals.com, Scout.com, and others have this focus on recruiting, and fans are now able to engage in conversations about the latest recruits and the states of their favorite teams,” he notes. “That has ended up having a positive impact on how newspapers are covering the major universities in their local markets, and papers now have very robust online coverage that really gets into things like [player] signings.”
Of course, the lion's share of this coverage is devoted to major schools, universities, players, conferences, and sports, including football and men's basketball. But in certain markets, there is also intense interest in college baseball, lacrosse, women's basketball, and men's and women's college soccer.
William Tomasian, sports information director at Connecticut College, stresses that smaller schools and traditionally minor sports can also get plenty of coverage both locally and nationally.
“We have a good local media base, but at this level, reconnecting with home markets is a huge opportunity for us,” he explains. “We have 28 sports, and for us, it doesn't matter what sport, if [a player is] a hometown hero, there's going to be interest as much for what they're doing in the classroom as on the field.”
Tomasian adds that with the right angle, you can even get small college athletes and programs profiled in national outlets.
“We had a female hockey player in USA Today and [a story about] a runner who went back to college and competed for us when she was close to 40 that generated a lot of interest,” he says. “Because of the budgets, newspapers really need to have more information brought to them to make their job easier, but if you can do that and can be diligent, you're going to have success.”
Pitching... college athletics
Don't just focus on the major college sports. There's going to be interest in everything from sailing to fencing with the right pitch, especially if you include online outlets in your media base
Look for that hometown angle as a way of getting exposure for college athletes that aren't necessarily stars on their teams
Target the right markets for the right athletic programs. Sports like lacrosse are bound to be of interest to markets like Washington, DC; Long Island, NY; and upstate New York