U-Dub displays creativity and hustle on National Signing Day

Out of context, the accompanying image is pretty lame. It's a fax machine, and someone holding a piece of paper it had just spat out. On college football's National Signing Day the fax machine becomes just a little bit more exciting. When that image of a fax machine is actually a live stream, and watching it print out a document is accompanied by University of Washington head football coach Steve Sarkisian announcing on his Twitter feed that's it's a letter of intent from highly touted Seattle-area wide receiver Kasen Williams, then that lame antiquated piece technology becomes pretty damn cool.

This idea actually started last year, with the University of Alabama copying the innovation and adding a girl in a mini skirt. When arguably the most prestigious program in the history of college football steals your idea, you're doing something right.

Seeing what the Huskies had done, I reached out to good friend and UW Assistant Director of Communications Jeremy Cothran to get a feel for where this idea came from and the approach to social media inside the program. Here's his response, which came via email:

Sark is pretty open about social media. We want to give fans and recruits an inside look at what our program is about. Whether it’s photos of the ring-fitters sizing up people for Holiday Bowl rings or a live fax cam, we want to present a transparent, unfiltered view of the football program. That is all driven through CoachSark.com, Twitter and Facebook.
We definitely want to experiment and push the envelope when it comes to social media and our product. We’re the only outlet that can provide true inside-access to the program, so why not use it.

Emphasis added by me as that last line is absolutely key. If you're not willing to give fans an inside look at what your sports organization is like, to make them feel like they're really part of the program, then no one will. The mainstream media can write standard gamers, they can give fans basic reactions to developments but they cannot create relationships with fans the way the organization itself can.

While the fax cam was one great idea, and really the star of their National Signing Day efforts, they had their act together in other areas as well. Profiles on each athlete went up on GoHuskies.com immediately after their LOIs came in, along with an accompanying post on Sarkisian's blog. Why are the posts great, and why not have those inside the site? That's a post unto itself but the basic explanation is that this content is completely different than what fans expect to find inside a program's official site. If fans aren't expecting to find that content inside an official site, then they won't read it there. It belongs on its own publication and UW has done this perfectly.

This was great work by Jeremy and the rest of the team at UW. This will be one program to watch, and for others to benchmark themselves against. Looking forwad to seeing what they'll do in the future.

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