UA taking steps to keep fans engaged

2013-10-13T00:00:00Z 2013-10-13T17:02:06Z UA taking steps to keep fans engagedBy Daniel Berk Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Every football schedule in the country has its quirks. No team thinks its slate is perfect.

But the Arizona Wildcats, with one home game in 55 days, may take the cake for the oddest schedule out there.

“When the schedule first came out, I said ‘jeez, this probably isn’t good for our fans,” UA coach Rich Rodriguez said. “It seems like a long time since they get a chance to watch us at home. I just feel bad for our fans because they’ve had to wait so long for us to come back and play at home again.”

The last time the Wildcats played at Arizona Stadium was Sept. 15 when they beat UTSA 38-13.

The UA then had two byes in a three-week stretch with a road game at Washington sandwiched in the middle. The Wildcats then lost 38-31 at USC on Thursday to fall to 3-2 overall and 0-2 in the Pac-12.

Rodriguez and his crew will finally return home Saturday to host Utah at 7 p.m., but then will be right back out on the road for back-to-back games at Colorado and Cal.

The Wildcats will then play three straight home games in November, starting with a Nov. 9 game against UCLA.

“We knew it was going to be a challenge, in particular with some young guys at certain positions playing so many games on the road early,” said Rodriguez, whose team is 2-0 at home and 1-2 on the road.

“But we try to get our players to understand that no matter where we play, we have to handle any adverse situations.”

The challenges for the UA aren’t exclusively on-field ones.

One home game in 55 days isn’t exactly the best way to keep fans enthusiastic about a football team in a basketball town.

“Coach Rodriguez always talks about not getting upset about things you can’t control,” athletic director Greg Byrne said.

“From a fans standpoint, we just want to make sure our fans are staying engaged and thinking about football and that at our next game against Utah, that they will be there in force and be behind this team.”

With that in mind, Byrne and the Wildcats athletic department are going to try a couple of new things this week and they’re taking to Twitter to try to them out.

The first new promotion from the department will be rolled out Thursday. The UA is going to allow a ticket holder for Saturday’s game to announce the Wildcats’ uniform combination against Utah on their own personal Twitter account.

Arizona’s official athletic Twitter account, along with the football account and Byrne will all “retweet” the fan, revealing the uniform choice.

On game day, Byrne and the UA will try a few other things to reward ticket holders. The morning of the game, they will select a fan to walk with Rodriguez and the team for the “Wildcat Walk” into the Lowell-Stevens Football Facility.

Another fan, who is at Arizona Stadium at least 60 minutes before kickoff, will get to run out to the field with the Wildcats through the tunnel when they make their entrance. Byrne also will choose a fan in-game to accompany him to Rodriguez’s postgame news conference.

Byrne’s hope is that these promotions will reward fans who are buying tickets and give them a few things to be excited about. The athletic department will promote the different contests throughout the week and Byrne will write about them in his weekly “Wildcats Wednesday” email.

“We want to reward the people that are coming to our games and supporting our program,” Byrne said. “I think we’re the first school to do anything like this. These are items that people just can’t buy.”

The athletic director said he’s been eager to try a few social media ideas like these for a while. Byrne said the promotions are more about trying to engage fans during the season and less about keeping them interested with the odd schedule.

“One of the great things of being in Tucson, Arizona, is that we’re the only game in town,” Byrne said. “So, I think people will still be focused and understand the games are taking place.”

Contact reporter Daniel Berk at dberk@azstarnet.com or 573-4330. On Twitter @DSBerk.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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