Last week was a complete whirlwind of emotion. Gratitude, excitement, hope and these weird pangs in my stomach at 2 a.m. when I stared at our ceiling pondering the “what ifs?”
This is the reality of a coach’s wife. Probably most wives. But coaches’ wives sign up for a roller-coaster life: When it’s good, it’s magical; and when it’s bad, it’s a mule kick to the head. The key is to hold on, enjoy the ride and don’t panic.
Like many of you, I hoped that my husband Chuck was going to supernaturally become defensive Moses and perform miracles in four days. But the reality is that it takes time, commitment and faith that our team is getting better!
Saturday morning, I chatted with so many well-wishers on campus. Each touched my heart as they were truly excited for Chuck, our family and our team. Once in Chuck’s office, I watched him slide on Dick Tomey’s old baseball cap. I gave him a hug and said, “Win or lose, we’ll be right here for you when it’s over.” We walked to the field together, and Fellowship Christian Athletes pastor Richard Lopez prayed for us and our team.
Following the game, our daughter Charli and I walked in silence holding hands back to Chuck’s office. When he finally appeared, his clenched jaw said it all. Charli hugged him, and I said, “See, win or lose, we’re still here.” And, that’s what it’s about.
That night, Chuck stayed in the office to watch game film. He was heartbroken but not defeated. Angry but hopeful. And more importantly deeply committed to Arizona and the team.
Sunday morning, Chuck’s agent asked him if it was worth it — and wondered if it might be better if he stepped aside from pinch-hitting.
Chuck wasn’t having it.
“How can you commit to your head coach or ask players to never give up, to never quit, and then you do?” he said. Chuck had a point. We have to stand together with coach Kevin Sumlin and our players and fight, because they can win, darn it! Rebuilding the A takes time; not four days.
Sunday night when Chuck finally came home and crawled into bed, I asked him what his plan was.
“To Bear Down and beat Oregon,” he said.
How coaches are leveraging brands to attract top recruits
This week I worked with several of my Power 5 conference head coach clients who were hitting the road. The one constant on their minds besides winning was recruiting.
With the NCAA changes regarding student-athletes benefiting from their name, image and likeness (NIL), coaches are digging deep. They’re figuring out ways to maximize the NIL rules to help lure top recruits to their programs.
Here’s the hard facts: Some coaches have been cheating or paying players under the table for years. Five thousand dollars here, $10,000 there. But trends indicate that these athletes are becoming highly aware of their potential earnings from their brands or NIL. Athletes now want to know how programs are going to build their personal brand value to $100,000 — or more.
How does that work? Athletes like Russell Wilson or Nick Foles are making $25,000 for one tweet holding a popular soda brand. Student-athletes want a piece of that pie. That’s not a bad thing for the programs.
A college athletes’ social media followers are approximately 50% fans of their team and 25% recruits. They are the team’s brand ambassadors. Thus, programs need to ensure that their players are their best salesmen and saleswomen. It’s a win for the student-athletes and a win for the programs. Recruits want to see how programs are investing in their current players and providing resources and training for them.
Many programs are playing catch-up. In fact, 12 of the preseason Top 25 NCAA basketball programs do not have a single top-100 prospect following their team’s social media account. Twenty have fewer than five top-100 recruits following their team account. And check this out: Twenty-five recruits in the class of 2020 have more followers than 24 of the Top 25 teams combined. Why? Because the recruits are following the program’s players.
The class of 2020 has had social media since preschool, and recruits know its power. So move over facilities arms race and make room for the branding race.
Whether there are sweeping new rule changes or whether athletes ever see a dime is irrelevant, because every recruit and his or her parents understand the power of their kid’s social media brand.
UA student-athletes post big numbers in classroom
Arizona’s student-athletes are crushing it in the classroom. Student-athletes posted a 3.055 semester GPA last spring, which marked the best spring semester in athletic department history. This came on the heels of the all-time semester record of 3.057 for fall of 2018.
Arizona has now had three consecutive semesters with an overall GPA of 3.0 or greater.
The NCAA released its Graduate Success Rate (GSR), and Arizona had an amazing score of 86% — which is 13% more over the last seven years and a 21 % increase since 2010.
Most athletes will never make a living playing sports; it’s awesome to see the UA leadership and coaches equipping athletes for tomorrow!
Happy birthday, Chuck
Friday is Coach Cecil’s birthday. This year I bet we can all guess what he is wishing for when he blows out his candles. Winning aside, there is much to be thankful for as we light the candles: our good health, a roof over our heads, our tribe of people and being home to watch the Tucson sunsets.
Happy Birthday, my love!
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