Powered by

Sports Creatives Podcast: Kansas’ Chris Freet

Guest Chris Freet (Kansas)
37:33 min listen

Chris Freet, Deputy Athletics Director for External Engagement at the University of Kansas, joins Jay F. Hicks on the newly co-branded AthleticDirectorU and Sports Creatives Podcast. The duo discuss Freet’s first time overseeing development and creating a culture of success for the Jayhawks, the priority of social and digital for senior leadership team, and the challenges of developing social and digital in Lawrence. The conversation also covers the Miles to Go series on ESPN+, featuring Head Football Coach Les Miles, the fears that leadership had to overcome, the show’s ideation, and much more.

 

Visit the Sports Creatives Podcast website for additional podcasts and content about creative, social, and digital within college and professional sports www.sportscreativespodcast.com

 

Full Transcript

 

Jay F. Hicks: What’s up guys? It’s Jay F. Hicks, and welcome to another episode of the Sports Creatives Podcast here on SportsCreativesPodcast.com. A really special show in store for you today. We’re excited to announce a new partnership with Athletic Director U and Sports Creatives Podcast.

 

Now, many of you are already familiar with Athletic Director U and the conversations they are hosting to be the top destination in discussing important topics of leadership, management thinking and pressing issues of the day. I think you’re going to like it. The new Sports Creatives Podcast and Athletic Director U partnership is yours truly talking to some of the top senior leaders and executives about leadership and management of creative, digital and social. I’ve been asked to infuse different things into the podcast. And that’s what this new partnership is.

 

My guest today is Chris Freet, Deputy Athletics Director for External Engagement at the University of Kansas. At KU, Freet oversees all external units, including Rock Chalk Video, social media, development, marketing and fan experiences, as well as partnerships with Jayhawk IMG Sports, and [inspire 0:01:24] ticket sales. Freet is one of the most talented executives in all of college sports, with previous stops at the University of Arkansas, where he oversaw external and was the liaison with the SEC Network. Prior to Arkansas, Freet had stops at the University of Miami, the University of South Florida and the University of Oklahoma.

 

We cover a lot of ground, including overseeing development for the first time in his career, creating a culture of success in Lawrence, social and digital and where it falls in terms of priority for the senior leadership team. And we go in depth, Miles to Go, the Big 12 now on ESPN feature content, and the strategy behind it with none other than Head Coach Les Miles. We also discuss a lot of the challenges of developing social and digital in Lawrence and how Kansas is addressing it.

 

So, I think I should get out of the way and let you get into the show. But before we do, this episode was produced by Spades Media Group.

 

Hey, Chris, welcome to the show.

 

Chris Freet: Thank you for having me.

 

Well, I have to tell you, you know what, you are… you’re on my list of people to call, to talk about, we have this, this new partnership with Athletic Director U. And it’s funny, you and I were talking, and so, you know, I had Taylor… Taylor McGillis on and Zach at Ohio State football, and, and through both of their stories, I was asking like who has been like really cool and instrumental to your career. Your name came up. So like, I’m really excited to sit down and talk with you today.

 

Yeah, it’s… I’ve worked with some good people at Arkansas and a few other places in this industry. And Taylor and Zach are among the best at the top of the list. And so, it’s, it’s, it’s cool to be here with you today. It’s even more humbling to hear them say good things.

 

Yeah. Well, we’ll, we’ll jump right into it. You guys have a lot of really exciting things going on. And, and just want to start off, you already mentioned Arkansas, talk about your differences in your role that you had at Arkansas, and now it Kansas.

 

Yeah, so on… I think there’s two ways to answer that question. So the first part is on paper, on paper and the job description, the biggest change in my role or addition to my role here from Arkansas is Jeff was gracious enough to give me oversight of the development part, development department here at KU, the Williams Education Fund. Probably the more interesting part is, is what’s not on paper and the things that Jeff drops on my plate with regularity here at KU, you know, are fairly unpredictable and stuff I probably didn’t fully grasp in coming up here.

 

You know, we’re, in a lot of ways, we’re changing the culture of KU, and that’s some of the stuff we’ll talk about…

 

Sure.

 

…today. Because I had worked with him before, because I understood how he clicked and he understood how I clicked, you know, he’s entrusted me with a great deal of new things here at KU. And so, it, really the job for me here is prioritizing some of the areas that I have experience with and some of the new challenges he’s given me. You know, I thrive… I like to think I thrive on opportunity and chances for growth and that’s certainly come true here to KU. Jeff has given me… blessed me with some, some unique opportunities to grow myself individually and how KU get to the spot where we want them to be.

 

Yeah, it sounds like a really good, you know, environment to thrive. One of the things I… you know, that I was thinking as you were talking is I’ve always thought that people who are storytellers, and then now you put someone, you know, like yourself who’s working with development team, you know, do you feel like, you know, you have an advantage because sometimes I’ve always wondered, would that give someone an advantage? Because you kind of combine yourself, who are… you know, you’re able to inspire, storyteller, help communicate the development plan to the community, have you found that your background has been an advantage so far?

 

I hope it has. We just went through a process with the facilitator where we worked on the messaging for the Williams Education Funds, and it was a mixed group of about 10 or 11 people. And at the end of that process, after three meetings, we reported out to Jeff Long. And so, if I can take you inside that room, you know, we met three different times for two hours and had homework to do in between the meetings. But at the end of the final three meeting, we had already scheduled Jeff and we were going to present out the messaging that we had developed for the Williams Education Fund.

 

We were all nervous and scared. And he walks in a little bit early. We’re not fully prepared and, and we go through the pitch and we lay out the messaging plan. And he’s like, “You guys nailed it.” And he said, “It gave me goosebumps.” And he… and, in fact, he said something I’ll never forget. He said, “He nailed it with a golden spike.”

 

Wow.

 

And, and it resonated with me for that, right, because it was a huge win for our team. And we built a bunch of camaraderie in the process, over three weeks, but also, one of the more tenured people on our staff said, “Hey, that’s the first time in 19 years here at KU that we have cohesive and agreed upon messaging for our development area.”

 

Wow.

 

And so, we’re just in the process of implementing that. But it’s a huge step forward, and I was glad I was able to be a part of that.

 

Well, it definitely sounds like a dynamic environment where you’ve got yourself, you’ve got, you know, the development people, you’ve got people, maybe who are newer and people who are older all in the room working on this messaging.

 

Yeah. And we did that… we were purposeful on that, right. We had… Morgyn Siegfried who we’ll talk a little bit about later who’s our Associate AD for Creative and Communications, she was in that room and she’s in the early phase of her process or still transitioning fully into that role. She doesn’t know a whole lot about the Williams Education Fund but she has perspectives from Temple. She has perspectives from being an expert and one of the best in the business. And so, it’s good to, in my opinion, expose them to that process but also expose the core Williams Fund staff to her expertise and how she looks at things.

 

Yeah. No, that’s awesome. So I’ve had Taylor McGillis, you know, are… from Arkansas who you know very well. You worked together. The environment, the work, everything about that team is elite. Obviously, a team that you help set up. Why did you feel creative was so important to the Razorback brand and how did you go about creating that environment?

 

Yeah, I think that that process was started before I arrived there and Taylor arrived shortly thereafter. You know, I think, I know that Jeff believed in the brand and storytelling. I knew they felt like the opportunity was there for… to provide more, more of that for their sports. But Taylor in particular, really brought a refinement to that process and our look and our feel on our storytelling. And, and the biggest compliment I can give to him is he upped our game across the board.

 

You know, I challenged him early to try to tie revenue to his work, support what he was doing with data that clicked with our leadership. And, you know, that began to, to facilitate more support. When, when I got there, we didn’t have a full-time graphic designer. We added Taylor, he filled that role for a while and then we hired a designer. Now, they’ve hired a second graphic designer and a student that works with them. IMG hired a full-time digital specialist. I think they’re hiring another full-time digital specialist there now. So tying story, brand, some revenue and supporting it all with data is really how that thing grew.

 

But, you know, that… the thing that I am the most proud of their that was the most unique is we started to become fascinated with how can we take the digital and social and bring it into the physical. And we put a proposal in front of Jeff Long and the leadership there to hire a print shop specialist from one of the local places, a guy named Ryan Clark, and then go out and buy a large format printer and cutter and start to do some of the facility branding work in-house. And it was… I, I am seeing some of the work that they’re doing now and it’s incredible. It was a really, really fun process to say, “Okay, here’s what our brand looks like online. How can we make our brand and facilities look like this? How can we update in the moment, right after we clench our College World Series birth?” and some other things like that.

 

And then the greatest benefit for the department was we were faster. And it was a fraction of the cost to do very similar work to… similar to some of the larger branding firms and what they’re doing.

 

Wow, that’s really powerful. Because my, my interview with Taylor was on site. And actually, we talked about the branding because it really just jumps out at you. So it’s really, you know, cool to hear… to see it, to talk to Taylor about it and then kind of hear from your perspective, that whole project coming together. That’s really cool.

 

Now that you’re in Kansas, you’ve been there for about a year. What have you guys done to create a culture of success in Lawrence?

 

Oh, it’s all about collaboration. I’ve done some of the old tricks that I’ve done at some other places. I’ve changed up the office structure to, to get communications and marketing and creative talking around the water cooler, so, so to say more regularly. We’ve changed up our meeting structure. It’s… but, but at the core of all of it is how do we create a teamwork environment and how do we create opportunities for collaboration. And so, everybody when they come interview here, like I don’t, I don’t care where the idea comes from. I don’t care if it’s owned in one shop…

 

Right.

 

…or another, I just want to create systems where every idea gets on the table. And most importantly, the best ideas get on the table and then we’re going to debate them and see if we can execute on those ideas.

 

Yeah, no, that’s really cool. And that’s something, obviously, too, you did at Arkansas and then… and now you’re transforming that a Kansas. And, and how has that been going in terms of, you know, so one of the things on the podcast, we always talk about successes, we talk about struggles, we talk about everything in between. But how’s that going as well?

 

Oh, it’s going well. I mean, there’s… not without bumps in the road, right? When you… when you do something like asking staff to shift offices, you know, that that is not necessarily easy for everybody. When you ask folks to work collaboratively, collaboratively with folks that they haven’t built a strong relationship with before, that takes time, right. But what I’ve learned in this business is that proximity is the greatest indicator of trust. And so, where, where we can eliminate the barrier of space and a walk across campus, drive across campus, walk across the arena, where there’s opportunities for that, the, the benefits are almost immediate.

 

Yeah, that’s really cool. It’s great to hear you say that because it’s… you hear so many leaders talk about the proximity that that’s really cool. In your role now as deputy athletic director and Jeff Long is athletic director, where the social and digital fall in terms of priority for this senior leadership?

 

Oh, it’s right up there. Hopefully, most people in college athletics have seen Jeff’s persona on Twitter. I will tell you that that is close to his personality. I think as any leader in our space, you know, he’s got a… he’s got a dry sense of humor. He’s not afraid to mix it up. And I think he’s exceptional on that. And, and, you know, one of the reasons he’s exceptional is because he’s never had any training on it. And he just gets it, right. And so…

 

Yeah, yeah.

 

…his blessing on where we want to experiment, where we want to grow, where we want to try things, has always been there. That was true at Arkansas. That’s true Kansas. I think we have some big things coming from a digital priority or from a digital and social standpoint across our department. And I already mentioned some of the stuff with Williams Fund, and we’ll talk a little bit more later about what we’re doing in basketball and football. But it’s a growth… it’s a growth sector, so to say for, for our department. It’s an area where we can… we can get better, but I think more importantly, we can win. And I’m excited to see what comes out over the course of the rest of this academic year and then on down the line.

 

Yeah, no, that’s really exciting. I mean, kind of really leads into my next question as we talked about the priority for the senior leadership. You know, one of the things that really sticks out to me is Miles to Go, right, featuring Head Coach, Head Football Coach Les Miles. It’s a content that when I looked at it was created specifically for the Big 12. Now, on ESPN. I’m not sure if a lot of schools understand or have figured out how to use the new digital network to their advantage. Tell me how this project came along. Was this an idea that, that originated from Kansas, or did ESPN approach you guys? How did that all come together?

 

So the idea originated from an executive producers that we know and trust—and by we, I say Jeff Long and I—a guy named Bo Mattingly who, who is actually a sports talk radio host in Arkansas.

 

Yep.

 

And, and decided he wanted to do something else and started a company called Sport & Story that is…

 

Absolutely.

 

…that’s the true definition of what they do, right. He’s fascinated by the story and didn’t want to be chasing the, the constant cycle of news and wins and losses on sports talk radio anymore and wanted to do something that he felt would have a bigger impact and, and bring more value to him. And, and, you know, he was in our air when, when we got here about, “Hey, we got to do something. We got to do something.” And I… when we got it… when I got here and Jeff and I started talking about football, I said, “Hey, what about… what if we do something around the coaching change and they follow you around and they’re there for the hire and they’re there for the first off-season?” You know, a lot of times what you see is either training camp or in-season but people don’t see the work that goes into building the program.

 

And what really resonated with Jeff and he still uses this in a bunch of different areas now is like, we’re Kansas, we’ve arguably had the roughest 10-year stretch of any Power Five program. If we’re going to… if we’re going to get people to talk about our program, we have to think and act differently. And so, while this was a risk, and while this was a leap of faith in many ways, like we had to do something different. And I think we’re seeing the benefit of that. Now, that… the… Bo and his company went out and pitched this to all the networks. They pitched it to the major platforms, which is a really fascinating process. But how we landed back on ESPN+ is, you know, they convinced us of the promotional value of the worldwide leader. There’s… they’re, they’re running our clips. They’re running the highlights. They’re running the viral stuff that, that less will regularly do on that across all their college football shows across their social platforms. They’ve got the bug on the score ticker. So I’m watching the Utah BYU game, and I see the Miles to Go show promoted during that.

 

Yes.

 

And for our brand and where we’ve been in football, but more importantly, where we aspire to be, this was a great way for us to get Les Miles’ name out there and get Kansas out there. And we learned ESPN loves Les, and they can’t get enough of him and they promoted the heck out of it.

 

Yeah.

 

And I… and I don’t say this because I know it to be fact. But I would guess it’s seven figures in promotion, right? If you’re going to buy that advertising time for how much they’ve promoted this thing, it is… it has been incredible, and it’s going to help us get more wins down the road.

 

Yeah, no, that’s really exciting. I mean, it’s, it’s really cool to kind of see that project and to see it and then hear your, you, the background because, you know, for a lot of people in social, you know, you and I were talking earlier about, you know, offline about this, you know, digital kind of being the Wild Wild West. And part of that maybe sometimes is moving so fast it’s, it’s almost sometimes difficult to actually focus on strategy and think about the big picture. So that’s really cool to hear.

 

Yeah, and, and I’ll add one other thing, like, we would have loved when we started, like, for Netflix to take this and buy it and do it as a Last Chance U type show, right?

 

Yeah.

 

And there’ll be revenue generated. But for us, just the promotion of our program and knowing that ESPN with this new platform that they were going to be promoting like crazy because it’s a… it’s a business scripts item for them, it was, it was invaluable. And I would say, you know, owning this on our own social platforms would have been something I would have been very intrigued by. But the opportunity to have that muscle behind it has been, it’s been well worth it.

 

So I wanted to talk a little bit about the nuts and bolts kind of the production on the show. I’ve worked on the shows. And I think we both know these kinds of shows can be really resource-intensive to produce. And you mentioned Bo’s company, is this show produced solely by his organization? Or is this something that’s like a hybrid and collaboration in terms of the heavy lifting of content and in finding the production that is needed to do this show? Because it’s really done at a high level.

 

Yeah, it’s, it’s all produced by his crew, his staff and all of those. There’s, there’s a greater… a great amount of collaboration in how do we get the resources, the staff, the student athletes together to be available to the show. And then how do we work through the logistics in college athletics of when and where our camera crew can be around? We certainly don’t want to stub our toe and create any NCAA violations through a… through a mechanism that’s supposed to be about promoting our program. And then, now we’re into the mode of every week they’re pushing out a show. And so, Tuesday through Thursday morning, we are seeing first drafts of what the show will look like.

 

Okay.

 

And, and to be honest, there’s not a whole lot of editorial feedback we need to give them. They get it. And they’re, they’re nailing the storytelling, whether we win or we lose, which we’ve done both this year. But it’s been interesting, and I say this to your audience as they explore these opportunities. So our compliance staff has found one thing that we needed to have omitted from the show, our legal department has found something that they thought we should have omitted from the show.

 

Right.

 

One of Les’ key personnel folks, Steven Biter, you know, we had a… we had a shot in the show that we thought was the coach just delivering instructions, and he was actually signaling in a play. And we didn’t realize it. We had to talk about it four or five different times before we understood what exactly he was telling us. So that was something that came out of the show.

 

Wow.

 

And then, and then, you know, week to week, players move up and down the depth chart. They move up and down their positioning with the coaching staff. And so, you’ve also got to be clued into that. And so, I say all that because we’ve got about eight, nine people that will see the show in proof form. But small edits to or omissions that we have to ask for have come from a bunch of different areas. And I probably couldn’t have predicted that at the very beginning. But it’s been something we’ve learned and now we’re two to three games so we’re excited to, hopefully, make that process maybe a little more efficient over the next nine.

 

Yeah. So, want to talk to you about this process that, you know, that, that you’ve been on and Kansas has been on to develop the show and then now to produce it and then it can… to keep producing it, let’s talk about the fear factor. Right. And one of the things that we all sometimes don’t talk about in college athletics is when we take on these big projects, right? Sometimes they’re ambitious and the upside is big, but then sometimes within different organizations, there’s also the fear of failure. How did you guys work through? Or, did you have to work through that process internally of sometimes…? And when I say fear, I, sometimes I mean, out of a good place, right? Concerned about things that can go wrong, or maybe not put the organization in a right… the proper light. How did you guys work through that process?

 

You know, the person that was… initially the idea was to do probably four to eight shows that were all focused on the offseason. And when ESPN+ became a reality, they said, “Hey, we want to go through the entire year,” and I’ll be honest, Jeff Long was, was not supportive of that initially just because of our track record on the field. And, and he said, “What, you know, what are they going to show if we only when four or five games this football season,” and, you know, within the majority of the narrative around games would be, as Les would say, “When we, when we finished in second place”? And so, you know, where we convinced ourselves to get over that fear is really what Bo is about, right? He’s about sport and the story. And…

 

Yeah.

 

These shows are about the story like nobody needs to see the highlights again of the game. They want to understand the context of the game, but really want… they want to understand the story and how you got there or how you’re going to overcome the obstacle. And, you know, we’re in a world now that by the time you get home from the football game, whether you are working it, you’re there as a fan, or you’re there as something in between, by the time you get to… you get home, and you have yourself some dinner or you head to bed for the night, you’ve seen every single highlight from that game that you need to see. And so…

 

Yeah, that’s true.

 

You know, that was the thing that Bo really convinced us, like, this isn’t going to be about the games. This is going to be about the program and the people that make up that program. And we’re just going to chase the best stories. And if those best stories happen to come from the game, great, but if they come from other areas around the program, we’re excited to tell those for you.

 

Yeah, no, I love it. I love… I love the storytelling that you’re talking about. And one of the things, we kind of segue to my next question, in the last year, so I’ve really noticed it’s been about the last year, I’ve noticed an increase in your social accounts in terms of quality, in terms of the quantity that’s being produced. Tell us what’s going on behind the scenes, what’s been your approach to the social and digital and this increase that we’re seeing?

 

Yeah, so I think there’s been 40 staff additions. And these weren’t necessarily all new, new roles. So Morgyn Siegfried stepped in and do an associate AD for Creative and Communications. And her title is intentional. I want to grow in creative and that’s why she’s for creative and communications, right. Creative is first to remind our staff that that’s an area where I think we have great growth potential. It also is a recognition that we have some really talented people on our communication staff. We have both veterans and young up and comers. And I think we’re in a good spot from the communication standpoint, but I think we can grow in creative. She hired a great graphic designer who’s still getting and… who’s still in transition mode, [Kim Jones 0:25:25].

 

And then, you know, a process that I thought was fantastic and I had always hoped to be able to effect and see come to fruition was when Les Miles hired his graphic designer and his videographer for football, he was gracious enough to allow us to be a part of that process, both the marketing, creative and communication staff were all part of that process as we brought candidates to campus to interview for the position. And so, we added Kevin Berg and Ashley McCaffrey. Kevin came from a small institution in Missouri and Ashley came from Purdue. And, you know, right away from the interview process into their onboarding until… and now where they’re running a million miles per hour, it set the tone for, for us to work together, right, and to create efficiencies, and eliminate some of the redundancy that can happen between recruiting and video designer and then your more traditional graphic designer that’s servicing all the department, department and external needs.

 

And I give, you know, I give Les a ton of credit for allowing us to be a part of that process and allowing us to continue to engage with those folks. Ashley and Kevin have had as big of an impact on the brand and the storytelling that our donors and season ticket holders see as anybody in our department, and I think it’s, I think it… I know that it’s made us more efficient. But I also think that Ashley and Kevin appreciate the opportunity to have a broader impact on our department. Obviously, recruiting is the lifeblood of any athletic department. And they have a huge impact there. But they’re also learning some new things by… where they’re available, helping us in our external messaging.

 

Now, that’s really cool. And one of the things I really want to talk to you about, you know, is, is some of the challenges, right, we, you know, I kind of mentioned this earlier, one of the things about this podcast is, is not just highlighting all the things that go well, but talking about the challenges, right, because there’s, maybe there’s someone in college listening to this podcast, or maybe who’s aspiring to be in this industry, or maybe there’s someone who’s in another industry and wants to move over and they look and sometimes, you know, social media and digital has this impression sometimes that it’s like an overnight success. But from talking to you and your track record, personally and professionally, and now with Kansas, what challenges have you found and then how have you guys addressed those as you’ve been there the first year?

 

Yeah, I think, I think the biggest challenge always with social media is, you know, “how do you go fast but don’t run?” That old analogy from elementary school, right? And, and, you know, you’re going to, the faster you get going and the, you know, that… when you lose that thoroughness, you’re going to make some inadvertent mistakes. And you get to learn from those. And social media is a world that demands speed and [drive 0:28:26].

 

Yeah.

 

The other challenge we’re facing now is, now that we have exposed all of our staff and our department and our fan base to some of the possibilities, the demand keeps, keeps ratcheting up. And so, we just had this conversation yesterday about how we have to be really disciplined. We have to communicate and set our priorities and we need to think about those broadly, right. My advice to our staff is don’t think about those on a day-to-day basis because if you do, a fire can come any single day and knock out that to do list. But let’s think about these broadly over the next three months, right? And let’s think about these until we get to, you know, the conference season and Big 12 basketball. And let’s set those priorities and let’s be comfortable in saying no when we need to, right. We’re not, we can’t do everything for everybody. But, you know, I love that we’ve hired a bunch of folks that want to do that, right. And we just got to figure out systems to do the most in the best for those that we can.

 

No, that’s awesome. Because, you know, the things that you’re talking about is obviously, as we, you know, go around the country and, and you and I individually, and others talk and you hear a lot of these things. So I think it’s great to hear and you share that, that you guys are actually talking about, like, you know, like how to, you know, maybe be disciplined and how not to try to do everything at once because we, we both know that that’s not always possible resource-wise, because there’s always more to do that you could be doing, right?

 

Yeah, yeah. Totally, totally agree with that. It’s a… content is a bucket that will never be full.

 

Right, right. But, you know, I’ve been doing this podcast, talking to people around the country and, you know, about growing creative in this environment where resources are stretched for nearly every athletic department, from the smallest to the largest, you know, budget. And there’s a lot of expenses that go into it. You mentioned some of them, adding additional staff and equipment and software and hardware. How did you and Jeff, how have you been able to address those specific areas that we’re talking about while growing it in the environment that we’re in fiscally?

 

Yeah, I don’t know if it was, it was one or two specific things. I think it was a little bit of a bunch of strategies. So a little bit about what I talked with Kevin and Ashley, and then being hired in football, like, how can we create synergies and collaboration and eliminate redundancy with those folks. There’s work that we’re doing that they can utilize and there’s obviously work that they’re doing for recruiting football student athletes that wouldn’t work great for recruiting fans, right? You know, I’m really proud of our video team Rock Chalk Video. And I’m really proud of our graphic design and creative team because they, they offered up resources to Ashley and given as they were getting rolling, right? And they said, “Hey, if you need a camera, if you need some equipment, we have all that,” right. And let’s be smart about what… how we approach this. You don’t need a whole another set of equipment that the Rock Chalk Video may already have the resources for. But you may be able to add some things that neither of you have that that are going to be great for the brand and great for how we tell, a storytelling.

 

They’ve been… they’ve leaned on us and we’ve leaned on them to help in the recruiting of students and building on the team behind that. And so, I think it’s a little bit of all those things. And, and, you know, I think their willingness to be a part of the creative and content process is probably the biggest thing. But hey, we’re going to attack this as a team. Everybody here wants KU football to be successful and to reach new heights that we haven’t seen in a few years. And, and I’m excited about where we’re headed with that. And I’m excited that we’re able to create some efficiencies here because KU has got a healthy budget until. But until we get football going, it’s not like we can, we can go out and spend big dollars on some of this stuff.

 

Yeah, no, I love… you talk about the social a social media, right, collaboration, and, you know, it sounds like it goes back to that environment that you were talking about, everyone working together and in kind of rowing the boat in the same direction. It sounds like that’s how you guys are really attacking these issues.

 

Yeah, and you know, other coaches now are going to come and ask for recruiting graphics and we can take a football recruiting graphic and, and send it to a rowing student athlete and obviously change the name and the imagery, but use the same template and I’m a firm believer that those too broad prospective student athletes won’t see those on each other’s feeds. And even if they do that, rowing student athletes can be like, “Hey, dang, that’s pretty cool. I got something that’s similar to what the football program or the basketball program got.”

 

And then, you know, hey, I’ll give, I’ll give a shout out to Ashley. And she hasn’t totally gotten this going here, but this is one of the things that we want to figure out. She’s figured out some macros where, you know, in football, you’re recruiting hundreds of student athletes and in other sports it’s, it’s a handful, but she’s figured out macros, where she’ll create a custom graphic for one kid, and then she’ll hit a couple buttons, and it will do it for the entire group that they are recruiting and instead of her typing in every name, she’s gotten technology bring some efficiencies to her workflow. So that’s, I think that’s something that I want to… I know that’s it’s something that I want to explore and how do we provide more to all of our sports by using technology to do a little bit of the legwork for us.

 

Yeah, no, that’s really, really cool. You know, one of the things that, you know, that I think about right now is everything is, is new at Kansas. It’s an exciting time. What is exciting to you now? And what are you excited about happening in the future in terms of creative, social media and everything related to external operations?

 

Yeah, it’s interesting you say everything is new, right? Because I think the coolest thing about this job and the greatest opportunity about Kansas is the marriage of what I believe is the greatest tradition in college basketball and Allen Fieldhouse and the Kansas Jayhawks and Bill Self and everything they have going in that program has been a ton of places. I haven’t been to all of them but, but nobody… nowhere delivers like Allen Fieldhouse. Every single time we tip a ball up in the air, the best basketball game I’ve ever been to is KU vs. Vermont. And usually at a lot of places that’s pretty stale game-day environment.

 

And so, you take the tradition of KU basketball where if anything, we’re just tweaking stuff. We’re not changing anything dramatically. We’re just tweaking stuff here and there. And then you, and you go with football, and it’s… how about we start traditions from scratch and our fans embrace that. And so, “Hey, don’t mess with my basketball,” right?

 

Right.

 

“But, hey, it’s time for you to change some things and change them and big, big old swoops and flashes in football.” And so, you know, that’s… it’s a really unique environment. And it’s a really unique opportunity, especially when you talk about creative and digital and building a brand from scratch but then also building upon a blueblood powerhouse basketball brand. Basketball, we’re going to compete with Duke and Kentucky and North Carolina and Michigan State, but the bluebloods, the top dogs in that sport, and that’s a really, really fun challenge.

 

And football, you know, we’re coming from the bottom and we’re creating our manuscript and we’re going to make some mistakes along the way. Not everybody is going to notice it because we’re KU football. But we can, we can try some things that some other folks can’t. And so, that juxtaposition is what’s exciting about this job. It’s what makes it a lot of fun. And it’s going to be, it’s going to be a wild ride here the next few years.

 

Well, hey, I got, I got to tell you, I’m really, really excited about what you guys are doing. It’s been fun to see what you’re doing from the outside. And, and after our conversation, I cannot wait, you know, to see what’s in store. And I really want to thank you, because I really appreciate you coming on and talking about your leadership, talk at Arkansas, that you, that you guys did there; coming on and talk about what’s going on at Kansas and, and sharing not only your successes, but you know some of the things that you’ve worked through. So I really appreciate that.

 

Jerry, thanks for having me on today. It’s a pleasure and an honor to give back. I hope I gave some good answers. I hope I shared some things that people can take away from this.

 

No, you’ve crushed it. I think people really enjoy this and I want to get your commitment. When you come back, I want to talk to you a little bit later as you guys get a little further down the road and, and keep talking and keep sharing, you know, what you guys are doing. We’d love to have you back.

 

Okay, sign me up.

 

All right. Thanks a lot, Chris.

 

Take care.

 

That about wraps it up. I really appreciate you allowing me to be in your ears. Please go check me out at Jay F. Hicks on Twitter and SportsCreativesPodcast.com. Let’s connect.