Video Is the Best Way for Athletic Departments To Engage Alumni

For most basketball fans, Charles Jenkins is the plucky sixth man for the Golden State Warriors. For our joint alma mater, Hofstra University, he’s the golden ticket.

In February 2011, Jenkins — already an NBA Draft prospect — etched himself into Hofstra basketball lore when he hit two buzzer-beaters on the same night. The first, with the Pride down by three, sent the game to overtime. The second, with the score tied, gave the Pride the win at home over William & Mary.

The local cable provider Verizon FiOS broadcast the game — on tape delay (ugh). Still, the highlight spread, swallowing up clicks on Deadspin and grabbing the No. 1 slot on SportsCenter’s Top Plays.

I hadn’t thought much about Hofstra basketball since 2006 — when George Mason absolutely JOBBED us out of an NCAA Tournament bid! (Sorry, still bitter about that one.) Then Jenkins hit those two shots, the video blew up my Facebook News Feed, and I felt that fire in the belly again.

I found myself watching more games when they were available to me on TV, and I even made a trip back to Hempstead to see some friends and buy a ticket to watch the Pride throttle Delaware in Jenkins’s final home game.

And that is the goal, isn’t it? College athletic departments, large and small, survive financially off the passion of alumni and their donations.

Now, if you’re an SEC, Big Ten, or Pac-12 powerhouse, keeping your alumni base entranced with your product is relatively easy: hundreds of thousands of fans fill stadiums, bars, and homes every Saturday, and former players are spread across the NFL, NBA, and MLB.

For a mid-major school like Hofstra, though, guys like Jenkins are essential to keeping school pride alive. I know I’m not alone when I look forward to the New Orleans Saints’ being on Sunday Night Football simply so I can hear, during the starting lineups, “Marques Colston, Hofstra University.”

Seeing a fellow alum on TV keeps me attached and demonstrates how the best way an athletic department can engage its alumni is through video. Whether it’s a clip of a game-winning shot on Twitter or being in the National Championship game on CBS, video fires up the fan.

A new wave of rights agreements is rolling across the college landscape. As Fox Sports strikes deals with the likes of Oklahoma, TCU, and Texas Tech, and ESPN partners with North Carolina, Florida State, and Clemson, a new workflow is being established: the network provides the airtime, and the university produces the broadcast. If a network hasn’t come calling, the Internet offers affordable avenues to distribute content all over the world. That gave birth to the boom of the digital network and companies like XOS Digital and NeuLion.

This model promises a tremendous opportunity for the schools. It provides a highly increased level of exposure both in local markets and nationally, opens up learning opportunities for production students, and gives the university the chance to control the brand they send out to viewers. Not to mention, in most cases, the networks are willing to absorb some of the cost of gear because the incentive is still there for them to have a flashy, professional product on their air.

So, whether it’s supplying content to an RSN or programming your own digital network, make no mistake: colleges are no longer just content creators, they are full-blown broadcasters.

Let’s face it. Your fans expect it. Or they may lose interest altogether.