Q&A with Chris Massaro (Part II)
KidFest, Wildcard Weeknight, Blackout highlight 2008 promotionsJuly 3, 2008 · MT Media Relations
Your Marketing Department recently won four national awards for their various promotions of events. Talk about some of these promotions and how they have helped advance the product and make MTSU athletics a viable family option. One of the things we initiated this year was KidFest where we involved a number of the local churches and had a pregame event in the track/soccer complex with games, face painting, music, inflatables, etc... It was a well-received event with more than 2,000 tickets sold and the groups involved last year are excited about the event this season. The Mardi Gras promotion for basketball is an event initiated by our marketing director Brad Smith that we have done for the past three years. We have a parade around the arena floor, throw beads, and play Mardi Gras music which has made it a great event. Hopefully, we can get our students more involved with this night in the future. The other award came from the Family Fun Zone for football where games, inflatables, balloon artist, face painting and more was located inside the stadium on the northwest corner. It was great for families with small children because the kids could play and the parents could still see the game with a great view, and a special concession stand was setup for the area as well. We package the fun zone ticket with concessions to make it a very affordable ticket. The last award was a group sales brochure (Blueprint for Success) designed by Bradley Lambert and Brad Smith. This was a very creative piece and beat out some very good schools. We hope all these promotions have a shelf life and the fans who experienced them last year will tell a friend or neighbor and we can make them bigger each season. Word of mouth is still the best marketing tool anywhere. I am happy with what our marketing staff has been able to accomplish.
What are some of the promotions fans can expect to see during the upcoming football season? Wild Card Weeknight in football is a special ticket package for fans who want to attend both the Troy and FAU games. A fan can buy the two games together for one price and it will include snack vouchers for the concession stand. We needed to come up with something like this because we have a lot of fans that like us but are also loyal to the SEC and/or Tennessee. This will allow them to come to our stadium with no worries of a conflict on Saturday. The weeknight opportunities give us a great chance for these fans to come check us out, experience the great atmosphere, and see some exciting football. The weeknight games are also great for our student attendance as we mentioned before but we also need to fill up our west side with our families and individual sales, so that will be our challenge this season. We will also have a number of other promotions like KidFest, Salute to Veterans, etc... so log onto GoBlueRaiders.com later this summer for the complete list.
The Blue Raider Athletic Association has set fundraising records for three years in a row and you just completed your most recent membership campaign. Are you pleased with the direction of fundraising? We are pleased with the direction fundraising has gone and appreciate the work done by Alan Farley and his staff. Our BRAA campaign will once again raise over $800,000 and we would like to see that number reach $1 million in the near future. We are getting closer and that figure has increased by over $300,000 in the last three years. We have done a nice job of reaching out and increasing our number of donors and we expect to further that as we feel we have a lot of momentum going with our entire sports program.
Tell BRAA members where there donations have gone recently. Two of the biggest areas are scholarships and summer school but donations have also helped fund capital projects like our new turf in Floyd Stadium and the higher than anticipated construction costs at the new baseball facility. These contributions have helped us enjoy tremendous success in our classroom. It allowed us to send 106 student-athletes to summer school which is invaluable to keep them on course to graduate. One of the biggest reasons we have been able to undergo some of the minor improvements to our facilities recently has been due to the unrestricted BRAA funds. We are grateful for this as we know people have many choices.
There were several issues at the time of your hire, but one of the more pressing issues for fans was scheduling (bringing nationally recognized programs to Murfreesboro). Are you pleased with what you have done in scheduling across the board? We are pleased with the direction of our scheduling and being able to bring top notch teams to Murfreesboro. Last year, it was so important to bring a team like LSU to the Murphy Center and have Rick Insell and the Blue Raiders pick up a victory in front of our fans. In football, we had a great game against Virginia and came up just short in the closing seconds. However, that game gave our fans a chance to see how close we are to taking the next step and how we can compete against that type of competition. We are excited about Memphis and Vanderbilt coming to Floyd Stadium in the future, and it's great to have Georgia Tech coming to town as well. But another monster event will be this November when Tennessee's men's basketball team comes to Murphy Center to take on the Blue Raiders the night before the football game against North Texas. In 2009, we will have the Tennessee women at Murphy Center. This year in baseball Coach Peterson had home games against Tennessee, Vanderbilt, and Mississippi State. We are very blessed to have coaches that will not shy away from playing some of the nation's top teams and do not mind a challenge.
Academics have skyrocketed the past few years. Can you talk about the emphasis placed on this very important area and what has led to improved performances? We are very pleased with the year we had academically in 2007-08. Ten of our 13 teams finished with a 3.0 or higher, 54 percent of our student-athletes had a 3.0 or better, 20 of our student-athletes had a perfect 4.0, and 24 percent of our student-athletes recorded a 3.5 or higher GPA. We are very excited about the work our student-athletes do and it all starts with them. The next step is our coaches and how much they care about graduating the student-athletes while also being successful on the field or court. Academic success is important to the AD, the coaches, and the student-athletes but this is a university-wide effort. We have a president in Dr. Sidney McPhee who told me when I was hired that our academic profile had to be raised and I think we are going in the right direction. Deb Sells has also been very valuable in our academic improvement, along with Jim Rost and his staff in the Academic Enhancement Center and Mike Moleta in our compliance area, which shows that it truly is a campus-wide effort. As always, you want to keep improving so we hope to continue along that path in 2008-09.
Your sports programs have been on national television 12 times during your tenure. How does this national visibility, impact your sports programs and does it lend itself to areas that are beneficial beyond on-field success? Exposure for the entire university is critical. This kind of national coverage is valuable to our entire athletic program as our logo becomes more and more visible and reaches homes of potential recruits in the areas where we spend a lot of time in like Florida, Georgia, and Tennessee. It is really like a 3 ½ hour infomercial on Middle Tennessee State University and I would shutter to think about how much that type of exposure would actually cost our university.
So much attention is placed on the won-loss records of teams and sometimes it goes unnoticed what your coaches and student-athletes do in the community. How proud are you of some of the community-minded efforts turned in by your student-athletes and coaches throughout the past three years? We want our student-athletes to have a well-rounded education and reaching out to the community is another component in their pursuit of a degree from Middle Tennessee. A couple of things that spring to mind is that it is good for our student-athletes to see that there are people in need out there and that they can make a difference, and it is good for us because we ask a lot out of our community so this is a way of giving back. Our kids are very active in this area and last year we were the primary builders for a Habitat for Humanity house. We completed our second year with our city schools mentoring program where each team is associated with a school and participates in various activities. A few years ago when a tornado went through Gallatin a group of our football, men's basketball, and volleyball student-athletes spent time cleaning up an area of the city and John Pointer in the BRAA office helped spearhead the event. One of our favorite events is the Special Olympics done each year in April. These are just a few of the things we have done but we get requests regularly and try our best to fulfill most of them because it is very important to our student-athletes and our department to give back to the community.
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