Tonight Canespace welcomes the busiest man in Coral Gables at this time of the year, apart from UM head coach Al Golden, our good friend Chris Freet. In case you don't know Freet is the dedicated and dynamic leader of the UM Athletic Department''s Sports Information Department.
Chris' actual job title recently changed when he was promoted and he is now the Associate Athletic Director of Communications and Marketing. To many this may sound like a job where you wear a nice suit, shake some hands, smile a lot and most importantly style your hair properly.
But to those of us who know how hard he works nothing could be further from the truth. Well except for the hair. Chris looks like a South Beach surfer and has really nice hair. But we digress.
Let's get right to our Five Questions with UM AD for Communications and Marketing Chris Freet:
Canespace:UM head coach Al Golden is going into his second year at Miami. Can you talk about how the culture in and around the program and the Hecht Athletic Center has changed under Golden's leadership? After a 6-6 season in 2011 and at a time when there is a major youth movement going on with the team in general what are the realistic expectations for this season?
Freet: What you see, hear and read about Coach Golden through media outlets or Raising Canes videos is the same man we work with every day. He never misses an opportunity to make a lasting impression, whether that means recruiting, teaching or developing a relationship.
The biggest change I have seen in the culture is through the players. When I watch and listen to players talk about the team and their goals/expectations, I hear the philosophy of this coaching staff. That is the best sign of ‘buy-in’ to me and cultural change. Listen to Nick Saban (sorry Dolphins fans) during his weekly press conference and then listen to his players, they are reiterating the goals of the week, season and program. Obviously it has paid dividends at Alabama and I am excited to see that process at UM.
As for the expectations, mine are pretty simple. I expect to see this team grow every week. If they are growing as a team and as individuals heading into games 9-12, it will be a very good sign.
Canespace: Can you tell us about or update us on any of the changes planned for Sun Life Stadium over the next few years? How will the stadium be modified or different and how will that make for a more fan friendly experience to watch UM home games? If we can't have a Clevelander Hotel party section like the new Marlins Park can we at least get some shade at Sun Life?
Freet: I believe fans can expect to see changes at Sun Life Stadium and I believe the Dolphins leadership has shared some of those plans. Everyone in Miami wants to keep this town in the rotation for Super Bowls and National Championship games and that will likely require some enhancements to SLS. As for specifics, I’m not the man with those details.
As for the fan experience, we talk about it daily with our new leaders in the ticket office, marketing and game operations. We want to make gamedays more fan friendly and more family oriented. We want to make the process of buying, sharing and reselling tickets easier. We want to refine the gameday parking experience, the tailgate experience and the hospitality once you are in the venue. There is a lot of work to do be done and plenty of items that are not listed. I can tell you we are working on all of the above.
One area I believe we are already making significant changes is in the student experience. We spent 5 months researching our students and ways to make their experience better. I think I am realistic in that, I truly believe it will take the full college life cycle (4-5 years) of the 2012 freshmen class before we can see a major change in student support of all our teams. I think we started at the right time. We hit the freshmen with an exclusive video from Ray Lewis their third day on campus and we resent it to them right before their first ever college class. It gave me goosebumps, so I can only hope it had the same impact on the Class of 2016.
We have a lot of work to do, but we have a team inside the department that is focused on the fan first and foremost. It’s the strongest team I have been around and I am excited for all the new additions to roll up their sleeves and make an impact.
Canespace: The most recent "Raising Canes" video featuring QB Stephen Morris was one of the best yet from Three Penny Films. How many Raising Canes videos are planned for this season and are there any hints at the subject matter for any of the future videos soon to be released? Have you considered doing one on the fans Game Day experience?
Freet: Fans will see at least one full length (around 12 minutes) Raising Canes for every game week. The 3 Penny Films crew will also hit us with extra content like Jimmy Johnson talking to the team, Tracy Howard’s first team meeting and other great behind the scenes footage from time to time.
The planner in me wishes that I could tell you the upcoming story lines, but that is what makes 3 Penny Films unique and fantastic story tellers. They follow the team and let the story lines come to life.
There are three features that we have been working on and that are separate from the 2012 team. By Monday of Bethune-Cookman week we will launch a Traditions webpage and corresponding videos on HurricaneSports.com that will tell the stories of our gameday traditions through the eyes of long time season ticket holders. Graphically, the page will look like our 2012 poster, which features traditions that are unique to UM football: The Ibis, the smoke, Band of the Hour, Al Golden’s Tie, The U hand sign, pregame music and more.
During FSU week, I have asked 3 Penny Films to do a time-lapse video like this:
BUT OF COURSE EVEN BETTER. They are excited about the challenge.
Last but not least, 3 Penny is already working on a video for the 25th Anniversary celebration of the 1987 National Championship Team at the FSU game. There will be gameday video board elements and online elements…and Jimmy Johnson. I’m already fired up!
Canespace: We do something called Legends of the Fall each year. Bloggers at Canespace select one player on offense and one on defense that they feel will have a "legendary" or "break out" season each year. Apart from the obvious choices of Stephen Morris and Denzel Perryman which two players do you think are going to really burst onto the scene in 2012? In addition, also select one Freshman and one assistant coach that U feel will make an impact this year?
Freet:On offense, I really like Rashawn Scott to make an impact. I can see him emerging early in the year like Allen Hurns did last season. Defensively, I have a feeling that Olsen Pierre is going to become a consistent player for the defense. On the freshmen, a lot will contribute. An off the radar guy that I am excited to see play is Rashawn Jenkins. Our coaches absolutely loved Rashawn during the recruiting process and I’ve been sold since. As for the coach, I think George McDonald has an incredible mind for the game and is a fantastic teacher. If any receiver makes the gains that Tommy Streeter did under McDonald last year, we will be a lucky fan base. If two players from the group of Dorsett, Scott, Hurns and Thompkins make a gain like that, WATCH OUT!
Canespace: What new changes or features can Miami Hurricane fans expect from the UM web site and the SID in general this season? Will there be any in-depth player profiles, weekly player personal diaries or changes in the game day experience for fans attending games in 2012?
Freet:Lots of new things coming down the pipe. For the first time ever this Saturday night, Canes All-Access premium ($) subscribers will be able to a watch a condensed version of our BC game and a full version of the entire game on HurricaneSports.com. We will do a behind enemy linesfeature each week that will stir a ton of engagement. Apps for the iPhone and iPad are already in the approval process with Apple and will feature all the on-demand video our fans crave. And a new rewards system for the students will be launched through an online platform that works seamlessly with mobile.
But the biggest change is the people. Our new leaders in marketing (Andrew Goodrich), communications (Chris Yandle), digital media (Brian Bowsher), ticket office (Brent Crank) and alumni relation (Rick Remmert) were all dying to work at The U. They believe in this place, they are humbled to work with our passionate fan base and they are all problem solvers.