Today we take a completely new turn in the latest feature of what now appears to have become a very popular feature series known as "Five Questions With Canespace". After interviewing several of the media reps that cover the Miami Hurricanes we now turn our attention to the staff at the University of Miami who often operate behind the curtain but without whose help the show simply could not go on.
Canespacers meet Chris Yandle, the officially designated "new kid on the block", who is the new Director of Communications for the UM Athletic Department. Among his many other assigned duties Yandle handles the all important day-to-day operations of the media scheduling and interviewing process as it relates to the UM football team.
Chris joins the very creative and always progressive Chris Freet at UM, who was recently promoted to the job title of UM Associate Athletic Director for Communications and Marketing. Apparently, it really helps if your name is "Chris" if you are looking to get a job at UM these days?
So here are our five questions with Chris Yandle of the University of Miami:
Canespace: You just recently joined the UM SID staff as Communications Director. Help Miami fans get to know you a little better tell us about your professional experiences in college athletics and a little about your personal life in general before UM?
Yandle: My foray into college athletics began with a chance encounter while I was a freshman at the University of Southern Mississippi in 2000. I never knew sports information / media relations / athletic communications existed until I happen to walk into the Southern Miss SID office. I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do but I always knew I wanted to work in sports, college athletics in particular. Mike Montoro (then at USM, now at West Virginia) was the first person to give me my big break in the business. I still talk to Mike often to this day and he still tells me he knew I had a future in this.
Because of a family illness, I transferred to Louisiana-Lafayette in August 2002. It was at ULL where my career took a more professional path. Working at ULL was one of the best things for my career. Being a part of a small office, I had the opportunity – whether I wanted to or not – to learn everything. I spent three full years as an undergraduate student at ULL, working every sport and traveling with baseball.
In addition to working in sports, I knew I wanted to write. I studied public relations at Louisiana-Lafayette (minor in history) and was the Outstanding Graduate in Communications. I moved to Huntington, W.Va., in July 2005 to start graduate school at Marshall University. I traveled with the football and softball programs for two years and I was there during the filming of “We Are Marshall”. It was a very cool experience to walk home to my apartment and spot Matthew McConaughey at the neighborhood Subway.
After graduating from Marshall in 2007, I only had one professional option… and that was returning to Louisiana-Lafayette as Assistant SID. It worked out well personally because I was getting married in June 2007 and my wife still had a year left of school at ULL. I spent 13 months at ULL, working with volleyball, men’s basketball and baseball. I contemplated leaving the profession and pursuing a private career in public relations. That was until I got a phone call from Baylor. After only one year of full-time experience, I had the opportunity to be the men’s basketball SID for a Big 12 school and a rising powerhouse.
In four years in Waco, I had the chance to experience two Elite Eight appearances for men’s basketball, four NBA draft picks, a WBB national championship, two bowl trips, a 10-win football season and a Heisman Trophy winner. I played a small role in the RG3 Heisman Trophy campaign last year in Waco. A year later and it still feels surreal looking back at the #YearoftheBear. I don’t think any school will ever experience that again.
In June – while we were hosting the NCAA Super Regional in Waco – I got a phone call from Chris Freet, asking if I would be interested in joining the UM staff. I wasn’t looking to leave Baylor and it was certainly a difficult decision, but the opportunity, the energy and vision of the Miami Athletics Department was too good to pass up. To be 30 and the Director/Football Contact at a FBS school was a great chance to continue my career aspirations of becoming an AD.
Canespace: I was born and raised in Miami so I know that the 305 is a dynamic, diverse, busy and sometimes difficult or challenging place to live, that to be honest, is not for everyone. What excited you about the opportunity to move to South Florida and join the University of Miami athletic department staff?
Yandle: For me, the opportunity to work with Chris Freet and Shawn Eichorst and the rest of the senior staff was enough for me. The energy I felt during my interview at Miami was the same way I felt during my interview at Baylor in 2008. Yes, Miami is different. But, so is Waco, Texas; Lafayette, La.; Huntington, W.Va.; Hattiesburg, Miss.; and so on and so on. During my interview process, people would tell me: “you know, this isn’t like Waco.” Where you live is what you make of it. To me, Miami is just like any other town I’ve lived in, except with amazing ocean views and a beach.
Canespace: In your short experience at UM so far what has pleasantly surprised you and what have you found challenging (apart from working with that Freet character) about living in SoFL, working at UM and dealing with the Hurricane beat reporters and Miami's fickle and demanding fans base?
Yandle: Every fan base is different from other schools, yet the same. I love the passion of the Canes fan base. It’s something I’ve never experienced at my previous schools (to this magnitude). And the media – no matter the city or the school – will be different. Every school/city/media market presents its own unique set of challenges. Miami is no different. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m very proud to be at The U.
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 obvious choices Stephen Morris and Denzel Perryman which two players do you think are going to really burst onto the scene in 2012? Also select one Freshman and one assistant coach that U feel will make an impact this year?
Yandle: My first days on the job were spent in Greensboro at ACC Kickoff with Scott Zavitz (Assistant Director), Mike James and Brandon McGee. Mike and Brandon are fantastic representatives for The U and I’ve become big fans of both. I think both can have outstanding senior seasons. In terms of the freshmen, I can’t limit it to just one. I think many will make a contribution in 2012, including but not limited to Tracy Howard and Duke Johnson.
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?
Yandle: HurricaneSports.com is the front porch for everything Hurricanes Athletics and it’s important that we put our best information there and we push all of our social media content back to that site. And with the addition of Brian Bowsher as our Digital Media Strategist, I can promise we will have plenty of new things coming soon, but I’m not willing to spill the new stuff quite yet. The one thing I will tell you is that we will be more social media heavy and social media savvy.
Our football game program will feature tons of social media-produced content; fans don’t care what questions I ask Mike James, but they do care if Mike James answers their question(s) for the game program. I believe in social media engineering and that’s what we are going to produce – fan generated content.