While many of us love watching Michigan sports, we sometimes overlook the process of providing the coverage. One of the key people in the process of providing you Michigan sports is the sports information directors (SIDs). These people work endlessly to make sure you the fan get all the information and access you can get. I've worked particularly close to one SID, Matt Fancett, over the course of the last few months as I covered the baseball team. Good fortune also had him covering the volleyball team, the team that inspired the start to the mgo-non-revenue posts.
So as a service to you fans who may not know just how the inner-workings of the media relations part of Michigan Athletics works, I thought I'd provide you with a brief look inside. As a bonus, Matt's got a pretty interesting story behind his relationship to Michigan.
What exactly is an associate sports information director? What are some of the major and minor tasks you do?
Associate and Assistant Sports Information Directors handle a variety of tasks in our Media Relations Office. The biggest responsibility I have is to serve as a liaison between both the baseball and volleyball programs and the media. I handle all the media requests for interviews for those two sports for both the coaching staff and the student-athletes. Day to day, I work to maintain the MGoBlue.com website for those two sports, writing recaps or events, features, blogs, etc. On game day for each I run the press areas for each sport which is both a ton of work and a ton of fun. I deal with all the media that cover our teams at both home and road games but at home I basically make sure they all have the information they need to be able to do their job. If they have a random question during a game, my job is to be able to answer it. I also handle all the official statistics for both volleyball and baseball. Along with a team of people I assemble for each sport, we are the ones that key in every play that eventually makes up a box score.
I work closely with the TV crews when we are on TV, and radio crews at nearly every game to make sure they have everything they need to pull off a great broadcast. When we are on the road, I serve as the play-by-play voice for volleyball and baseball. I love doing it because I do have a background in that and as the SID I am already privy to a ton of inside information so I feel like I am able to put on a good broadcast for the fans that are following.
I am also responsible for the creation of the weekly notes/releases about each sport to aid in the media’s coverage of the teams as well as the media guides. SID’s also do things like schedule the photographers for all the games, go through the countless images after the games, create media credentials and decide who will receive credentials for games, etc. I also handle things like Twitter for the two programs.
Where did you attend college and what major/concentration did you study while there?
I graduated from Eastern Michigan University with a degree in Public Relations and a minor in Broadcast Communications. There was not Sports Management undergrad program at EMU when I was there, so the next closest thing was the PR/Communications program. I was fortunate to be able to spend three years working in the Sports Information Department at EMU as an undergrad and was given the responsibility to be the main contact for baseball my senior year. I am also nearing completion on a masters degree in Sports Administration from EMU.
What job did you take out of college? Where have you been since there?
My first job out of college was with the Ann Arbor Visitors and Convention Bureau, doing Sports Marketing. There were no local SID jobs available when I was done with school and I wanted to stay in the area, so I took the job and basically hated it. I wanted to be a SID so bad and I was miserable doing what I was doing. My job was basically to find sporting events (AAU, Youth, etc.) and try to bring them to the Ann Arbor Area. I spent 9 months doing that until a SID job opened at Concordia University in Ann Arbor. It is a tiny NAIA school, but I so badly wanted to be back in that field that I went after it very hard and got that job.
How was it that you came to Michigan?
I got to Michigan by “toiling in the minors”. I spent one year at Concordia and then was lured away by Madonna University, another NAIA school in Livonia, Michigan. Still a small school, but one with much better athletic success. I envisioned myself staying there for a couple of years and moving on because I really wanted to get back to Div. I level, but it turned into 7 years. The first five as SID and the last two as Asst. AD for Media Relations. I was responsible for 11 varsity sports there including great volleyball and baseball teams. My work there basically prepared me to be able to handle the duties here at Michigan because I was a one man band. I was the SID, the marketing rep., the facilities coordinator… you name it, I did it.
I applied for a couple of jobs at U-M over the years, but there are always hundreds of people applying for jobs at Michigan. Finally when the volleyball/baseball job came open I called Tom Wywrot (men’s basketball SID) who I had known from his time at EMU and my time serving as PA Announcer for U-M basketball and told him I was interested. I went through the process again and this time the combination of the sports, and the timing of the job (It didn’t post until August which is very late to hire a SID) were a great fit. I interviewed and was lucky enough to get the position.
What sports have you covered other than baseball and volleyball at Michigan?
Baseball and Volleyball have been my only two sports here at Michigan since last year was my first year, but we all help out from time to time with other sports. I have helped work football and men’s basketball and this year I am overseeing our interns as they handle swimming.
Of the sports you cover (or covered besides football), which do you feel have the most active fan bases?
I think that one of the special parts about Michigan is that all of the sports have great fan bases. I think that volleyball has a very underrated and growing fan base. It is a very fun sport to watch, especially at the level that Michigan performs. The success of the team over the last couple of years has really gotten the fans to come out, and I think that our marketing department, especially Katy Jackson who handles marketing for both volleyball and baseball, have done a great job to make a great fan experience. When Keen Arena is full it can be a very hostile environment, especially with The Zone (student-section).
Other than volleyball, I think that hockey has a great fan base… men’s basketball has gotten better and better as the team has improved and I think that the baseball program has very loyal fans that will sit out in the cold and watch great baseball at a great facility.
What is the favorite part of your job at Michigan?
Having grown up in Ann Arbor I was a Michigan fan my whole life. I have a lot of great memories of different games. Most of them involve men’s basketball because my dad was the PA Announcer during the Fab Five era… so I was at all those games and it was a very exciting time. Probably my favorite memory is my first game as the PA Announcer for basketball at Michigan. I had done PA work at EMU as a student and when my dad stepped down as the PA guy here, they contacted me to see if I was interested. I just remember being so nervous and having the ushers and stuff looking at me like “who is this young kid”. And then after the game, there were fans and stuff that came up to me as I was leaving telling me that I sounded just like “the last guy”, so that was a pretty surreal moment… one that as a kid sitting at game with him I always hoped would happen and it did.. .it was great.
Matt, I've definitely noticed a change in the way mgoblue.com has approached the emerging social medias. Your press releases have a slightly different style than years past, and I'm really digging it. How do you approach those?
One of the things I have tried to do is incorporate my own style into the weekly releases for both volleyball and baseball and try to get a little more in depth with some of the stuff. I am a numbers guy, so I like to break down the numbers and find meaning to them. I think that is one of the really cool parts about sports is examining the statistics and finding trends in them. It is pretty easy to do with baseball and I have had great help from Jim Schneider who held my job with baseball for over 30-years. The guy is a legend, a walking encyclopedia of Michigan baseball and he has been a great asset to me since I started here. I also realized that those weekly releases are read more by the fans and by bloggers than they are by the mainstream media, so I try to incorporate things that they will care about as well. I will say that pumping out those weekly releases can get to be a pretty big grind, especially for baseball. When you consider the amount of games they play in a week and especially this season with more mid-week games, it becomes very tough to update all the information with such short turnaround. Volleyball is a lot easier because they only play twice a week, so during the season the majority of my time is spend on those releases, so I am glad to hear someone likes them!
Do you have any short term career goals? I know you've mentioned more features such as interviews and player blogs, are there other bigger picture ideas you can share with us?
There are a ton of things I would like to do, the trick is actually finding the time to carry them out. I would love to go more in depth with feature stories in both sports. I firmly believe that each of the athletes has a unique story. I would also like to do things with alums of each program because I think fans would be interested to see what some of them are doing now. The player blogs were very well received this year and I will continue to do that with my two sports, and hopefully be able to do them more frequently. You never know how things are going to change… look how quickly Twitter has exploded for instance, but I think down the road we will always look at the technology that is available and figure out how we can use it to our advantage to promote our teams and student-athletes here at Michigan and help give the fans the best insight we can.
You can catch more of Matt at mgoblue.com and at all Michigan volleyball games.
Just a reminder to any one who cares (which is probably very few of you) that the first official sports match of Michigan's 09-10 school year is tonight as the women's soccer team takes on Arkansas in Ann Arbor. Kick off is slated for 6pm at the U-M Soccer Complex. Live stats are available.
Arkansas was picked to finish second to last in the SEC West in the preseason coaches poll. They return seven of their top scorers from last year, but they also have a new coach. Michigan should be able to take this game, but it will still be tough. Make it out if you can tonight, the team would appreciate it.
They will also play a road game at Valparaiso on Sunday at 5pm. Valpo was picked 6th in the Horizon League in their preseason coaches poll. Michigan should be able to defeat the Crusaders easily, but only time will tell.
For more on the women's soccer team, check out last Sunday's Women's Soccer Season Preview.
The men's soccer team will play their second exhibition in Ann Arbor on Sunday at 2pm against West Virginia. Again, live stats are available. The team played to a 0-0 tie in their first exhibition against Marquette yesterday (Thursday). They will not have an official game until Tuesday September 1st at Notre Dame, and we will have a season preview up before they start.
UPDATE: Paul went to the game against Arkansas (Michigan lost 2-0). He'll give his thoughts on Sunday.
Stephens will be looking to break into the starting lineup this season after seeing very little action this year. He usually only came in when Dufek was moved from first base to the pitchers mound. Look for that to increase next year.
In other news, Derek Dennis met with ABC13 WZZM's Angela Cunningham last week to discuss his choice to by pass the pros and play for Michigan. Dennis was offered $700,000 to play for the Rays as a 6th round pick, and he even counter offered $1,000,000 before deciding to head back to Michigan. Quote:
"I just figured going to Michigan I'd get an education first and get a lot of exposure playing baseball there," he said. "It was hard just because if I did sign that would be a ton of money to have but I figured after college I'd stand a better chance of getting more money and set more for life."Solid choice. Dennis will be in the mix to start as a true freshman this season with Kevin Cislo graduating. It'll be interesting to see if he takes over second base, or if Anthony Toth may be moved to second and Dennis take over at short stop. I'd bet on the former.
(HT: Brian Foley of The College Baseball Blog)
Due to real time updating, we're doing it via diary tonight. Also, I've noticed how crappy the diary editor is, so sorry for frequent updates as it keeps screwing up the html.
Tonight at midnight is the signing deadline for all drafted MLB prospects. If they don't sign tonight, they either go to college for 3 years or sit out (play in independent or foreign leagues) until next year's draft. Michigan has three recruits drafted, Daniel Fields (Tigers - 6th), Derek Dennis (Rays - 10th), and Patrick Biondi (Tigers 35th).
Fields, son of career minor leaguer and one time Tigers hitting coach Bruce Fields, did indeed sign with the Tigers around 10:30pm tonight. Fields was widely considered the top prospect out of Michigan this year (he or Dennis depending who you asked). He is expected to receive a 7-figure bonus for signing and attend the next few weeks in Lakeland, FL as the minor league season ends at the end of this month.
From the Jason Beck Tigers Blog:
"It was a very tough decision," Fields said Monday night, "because I'd fallen in love with Michigan ever since I went on my visit. It was a very tough decision. It was actually pretty hard calling coach [Rich] Maloney and telling him I wasn't coming."
The 7-figure bonus was way above the normal compensation for a 6th round pick, but his commitment to UM was the main culprit to his fall from the first 3 rounds to the 6th. The Tigers will probably get a slap on the wrist from Commissioner Bud Selig for the salary inflation but probably nothing more.
This is a pretty big loss for Michigan as Fields could have been a starting middle infielder this upcoming season. With Kevin Cislo graduating, the second base job is up for grabs and his to take.
In other signing news, Derek Dennis may be having a couple extra suitors at his door tonight. The Rays' top two prospects, LeVon Washington (2B) and Kenny Diekroeger (SS) both chose college over the pros. This leaves the Rays with Dennis as their top remaining unsigned middle infielder.
Dennis sounded like a Michigan lock only two months ago, but he was also invited to take batting practice with All Star third baseman Evan Longoria. Nothing's been heard since that June quote, so Dennis could still be mulling over his options.
If we hear anything about his signing tonight or tomorrow, I'll update you here.
Everything I've continued to read still has Dennis as a 100% Michigan lock.
The Freep also ran their article on Fields, where he described coach Maloney as "the main reason why I chose Michigan. I love him to death."
I'm going to air my displeasure with the "Cut" article. I realize Brian is no rock of journalistic integrity, and is open to express his opinion and presumptions about a certain topic. What irks me in this whole debacle is how willing many of the commenters are to just trust that when Brian titles the article "Cut," people believe that is what happened without reading the article or investigating it at all. No where in the linked article is the word "cut," "asked to leave the team," or "let go." For all we know he was told he really doesn't work into the starting line up any time soon, and rather than working to improve himself, he pulled a Mallett and decided to transfer. Claiming this kid was cut is just as factual as those claiming RichRod told Mallett he wouldn't fit in his system and would be finding other options. Neither are fact based. Both wild speculation.
From what I have seen, this kid was recruited out of Texas by Major Applewhite (now gone). He never stepped foot on the campus before signing with the Tide (leading me to believe he didn't think through much else), citing he just wanted to play for a great coach in Nick Saban. He couldn't make the field at his primary position (WR IIRC), then was transfered to a DB (again, IIRC) where he just wasn't cutting it there either. The kid was going to be relegated to the scout team for the rest of his time in college. I wouldn't blame him for being upset. The kid just wasted 2 years in a program he will never see the field for. Having already burned a redshirt year, he may have to waste another year on the bench if he wants to stay in the FBS. I wouldn't want to talk with the media either.
I'm interested to see what does come out in the media in the next 3-4 weeks. Whatever happened, it will be addressed somewhere, if by anything at least accident. I just don't think you can flat out blame Saban for this one. Things like this happen.
Disclaimer: I do think he did oversign, which I find morally wrong. I do not question that, but I will defend the premise that he is not necessarily the guilty party here.