1. What exactly are we shooting for with stadium experience? -- Stadium experience was quite the point of contention last week in the Iowa community.
Offensive line coach Brian Ferentz tweeted late last week the stadium experience is "lacking." Head coach Kirk Ferentz basically agreed with him in the postgame, but he did also say it was up to the team to provide the electricity. And you know, at the core, that's the only answer.
During the week, people asked me what is a good stadium experience? My degree in English from UNI tells me . . . I don't know jack.
So, I went to a sports marketer I know and respect.
Let me introduce you to Dustin Godsey. Here's Dustin's bio: Dustin Godsey is the Vice President of Marketing for the Milwaukee Bucks. He grew up in Anamosa and graduated from the University of Iowa in 2002. His first foray into the sports industry was as an intern with the Cedar Rapids Kernels, and worked in various positions in the sports and entertainment industry in Des Moines and Philadelphia before joining the Bucks prior to the 2012-13 NBA season.
Here's stadium experience from a sport's marketer's point of view:
"In-stadium entertainment, or game ops to use a bit of industry jargon, plays much the same role as the production of a television broadcast – done well, it adds color to the game, enriches the experience and provides ancillary entertainment. Done poorly, it becomes grating, and in the worst situations, gets in the way of the game itself.
In my experience, there are three basic principles behind creating a good in-game stadium experience no matter where you go and what level you’re at, from Single A baseball up to the NBA.
- Keep people entertained – Fans are there to see the game first and foremost, but every sport has downtime and attention spans are only getting shorter. Let’s face it, the game itself isn’t always fun, and a fan should never leave the arena feeling like they didn’t get their money’s worth.
- Create atmosphere – Like a good warm-up band at a concert, the in-stadium experience can prime a crowd to help provide a home field advantage. A well-timed skit from a mascot or movie clip can be exactly the nudge a crowd needs to get loud when the team needs it. Believe it or not, there are plenty of fans who are perfectly content to sit silently until asked to stand up and make noise.
- Know when to go away – Sometimes the game is enough. A good game ops crew understands the situation and knows when to get out of the way.
The experience a fan has at the stadium can impact their perception of the team. Put on a boring show and fans just might think you have a boring team. Play nothing but Jock Jams Volume 1 on repeat; chances are fans are going to think you’re stuck in the past. Find the right combination of sport and entertainment and your fans will leave having had a great time, regardless whether their team won or lost."
2. Back-to-back back -- We need to preface this by noting that Wisconsin is the No. 5 rush defense in the country. It's rock solid. So, when measuring and trying to figure out a pattern with Iowa running backs last week, you have to sift it through the fact that the Hawkeyes ran into a white-and-red brick wall most of the afternoon.
In the first half, running back Mark Weisman got back-to-back carries just twice. In the second half, sophomore Jordan Canzeri carried three times in a row and then again two straight times. Damon Bullock and LeShun Daniels didn't have consecutive carries.
At one point last season, Weisman had a string of 58 straight carries. There doesn't seem to be a pattern. Since Weisman's injury against Michigan State on Oct. 5, it's hard to figure out what's going on at running back. How much does Iowa telegraph by which back it lines up? Weisman and Daniels run inside and out. Bullock runs outside and catches passes. It's difficult to define Canzeri's game with just 29 carries this season, but last week, he left the game on most passing downs in favor of Bullock.
"I feel like we all can [be three-down, full-service running backs]," Weisman said. "I think we're all complete backs. It's fun competing against each other."
3. Stealing scholarships -- The sheer scholarship math of the offensive line usually dictates that position group leads the team or is close to leading the team in scholarships. There are, after all, five of them. Iowa's roster last week showed 13 scholarship offensive linemen and 11 scholarship wide receivers.
Ferentz said on his radio show Wednesday night that they've been "borrowing" from the O-line pool of scholarship to help bring wide receiver up to speed. Four wide receivers (Andre Harris, Derrick Mitchell, Derrick Willies and A.J. Jones) are redshirting this year. The 11 scholarships spent on receiver might stay the same next year, depending what Iowa does with Union High School quarterback Jay Scheel (listed as QB now, but could switch to WR) and Cincinnati, Ohio, athlete C.J. Hilliard, who was recruited as a running back but probably won't play running back (not his team's primary back with just 71 carries in 10 games this year).Iowa has two O-line commits right now in Dubuque Senior's Lucas LeGrand and Indianola's Keegen Render. Ferentz said he'd like to take one and probably two more in the 2014 class.