Saturday, February 02, 2013

People, Not Programs

Jay Bilas spoke at the National Sports Journalism Center, and this tweet resulted:

"I chose a coach, I didn't choose a school" @JayBilas on decision to play at Duke @iujournalism #JayBilasatIU

There is some pure truth.  Many athletes, especially the elite, are looking at who will direct their development, not how big the locker room is.

The proof to this pudding:  John McDonnell at Arkansas.  He won the vast majority of his national championships with a less than standard indoor training space and an average outdoor track.  Other programs in the 80s and 90s had super facilities and hosted the national meets.

The same applies to the average college student.  With the assistance of one of our business instructors who is a Spanish native, I interviewed six new exchange students to Northwestern State from Colombia.  We did the interviews in English and in Spanish.  These were somewhat elite musicians for their region of Colombia, and the reason they decided to fly to Natchitoches, La., population 18,000, was very clear in their answers.

The people.

Specifically, the head of the music program and the head of part of our international studies and recruiting.

Here is the point.  You want more students at your school?  Get the faculty out front.  Engage with students on personal levels, and that includes finding ways to break through the barrier that so many want to create between students and teachers via social media.

The why is very simple.  Students aren't picking Northwestern State for nursing just because we are one of the oldest programs with a great reputation; that we are one of the largest programs in the region.

They pick it because they get to know the teachers.  They know those teachers are going to make them better nurses.  And combined with that reputation of NSU nursing, they want to come here.

We had a record-setting year of recruiting students to the Louisiana Scholars' College for three reasons.  First, we have marketed that program like never before to gain exposure.  Our foundation gathered new scholarships for private gifts to help give our recruiters an edge.  But the third, and most important part, the director and the faculty in that area make connection with prospects a high priority.  Sure, they have a nice building, but if they were in the oldest building on our campus, I bet the results -- if the morale of the faculty and staff stayed high -- would be the same.

I've always known this to be true from days in athletics.  Building tens of millions of dollars in facilities, which unfortunately is escalating to hundreds of millions of dollars, will not make up for the lack of proven coaches and reputations of programs in attracting top students.

Build it and they will come only works on a Field of Dreams.  Even Fantasyland had Disney.

Connect with them as a coach, or teacher -- that's reality.

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