‘You ain’t seen nothin’ yet’

By Gus Bode

SIU marketing thinks big off heels of strong preseason rank

For those who aren’t aware the 2004 SIU football team was ranked preseason No. 1 in the nation by Athlon magazine, there is a simple remedy.

Turn on your radio.


Open up the local newspaper.

And beginning next week, flip on your TV.

It shouldn’t be hard to miss.

“I think it’s been on just about everything I’ve put out so far,” said SIU marketing director Mike Trude. “I think in every ad we have that Athlon ranked us No. 1 in the country. We have to jump all over that because as we all know it doesn’t happen very often. You’ve got to ride it while you can.”

And for those who haven’t seen McAndrew Stadium filled to capacity on Saturdays, just wait until this fall – that could be hard to miss as well.

While the Saluki football team is preparing for its highly anticipated season with early morning workouts, the SIU marketing team led by Trude is attempting to do its part to fill McAndrew Stadium – and in the process make some extra cash for the athletic department.

The goal is to reach 1,500 season tickets sold, and thus far SIU is well on its way. The focus is season tickets because it is a guaranteed revenue source, unlike walk-up sales, which can be adversely impacted by weather or poor play.


“Our hope and our goal is to sell more season tickets and get more fans in the stands, No. 1 to support the team so we can win more, and No. 2, certainly the financial benefits,” said SIU Athletic Director Paul Kowalczyk, “It’s our intention to sell as many tickets as we can, and having the preseason No. 1 ranking and having the attention that is surrounding us is a positive to that end.”

It is highly unlikely this coming football season’s revenue will exceed its outrageous total costs – 65 scholarships, traveling, equipment, etc. – but the hope is that this year’s income will be higher than in years past. Trude says “absolutely, without question” it will be.

There are very few football programs in the country in the black, much less at the Division I-AA level, therefore Kowalczyk will be satisfied by maximizing profits.

“My goal since I’ve been here,” Kowalczyk said, “is to have a successful team and reduce the net cost of running [the football] program so that the revenues are closer to the expenses.”

With that in mind, Trude and the SIU marketing department are striving above and beyond to promote this year’s version of Saluki football, which is expected to be bigger and better than ever itself.

The objective is to build the excitement high, and SIU is delving into new areas to reach its desired end.

In addition to the many print, radio and TV ads airing all over Southern Illinois, the marketing department is working to get more businesses involved with SIU football this year.

Saluki marketing has extended its wings with mailings to numerous chambers of commerce throughout the Southern Illinois area, which is a new venture this year.

“We’re trying to get them to purchase a pair of tickets to use as giveaways or employee incentives at their place of business to hype the season,” Trude said.

Trude has also inked a slightly more expensive deal with Mediacom for the Salukis’ TV ads, which this year will be combined in a package involving men’s basketball advertising.

“It was almost like a fire sale,” Trude said. “We are spending more money on it, but we think the return will warrant the extra money.”

SIU’s affiliation with Ticketmaster, which was initiated last year, has also provided a new segment to contact. Anyone who bought Saluki game tickets online last season can be expecting a football mailing or two from Trude, if they haven’t received one already.

SIU is also continuing the practice of sending brochures and a letter from SIU football head coach Jerry Kill to the 600 to 700 men’s basketball season ticket holders who don’t have football season tickets.

The mailer was sent July 14, Brad Pietz, the SIU ticket manager, has already received calls from people wishing to extend their support to Saluki football.

“It’s already paying off,” Trude said.

All of the Salukis’ advertising will be focused on the Southern Illinois counties – Trude has found experiments in big markets such as St. Louis haven’t proved successful – but SIU Sports Information Director Tom Weber said fans should expect more regional and national coverage of the Salukis this season.

The hyped Saluki backfield trio of Terry Jackson II, Brandon Jacobs and Arkee Whitlock has already been featured in ESPN The Magazine last month.

“Typically, Gateway-type schools don’t see a lot of coverage from the Chicago papers or St. Louis papers,” Weber said. “But I would expect with us having a successful season that you’ll see more features or a little bit bigger write-up than what you normally might see.”

SIU’s appearance in The Magazine has already been a positive boost to ticket sales, but the attention has also rolled over into other sources of income.

Trude approves every article of Saluki garb that stores purchase to put on their shelves, and this year he said he’s seen more Saluki football-specific shirts and hats than ever before.

“That is a direct sign of revenue producing,” Trude said.

As with previous years, every Saluki home game will be sponsored. Trude also hopes for Homecoming and Family Weekend to be profitable not only for Saluki athletics, but also for the community through hotel and restaurant sales.

This year’s Saluki football advertising campaign has raised the intensity, which in turn elevates the expectations for Kill and his talented football team.

Kill is used to expectations – he says in coaching, you have them every year no matter what – but as they continue to rise, so does the pressure.

“I just think the expectations continue to climb,” Kill said, “and anytime they do, you’d be a foolish person to say there’s not a lot more pressure to succeed.”

Kill has proven in the past he can handle pressure – see last year’s success two years removed from a 1-10 record. But while Kill’s job admittedly becomes more difficult as expectations rise, Trude says his job just keeps getting easier.

“People have been calling me about games,” Trude said, “instead of me having to call them.”