April 12, 2012
By David Housel
This is the second story in a series of three to document memories from behind the scenes from the perspective of the Sports Information / Media Relations Director.
Sports Information Directors do not win awards and honors such as the Heisman Trophy.
Awards such as the Heisman Trophy are won on the field by the players. The SID can not win the award, but he can certainly lose it.
The SID can lose it by not doing enough work or by doing too much work-- over-the-top promotion and hype that can hurt rather than help the player being considered for the award. There can be too much "sizzle."
Our challenge in 1985 was not to create interest and buzz around Bo Jackson. Bo was considered the leading candidate going into the season. The interest and buzz was already there. Our challenge was to manage it in an effective and ultimately productive and successful manner.
Rather than "promote" Bo to create media interest and demand, we decided to take advantage of the interest and demand that was already there. There is a fine line between "promoting" and "meeting media demand." Some would say a matter of semantics. Either way, it is a fine line and we had to walk it carefully. If Bo had not been considered the leading candidate going into the season, our whole approach may have been different.
We also had to be sure that in meeting media demand, Bo was not suffocated by it all, that he still had time for a private, personal life, time to study and time for football. At times that proved to be a challenging task. Only Bo knows how well we met that challenge.
We sent out our normal weekly releases, three mailings a week, to a list of more than 1,000 national writers, radio and television commentators and announcers. Each weekly mailing contained at least six, sometimes nine, football related stories, one of which was always on Bo, what he had done and what others, coaches and media in particular, were saying about him, always positive of course.
In an age of the internet and electronic media, it's hard to fathom what we did in those days--producing and mailing a minimum of 9,000 pages a week on Auburn football. Reba Gulledge, Becky Hopf, John Lewandowski and a dedicated group of student assistants deserve great credit and praise for their part in that effort. Stuffing more than a thousand envelopes with up to five pieces of paper three times a week, every Sunday, Monday and Tuesday afternoons, was not something they looked forward to, but something they always did, for Auburn and for Bo.
We made one significant move to support Bo's candidacy. We hired Mike Hubbard, a student assistant at Georgia, to handle the evolving electronic end of media relations. Mike, now Speaker of The House in the Alabama Legislature, did an excellent job and was instrumental in our success.
If we had a "secret weapon" in our efforts to help Bo, it was the Media Coordination Committee of the NCAA Final Four which consisted of seven or eight SIDs from across the country, including me.
Early in the season I began calling these men, my friends, asking them what they were hearing about Bo in their part of the country. Their advice, insight, knowledge and wisdom helped us create a plan, not to create interest, but to meet and address the interest, questions and concerns that were already there. Their input enabled us to do that on a targeted almost one-on-one basis rather than use the standard over-the-top scattergun approach that had the inherent risk of offending as many voters as it positively influenced.
That's what we did and that's how we did it
But we did not win the Heisman Trophy. Bo Jackson, his teammates and coaches did that, which is as it should be.
We just did our part.