Virtual University Getting A Piece of Athletic Action
Kentucky Virtual University, the state’s electronic portal to a higher education without lecture halls, dorms or bad cafeteria food, has a sports franchise.
There are already T-shirts from the KVU Athletic Department, and there will be a logo after its selection by an online poll of KVU students.
The next thing you know, the KVU @vengers will probably want state funding for a football stadium. Or they’ll try to get investigated by the NCAA.
Actually, the @vengers are a huge success. They started the season 2-0 and already have generated interest and enthusiasm among the far-flung Virtual U students and staff.
“We’re just trying to have a little bit of fun and raise the awareness of distance-learning opportunities,” says Sue Patrick, a spokeswoman for Kentucky Virtual University.
The @vengers help create a sense of sharing and community among the online learners, Patrick says.
The idea was hatched in early 1999 when a publication facetiously suggested that if Virtual U really wanted to be accepted in Kentucky, it needed a mascot and probably a basketball team.
Mary Beth Susman — all 5-foot-nothing of her — is @venger coach, head cheerleader and chief executive officer of Kentucky Virtual University. She grabbed the idea of a mascot and ran with it.
There are five other “real” teams in the league — virtual learning institutions at Michigan, New Hampshire, Old Dominion, Texas and Magellan. Old Dominion adopted the Monarchs, which is the name for its real teams. Michigan went with MegaRams; Texas is MegaHertz.
To fill out the league, six other schools were invented.
The computer simulation games are played every Saturday and game reports are compiled and sent to Virtual U students. A Web site keeps track of the league, complete with statistics. There will be a full 11-game schedule, then a Virtual Bowl to crown the league champion.
Real Virtual U students lent their names — some real, some e-mail addresses or nicknames — to players for the @vengers. There were no in-home recruiting visits or scholarships, though apparently some of the players already have suggested that would be a great idea.
This is not big-time college athletics. Virtual U paid $3,000 to the public relations director at Swarthmore College to run the fantasy football league and is getting most of that back from the other five participating schools.
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