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Dishing Out the Assist

Dishing Out  the Assist

Running a high-quality Web site is a tall order for any college athletic department. That’s why specialized Web-hosting companies have stepped up to lend a hand.

Until this past January, Kristene Kelly managed Johnson C. Smith University’s athletic department Web site the old-fashioned way — relying largely on the assistance of the school’s information technology office. She says keeping the site up-to-date was cumbersome and often resulted in Web postings that were less timely than she preferred.

“If I traveled with teams, I’d have to wait until I got back to campus to get articles and updates onto our site,” says Kelly, the sports information director at the Charlotte, N.C.-based historically Black school. 

In late January, the university aligned with CSTV.com, a division of the College Sports TV Networks Inc., to launch www.goldenbull sports.com as the official athletics Web site for the university. While the new site links seamlessly with the university’s regular Web site, the contents of www.goldenbullsports.com are hosted and managed on servers owned and operated by CSTV.

Under the old system, Kelly used the Web publishing software on a campus computer to manage the Web site. But the new arrangement allows school officials to automatically post text and photos by uploading them to CSTV.com servers. The Web site also allows Kelly to post new information from any Internet-connected computer, meaning she can now update scores and statistics even when accompanying her teams on the road.

“We needed an inexpensive content management system that allowed us to quickly update our site from nearly any location,” Kelly says, noting the Web site “is simple to manage.” 

Says Steve Joyner, the university’s athletics director, “Our new Web site showcases all our student-athletes, offers better coverage of our athletic program and can serve as a tremendous recruiting tool for prospective student-athletes.”

According to school officials, the new Web site has a cleaner and improved design with more convenient navigation tools.
New sections include pages for compliance, a staff directory, sports medicine and a comprehensive calendar of events. And university officials are now able to sell advertising on the site because it no longer falls under the .edu domain.

“In this information age, the official Web site serves as the largest marketing tool for an athletic department,” says Joyner. “It can also generate revenue streams through enhanced corporate sponsorship and advertising.”

Not unlike JCSU, Alabama State University’s athletic department is a relative newcomer to using a Web content management system. ASU sports information director Kelvin Datcher says the difficulties of maintaining an in-house Web operation led school officials to partner with CSTV.com two years ago.

“It’s much better for us to have a Web content management system provided by a vendor. We’re looking now to do more with e-commerce and advertising,” Datcher says.

Companies that provide specialized Web content management systems have transformed college athletic sites over the past decade. Tom Buffolano, the general manager and vice president for CSTV Digital Subscription, says between 500 and 600 colleges and universities in Divisions I, II and III have athletic Web sites. CSTV is currently the largest Web-management company in the game, partnering with about 215 institutions.

The next largest player, XOS Technologies, hosts sports Web sites for about 150 institutions. 

According to Buffolano, few schools attempt to maintain an
in-house or alumni-run athletics Web site anymore.

Working with vendors like XOS Technologies and CSTV allows schools to take advantage of cutting-edge technologies and a depth of market expertise that higher education institutions on their own are unlikely to acquire, Buffolano says.

He points to CSTV’s audio/video and e-commerce experience as two advantages of third-party Web management companies.

“We can work with school product merchandising and can be the online front door to their campus stores,” he says.

–Ronald Roach

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