Looking all around the USF campus, one need not venture far to see a construction site of some sort. And the progress is not limited to Holly Drive or the Moffitt Center or some other physical structure.
The USF athletics department Web site, , has undergone a facelift. The redesigned site is now under the stewardship of Media General Inc., the parent company of Tampa Bay Online (TBO.com), The Tampa Tribune and News Channel 8 Web sites.
John Gerdes, USF sports information director, said one of the attractions to Media General was their stability. USF’s previous Web site manager, Totalsports.com, went out of business in April, but Gerdes expects Media General to be around for the long term.
“We’re pretty sure that Media General will be around a year from now, two years from now, three years from now,” Gerdes said. “They run Tampa Bay Online, so that’s not as much of a concern with them.”
Gerdes said when Totalsports shut down, FANSonly.com, the other major site manager for college sports, agreed to take on all of Totalsports’ clients free for one month.
After the month was up, schools could decide to stay on as full-time clients or let Totalsports manage their site for a weekly fee of $500. Gerdes said he remained with FANSonly for about two months, but he was wary of the minimum 3-year, $15,000 per year commitment the company required to stay full time, given the instability of online companies.
“The other glitch in that was that we were in between athletic directors at the time,” Gerdes said. “Even though Lee Roy Selmon was obviously hired after that, it made things a little difficult to commit to a 3-year,$15,000 contract when we weren’t certain who the athletic director was going to be. So, there were some unusual circumstances.”
According to Michael Kelly, associate athletics director in charge of marketing, the current arrangement involved a one-time fee of $5000. Plus, there are mutual marketing opportunities between USF and TBO (links and banner ads), as well as a sponsorship deal with ESPN Regional. A content manager feature will eventually allow the USF sports information staff to update the site on their own.
“We’re not only pleased with the initial steps, but where we’ll be eventually,” Kelly said. “And compound that with what we hope will be very good cross-promotional opportunities for us to hopefully get more visitors.
“So, we wanted to have a better site for our existing fans, but also (we’re) hoping that it becomes more prominent, bringing unique and additional visitors to our site.”
Gerdes said some of the upcoming features on the site include fan polls and a comprehensive scoreboard.
Kelly added the site will be used not only for team updates but also for fund-raising activities such as selling direct tickets, accepting donations and renewing memberships to the Athletic Association.
“We want to use our Web site as much as possible not only with the freshest of information but to make it more of a true sales tool for us,” Kelly said.
Kelly said the site should be fully updated by the first week of December. And though the site is not yet complete, fans have reacted positively to the change.
“People were just so anxious, after it’s been so stagnant for so long, to see a change,” Kelly said.
“They’re pleased with the freshness of the look and to have the evidence that things are heading in a new direction.
“We’re not where we’re going to be in a few weeks, or a few months, or what-have-you, but it’s definitely an improvement.”