CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Since returning to Marshall as athletic director in 2009, Mike Hamrick has tried to reconnect with Marshall's best, brightest and most well-heeled donors.But he is trying to address another longstanding weakness: the connection with recent graduates, the ones who could become the best, brightest and most well-heeled alumni.Those graduates will have access to their own football season-ticket packages, the end-zone seats for $100 for the six-game home season. Those who have earned MU degrees within a five-year window are eligible, and $50 goes to the Big Green Scholarship Foundation.In this day of emails and other forms of instant communication, staying in contact with new graduates is easier. As the pressures of the 21st century increase, it's more crucial.
"The reasoning behind that is, if you understand fundraising, if you want to keep in touch with your alums, the first five years is when they move around the most," Hamrick said. "We want to get them back involved with our program from the day they leave campus."And a lot of them can't afford to pay $300 for a season ticket and $300 for a Big Green membership, so we put this special graduate program in for them."The potential base isn't small - Hamrick estimates said about 10,000 of them have been reached via email about the program.Hamrick said he expects total season-ticket sales to approximate that of last year, but it's too soon to tell.Other items around the Marshall program:The recent persistent rain hasn't slowed most construction, mostly because the soccer complex building and Edwards Stadium sky suites are under roof. Hamrick hopes the steelwork can begin soon on the indoor practice facility.The starting time for the Sept. 14 game at Ohio recently was set for 8 p.m., strange considering the game will be "aired" on the Internet-only ESPN3.
"That's their home game, so they have all the media rights," Hamrick said of OU. "When you go on the road, you play when the home team wants you to play, unless you stipulate that in the contract. But nobody does that."Including that game, 10 are locked up on some sort of TV, though the Oct. 5 home game against Texas-San Antonio is only being beamed back to Texas at this point.
The only two games left are Sept. 21 at Virginia Tech, which will certainly air on some outlet, and the Sept. 7 home game against Gardner-Webb, which just as certainly will not. CBS Sports Network has the Herd three times, and the new Fox Sports 1 has MU twice.The Herd's Nov. 23 game at Florida International is earmarked for either Fox Sports 1 or Fox Sports Net. Fox Sports 1 debuts Aug. 17 as a replacement for the Speed Channel, and Fox Sports Media Group says it will be immediately available in 90 million homes. The Oct. 12 game at Florida Atlantic is set for the existing Fox College Sports, probably the Atlantic channel.
Marshall officials are starting to size up turf options at Edwards Stadium, with the FieldTurf surface entering its ninth season. This should get artificial-surface sales forces ready for battle - the AstroTurf brand has made a comeback, and a version of that has been installed on MU's new soccer field.Football-wise, the 2014 home game against Louisville likely will move to 2015 or 2016, allowing the Cardinals to play at Notre Dame in '14. The Fighting Irish, admitted to the Atlantic Coast Conference in other sports, have agreed to schedule football games against ACC teams.Basketball-wise, the Herd is playing at Louisville in 2014-15 in one of those convoluted "tournaments," such as the Global Sports Classic. The road game against Nevada, a return of the 2012-13 contest in Huntington, has been pushed to 2014-15.
There is speculation that MU is striking a home-and-home series with Penn State, beginning with a trip to Happy Valley this season and ending with a game in Huntington in 2014-15.Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130, email@example.com or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.