Last August, during the dog days of summer, sports fans from across the country tuned into the U.S. Amateur Championship on NBC. University of Tennessee at Chattanooga rising senior Steven Fox was making a surprise run at the Havemeyer Trophy, while the ‘Power C’ logo was benefitting from two days of full coverage on national television.
Fox defeated Brandon Hagy 2up in Saturday’s semifinals, setting up the championship match with Michael Weaver on Sunday. Fox’s exploits in the finals are well documented, rallying from 2down with two holes to play to win in a playoff.
That victory did a lot for the career of the Hendersonville, Tenn., native. He etched his named alongside some of the greats - such as Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods - while earning automatic berths in the 2013 Masters, U.S. Open and British Open.
His win was also a big boost for UTC. For three hours on a sleepy Sunday afternoon, when little to no other major sports were available, the ‘Power C’ engulfed NBC’s broadcast.
The shiny gold logo with the subtle blue trim was on his hat, shirt, club head covers, bag and everywhere else you looked. Fox’s caddie and former UTC golfer, Ben Rickett, was decked out in Mocs gear. Fox’s dad flew the colors on his golf shirt - as did head coach Mark Guhne - during interviews with the NBC broadcast crew.
All of this added up to nearly $2 million worth of exposure for Chattanooga Athletics. This number is just for the Sunday finals and could easily be doubled when adding in Saturday’s coverage and all of the print, television and radio stories following the event.
This is just one of the many examples of how student-athletes at UTC raise the awareness and generate exposure for the University and the Chattanooga community. During the 2012-13 fiscal year (July 1-June 30), there were 3,815 online, print and television stories covering the Mocs. This is an increase from the 3,681 articles written and produced in 2011-12.
UTC Athletics self-generates most of its media through GoMocs.com, the department’s official website. There were 897 stories posted on GoMocs.com in 2012-13, which was a decrease from the 1,024 written in 2011-12. However, this shows that UTC Athletics is reaching newer audiences and broadening its reach outside of its own established fan base.
Despite being in a region dominated by the Southeastern Conference and heavy influences from Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia, the Mocs receive excellent coverage from the Chattanooga media. The community boasts a thriving newspaper, three television stations, two online publications, a student paper and a host of other outlets dedicated to covering UTC athletics.
“Based on what I heard and what I was told before I arrived, I felt like we received good coverage from the media,” stated new Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics David Blackburn. “I had no idea just how strong it was until I started. There is definitely an advantage when you have so many ways to tell your story to your supporters. It is very unique at our level to have the type of coverage that has a broad reach, capable of capturing a new audience.”
The chart above shows that the Chattanooga Times Free Press published 760 features, previews and game stories on UTC athletics. In an era when most newspapers across the country are downsizing, the Times Free Press still dedicates beat writers to cover Chattanooga football, men's and women's basketball, wrestling, men's and women's golf and softball.
Television coverage of the Mocs was also prominent in 2012-13. Led by the three network stations in Chattanooga - WDEF-TV (CBS), WRCB-TV (NBC) and WTVC-TV (ABC) - there were 668 stories aired during the past year.
Reporters from all three stations are fixtures at Mocs home events, press conferences and open practices. This does not include the 26 hours of football and basketball coaches shows that aired on the local FOX affiliate, WDSI-TV FOX 61, and MyNetwork Chattanooga.
Mocs football continues to generate the most coverage among the sports at UTC, as seen in the chart below. Men’s basketball and women’s basketball are the next, followed by the boost Steven Fox gave to the men’s golf team.
The Lady Mocs’ historic win over Tennessee in November made national news, as did the hiring of Hall of Fame Coach Jim Foster. UTC’s search for a new Director of Athletics in April helped increase General Athletics News nearly 33% from the previous year, while the hiring of Will Wade created a buzz around the men’s basketball program.
These numbers do not include the countless mentions that do not make a full story, or the hours of discussion about the Mocs that take place each year on ESPN Radio (105.1 FM) and SportTalk (102.3 FM).
Add in Southern Conference Championships from women’s basketball, wresting and both golf teams and it is clear that winning at UTC gets noticed. However, it is not always about the championships won in competition. There were over 100 articles written about UTC student-athlete achievement in the classroom and involvement in the community.
“Our student-athletes do an excellent job of representing our program, University and community,” added Blackburn. “We need to continue to be strategic about how we promote these accomplishments. You will see us cultivate and grow our brand through the media as we look for ways to expand our reach in the region.”
Blackburn’s idea of expansion could go international this week. Fox has packed up his ‘Power C’ gear and will compete in the British Open, his third major of the year. Coverage from Muirfield begins live on Thursday at 4:00 a.m. (E.D.T.) on ESPN.