Some were angry, some were confused and some were very vocal about their displeasure of the announcement, until they clicked on the link for more information. It was all a ruse. A simple April Fools' joke put on by the Athletic Department to create a buzz as football spring practice wound down.
"This was a new concept to me, so when I was first approached by our external staff about the April Fools' Day idea I was a little uncertain," stated Director of Athletics Rick Hart. "After we all got together and decided on the best approach, I knew this was going to be a unique and effective way to create a buzz about our program and help with football season ticket sales."
The buzz was felt across campus, in the community and among all Mocs alumni and fans. After the story on the change was posted on GoMocs.com, the announcement was also made on the Mocs' official Facebook (facebook.com/ChattanoogaMocs) and Twitter (twitter.com/gomocs) pages.
The responses, wall posts and re-tweets piled up as fans weighed in with their initial reaction before they realized the gag. There was a second wave of traffic that returned to find out if what they saw was really true.
The story on GoMocs.com received over 2,000 hits in the 16 hours it was live on the site. That is more than four times the amount of traffic a non-preview/recap story normally receives on the Mocs' official website.
"I took it hook, line and sinker," said John Prater, President of Praters Flooring who provides the Mocs basketball playing floor at McKenzie Arena, as well as floors for the NCAA Basketball Championships. "As soon as I saw the release I was ready to get started on a new design for the Mocs' court. One click later, I realized that I had been taken. It was a good joke and got my attention."
The gig was up when fans clicked on a link for more information that took them to a page that had a photo of head football coach Russ Huesman and the words "April Fools!!!" front and center. Victims of the prank also learned that if they bought or renewed 2011 Mocs Football season tickets on April 1, they would receive a free meal voucher good for a FREE hotdog, chips and Coke product at every game. This $40 value calmed the nerves of many Mocs fans.
Season-ticket sales topped out at 31 for the day, which may not seem like much until you realize that there were no online sales recorded in the previous 10 days. With a season-ticket base of just over 2,600, 31 sales in 16 hours is a good day at any time of the year for Chattanooga Football.
"I thought changing the school colors to green as an April Fools' joke was a brilliant idea," said Mocs football season-ticket holder Candace Bell. "It reminded me to renew my season tickets, which I did on Friday, so it definitely worked."
The buzz was also seen on the local news as one station visited campus to get the reaction of students and the manager of the UTC Bookstore. The full report from WTVC-TV can be seen below.
The April Fools' Day charade could have also affected the Mocs Blue & Gold Spring game on Saturday, April 2. Although there is no definitive way to measure the impact, the Mocs did have a school-record attendance of 2,791 at the Spring Game.
"Overall, the reaction was what we had hoped and intended," stated Hart. "A number of people have reached out to me and let me know that we fooled them and had them going. We also had a number of people reach out to us and applaud us for the creative approach and thank us for reminding them to renew their season tickets."
This creative approach will be put to the test next year, and topping the Green & Gold announcement will be a tall order. However, if there are fans out there who are still looking for a new green Mocs T-shirt or hat, tell them to check GoMocs.com on April 1, 2012. There is no telling what they might find.