College hoops in New York has been dormant for too many years. The last two years, not one local college even reached the NCAA's or the NIT, so all the good brand equity and loyal following that had been built over years of success for Rutgers, Seton Hall, St. John's, Manhattan, Hofstra, Fordham et al… has been lost. That doesn’t even begin to take in the losses from the casual sports fans who would follow and attend games, especially for SJU at MSG and Seton Hall at the Meadowlands, when the two were giant killers and at the top of the hoops hierarchy. The good news is that the potential to rebrand and grow as marketing properties still exists in the area, an area where hoops in the winter is still very very strong. The other piece of good news is that the teams in the area…Seton Hall, Rutgers, and now St. John's…finally appear to be on an upswing on performance, which can lead to more interest. Still that casual fan to fill distressed seats, even on campus, can still be very elusive in this transitionary time. So what to d. Well St. John's came up with a great promotion for a pre-holiday Tuesday, holding “Ugly Sweater Night” on the Jamaica campus. those showing up with the ugliest of sweaters get a discount on a ticket and a chance to win other prizes, including being part of a faux Guiness World record for the largest collection of ugly sweaters. The event pays homage to the Red Storm's legendary coach Lou Carnessecca, who was known for his garish collection of sweaters during his time on the St. John's bench. Will it fill the buildin. No. Does it get some buzz and create a fun visual at no cos. Yes. It also may move a few tickets at a tough time of year against an opponent, Bryant College, that no one would be lining up to see. On another level it sends a connection message to the current team and supporters of the glory days past, which is the team was stuggling may be troublesome, but in today's positive times, is a good message and connection. Now ugly sweater nights are not new, but to tie to a sometimes forgotten tradition it is a smart and easy promotion for the Johnnies.
Some other good reads…The Bergen Record's Ian O’Connor has a nice background piece on Nets President Rod Thorn…the LA Times‘ TJ Simers had a very indeoth piece on the inner workings of the USC athletic department and the issues with AD Mike Garrett…Philly.com's Stan Hochman has a review of Bill Lyons’ book on former NFL Commish Bert Bell… and the Washington Post had an interesting look into the college search business through the eyes of recruiter Bob Beaudine.