Thousands of hours went into preparing for the first season of Mansfield University sprint football this fall.
SID Steve McCloskey worked to cover every aspect of it to ensure its success.
There was a lot of chatter in the news and blogging world. As we drew closer to the homecoming game, I did a mini-marketing campaign with TV and radio spots. The date of the game was in conjunction with Parents’ Weekend and the 1890s Weekend, so we were reasonably sure of good crowds.
One student who did not make the team for health reasons, instead of wallowing in disappointment, created a spirit group, the “MU Crew.” The group was determined to keep the game lively.
Our game was against the University of Penn. Their players were seasoned. Our players were all brand new. Some had never played football.
On the day of the game, Penn fans came out in force, nearly filling the visitors’ stands. Our stands were nearly full. In fact, the nearly 5,000 fans comprised one of the largest crowds in many years.
The MU Crew filed out, their faces and bodies painted the red & black school colors. They looked intimidating. They were lively and loud but clean and polite.
We didn’t have to knock ’em dead the first year. Our players just had to show determination and spirit.
And they did.
Then, at half time, something unexpected happened. MU Crew members crossed the field to the visitors’ side and shook hands with everyone of the players, thanking them for traveling here and supporting the game. Penn fans later went out of their way to thank our coach and officials for being treated so special and with such sincere courtesy.
We benefited a lot from the national media attention and the regional marketing. But the MU Crew’s personal touch was the emotional icing.
Our university president later received a letter from a pretty special Penn alum. It said, in part:
Dear President Loeschke:
I cannot begin to tell you how impressed I am with the men that play Sprint Football and the faculty, students and fans at Mansfield University. As a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and member of the 1996 Penn Sprint Football championship team, it gives me great joy to have such a class act in Mansfield University join the Collegiate Sprint Football League as its newest member.
. . . Penn alumni, parents and fans traveled from as far away as Seattle, New York City and Philadelphia and were treated to an experience we hope to have annually for many years to come.
Perhaps most special was the greeting that all Penn fans received at halftime when the “MU Crew” walked around the stadium to the visitor’s bleachers. Although we thought that we were going to have 18-22 year-old students taunt the Penn fans, one by one every student in the MU Crew shook the hand of every fan in the visiting school section thanking them for the invite into the league and traveling the lengthy distance to support Mansfield’s Sprint Football program. In my many years of attending sporting events of all levels, I have never witnessed such sportsmanship and class by a host team/school.
Both on and off the field, Mansfield University demonstrated that it takes football seriously, and more importantly, develops highly educated and mature men and women. We look forward to hosting Mansfield University next year in Philadelphia, and hope we can reciprocate the goodwill that you and your team displayed.
Dan Malasky, Esq.
Counsel, Professional Tennis
United States Tennis Association
The letter is an inspiring reminder that everyone –especially our students — market our institution. Our personal contact and conduct mean as much to our image as all our paid advertising.
The team lost the game but in terms of image, the university won on a grand scale.