Connect with us

College Athletics

Championship Mindset

Front Office Sports

Published

on

By: Joe Londergan, @joehio_

Peter Fewing, Head Coach of Seattle University Men’s Soccer

Seattle’s rich soccer scene boasts several names who exemplify the passion and dedication it takes to be truly great. Few are more universally respected than Peter Fewing, Head Coach of Seattle University Men’s Soccer and broadcaster for Seattle’s Major League Soccer franchise, the Seattle Sounders.

Coach Fewing graciously took the time to speak with Front Office Sports on his unique journey to becoming a championship coach. His accolades as a coach include two national championships at the collegiate level (1997 NAIA, 2004 NCAA Div. II) and a national championship in the Premier Developmental League as the head coach of the Kitsap (WA) Pumas in 2011. Most recently, Fewing guided SU to the Sweet 16 of the 2015 NCAA tournament and a national ranking of 12, their best finish since returning to Div. I competition.

Fewing has been exercising his leadership abilities as a coach for nearly four decades.

“I started coaching a youth team when I was in high school. One of our neighbors asked if I would do it. Then I started the camp (Peter Fewing Soccer Camps) when I was 18 years old with another guy, who was 25 at the time, and then he left. He said the camp was mine if I wanted it and I did. It was just kind of a natural fit. I think coaching, teaching, whatever you want to call it, was just part of my DNA.”

Out of high school, Fewing began his career as a collegiate student-athlete at Green River Community College in Auburn, WA, where he played for a season before transferring to the University of Washington. Fewing competed for the Huskies for two years before signing a professional contract with FC Seattle Storm of the Western Soccer league.

“The game was struggling back then, immensely, and we were trying to get it going. We had guys from the USA National Team on our team then. It was fun to play. It was a bummer when those days ended…I was a decent soccer player. I was a journeyman… I worked super hard and I loved it. I snuck into the stadium and trained until one, two or three in the morning. I think that translates into passion for what you’re doing and naturally it goes over to coaching.”

While still playing professionally, Fewing took on the role of the head coach of Seattle University in 1988 and pulled double duty as a professional player and a collegiate coach for three years.

“I didn’t plan on being a college soccer coach. I didn’t really have that vision until Seattle U lost 15–0 to Seattle Pacific University and 8–0 to UW. My buddy, Jeff Koch, was playing for UW at the time and told me they didn’t play any starters against Seattle U. I’m a Catholic guy, it’s a catholic school, I saw what SPU had done winning five national championships and I just thought it should be better over at Seattle U.”

In his first 18 seasons, Coach Fewing led SU to a record of 220 wins, 125 losses and 26 ties with two national championships. After the 2005 season, he made the decision to pursue other opportunities.

“When I left Seattle U, I left because I was told I had to fire all of my assistant coaches and I did not want to do that. I didn’t think that was right. So I wasn’t going to do it.”

It was in this period of transition that the importance of a professional network became clear.

“I used to get dressed up and go have lunch at the Washington Athletic Club so I could continue to bump into people there. Having a network is very important and the way you have a network is to do a good job and treat people right. If you go above and beyond, you’ll get a good network. You have to put your time in and you have to go connect with people. At least an hour of my day is trying to help other people out. That’s an important part of networking is reciprocating: you can’t just go out and think everybody is going to love you and help you out. You have to go out and help them out as well. You don’t do it to get something in return, you do it because you want to support other people, the good part and the reality is that it often comes back to you. Maybe not right away, again, you do it because it’s the right thing to do.”

In 2010, Fewing joined the Kitsap Pumas as the head coach where he remained for two seasons, winning the 2011 PDL championship. During this time, he learned the subtle differences between coaching professional athletes and student-athletes.

“The differences (between coaching college and pro) weren’t as great as I thought. Players still want to work hard. They still want to be committed to something valuable. They still want information, they want to be communicated with. The human element was very similar. You are going to deal with players who need to take care of themselves and continue to do what is in their best interest to grow as professionals. This can be a challenge when you’re building a team on creating brotherhood and unity. You have to get your highest paid players or marquis players to buy in and put the team first. In my work with the Sounders, you have guys who are 17–18 years old and you also have guys who are 35 years old with three kids. So trying to understand where everybody is becomes really important. You can’t pretend everybody is the same. Salary differences can also create obstacles.”

Fewing returned to Seattle University for the 2012 season, the school’s fifth soccer season competing in Division I of NCAA athletics after dropping out of D-I in 1980. Through all of his success on the field, Fewing is sure to have his support staff call him on it if he doesn’t seem committed to continuing the program’s excellence.

“To me, it’s a sin. To not be burning for a national championship as the head coach at Seattle U…The moment I’m not interested in us winning a national championship is the day I have to stop. I once overheard a coach say something along the lines of, ‘Well I only have 17 more years until retirement’. So that’s four groups of student-athletes playing under a coach who’s thinking about retirement every day, and that’s not good. We have to win the national championship. I say that several times a week. We haven’t won a Division 1 title yet, so there’s a lot of motivation in my brain and I know it’s the same in our assistant coaches as well.”

Coach Fewing believes one of his bigger strengths is his ability to connect with his athletes off the field as well as on the field.

“I think I’m a players’ coach. I hope the players know that if they have a problem or an issue, they can come to me and I’ll try to help them. I hope they know that I care about them beyond what they can do on the soccer field. Myself and some of the assistants are actually going to a wedding of a player from our 1998 team. Once you’re in our family, you get to stay in our family.”

However, like many championship winning coaches, Fewing admits that one aspect of this life that he has struggled with at times has been maintaining a balance between work and family life.

“I’ll say this, my oldest is 26, my middle guy is 24, and my daughter is 21. In my young days, I started at Seattle U when I was 24. I was so driven to build the program into a national champion and I spent a lot of time at Seattle U, I spent a lot of time on the road recruiting, I spent a lot of time shaking hands and kissing babies, trying to be at as many events as possible. If I could take some of those situations back, I would, leaving my oldest son at halftime of his soccer game or not going to his game because we had a game at Seattle U. I could have done it better in that regard. Having said that, I’m waiting for a text from my son because we might go out tonight. We’ll have one beer, maybe two and we sit down and we talk once a week and we talk regularly on the phone. It’s really important. Someone once said to me ‘finish this sentence: Balance is…’ and I responded, ‘Balance has nothing to do with excellence.’ If you’re going to be the guy who’s going to get something done, you’re going to be the guy who spends a lot more hours than the guys who are also trying to get something done. So I would say that I wasn’t great at it. I know my children love me, which is really nice. On occasion, I’ve said (to my kids) I’m sorry. But my oldest son is about to come with me to Hawaii for one of my coaching clinics and I have two kids at Seattle U. They know I love them and I know they love me, but I wouldn’t say I was great at the balance part of it.”

With all of the difficulties that come with the job, it can be even more difficult for those with little to no coaching or sport management experience to get their foot in the door. But according to Coach Fewing, this is not an impossible task for those willing to do what it takes.

“My advice is to work your tail off. Be the right kind of guy. Don’t go in and say ‘Well I’m not going to do that job because it doesn’t pay enough or I’m only a head coach.’ For a young person, you really have to go and put your time in. Go and volunteer! Go and watch practices! I’ll also say be willing to sacrifice and also be a really good guy. If you’re a really good guy, people will try to help you.”

Coach Fewing offered these words of parting wisdom for those who hope to establish a career in the sport industry:

“Take care of people. We’re lucky to be in sports. You have a responsibility when you’re in a leadership position to take care of your folks. If you do things the right way, good things will come. If you work hard and treat people right, good things will come. Set high standards and don’t drop below them. It’s not hard to have high standards and hold people to high standards. I’m super lucky to get to do all the things that I get to do between coaching and broadcasting and camps, but I have literally given probably thousands of free speeches.”

“So I put my time in. I started at Seattle U for $12,000 with two jobs and I’ve heard people say that they would never take a job for $12,000. I tell them I wanted the job. I wanted to build something and now my salary is better than that after 22 years, which is good. But you have to be the right kind of guy and you have to treat people the right way. You’ll have more fun if you work hard and you treat people well. There’s no way around it. Looking back, it’s all about the journey and the skills and the processes you pick up along the way.”

Connect with Coach Fewing on LinkedIn here.

Follow Coach Fewing on Twitter here.

Special thanks to Lizetta Solarik and Sarah Tani of Seattle University Athletics for helping to arrange and co-conduct this interview, respectively.

News, insight, and authority at the intersection of sports and business.

Continue Reading

College Athletics

What’s In a Bid: How Cities Land and Prepare to Host the College Football Playoff National Championship Game

Years of preparation culminate in a week-long celebration of college football, the fans, and the best teams in the country.

Adam White

Published

on

Miami-South Florida will host the 2021 College Football Playoff National Championship (Photo via the CFP)

Hosting the College Football Playoff National Championship takes a coordinated effort across host committees, cities, teams, and organizers, and although the festivities last just over a week, the preparation for the biggest game of the college football season begins years in advance. From Miami-South Florida and Indianapolis to Los Angeles and Houston, host committees for the 2021-2024 national championship games have put months, and sometimes years, into scoring the big game for their community.

How do they do it? What does the process look like? Come with us as we take a look inside what it is like to go from Request For Proposal (RFP) to being awarded a game, and what it means for the city.

The RFP Process

Arguably the most strenuous part of the process is the RFP. From collecting the correct amount of data, to being able to use that data to pitch a city as the best to host the game is a challenging endeavor.

“For a mega event like CFP, there is an extremely comprehensive request for information on just about every facet of the community, from venue information to accommodations to public safety and everything in between,” said Janis Schmees Burke, CEO of the Harris County – Houston Sports Authority. “The challenge comes, not from collecting and articulating that information into a proposal, but rather doing it a way that truly tells the unique story of the community you represent and then matching the region’s attributes to the specific needs of the event.”

Not only does the process require immense amounts of data and sometimes even years of planning, but rallying the support of the city is paramount for the bid to have any chance of success during the RFP process.

“We also try to find ways to connect our community in a tangible way and leave a lasting legacy as a benefit of hosting,” said Burke. “We work years in advance on some bids, while other ones are a quick turnaround.”

Luckily for many of the communities, having previous experiences with big games can pay dividends during the RFP process. Miami-South Florida, the host of the 2021 game, has a long history of hosting Super Bowls, New Year’s Six bowl games, and national championships, something the host committee says played a part in being able to earn the opportunity to host another game.

“With the experience of participating in previous CFPNCG bid efforts, we patiently awaited the next opportunity to submit the bid for this cycle,” said Michael Chavies, Chairman of the 2021 College Football Playoff National Championship Game Bid Committee. “Although we had a shorter period of time (approximately six weeks) to put our response together, our proactive preparation and organization were crucial to our ability to finally succeed.”

During the process, getting feedback from the College Football Playoff is key to the overall success of a bid and the timely nature of a submission. Led by Kathryn Schloessman, President of the Los Angeles Sports & Entertainment Commission, for the team out of LA, it was this kind of feedback that they believe allowed them to submit the best bid possible.

Los Angeles will host the 2023 CFP National Championship (Image via the CFP)

“What was good about this process is that we were getting feedback on what we were doing, what we needed to do, what we needed to change, so we weren’t guessing on what they were looking for, we were getting specific feedback into what they wanted so we could change our bid.”

As tedious as the RFP process can be on host committees, the ability to bring a marquee event to their city is well worth the time. For the selected communities, the work is just beginning.

Being Awarded the Game and Planning for the Future

With the RFP in the past, and host cities now beginning to gear up for games that are only a few years away, the extra lead time can provide major dividends for the committees and their constituents.

“Having five years to prepare is a wonderful advantage, as it will allow us to have discussions with the CFP to determine if there are adjustments or additions they would like to make for the event,” said Susan Baughman, Senior VP of Strategy & Operations at the Indiana Sports Corp. “We believe it also gives us the opportunity to work with the CFP to develop programs with deep ties to the community.”

Indianapolis will host the 2022 CFP National Championship (Photo via the CFP)

Beyond pure logistics, much of the preparation goes into educating communities about the event and what it means for the city, as well as making sure that the city’s constituents are provided with benefits beyond just having the eyes of a country on you.

“Our biggest goal is to educate the marketplace so everybody knows what the College Football Playoff National Championship is, given that it’s only in its fourth year,” said Schloessman.

It is this education that provides the foundation for making sure the best event possible is thrown.

“It is very important. Getting the legs of support and getting support behind how this is good for the city and the financials behind it is key and the lead-time helps,” added Schloessman. “You don’t want to have too much lead time, but for us to get all our ducks in order by 2023 to make sure we are in the best position financially to throw the best CFP event yet is critical.”

Having three to six years of lead time allows the selected cities the ability to continue to build community interest, education, and make the right adjustments so come January of their chosen year, the game can go off without a hitch.

Importance of Local Relationships

While having a compelling storyline and sales pitch for your city is great, as these host committees know, their bids wouldn’t have been selected without the backing of key constituents in each of their cities.

“We were lucky in the fact that we had done all the groundwork when it came to looking at all these ancillary venues and evaluating where the best places to put things would be,” added Schloessman when talking about why the bid process for LA went smoothly. “We had already made our inroads with all the particular people we needed to get in touch with.”

For Miami, a city built on big events, entertainment, and tourism, the backing, while expected given their track record, is still the most important part of the bid.

“When preparing a bid response for College Football Playoff National Championship, relationships with local officials and constituents are tremendously important and absolutely key to a successful result,” added Chavies. “In a monumental effort such as this, everyone has to be fully dedicated and on the same page in order to succeed.”

Houston will host the 2024 CFP National Championship (Photo via the CFP)

Even though getting the backing of key stakeholders is key, for cities like Houston, the support of the community and the residents living there is just as important.

“So much of the success that Houston has experienced in hosting sporting events is a true testament to the comprehensive support that our community provides,” said Burke. “It includes every resident of the Greater Houston Area which flows down from the immense level of support that our elected officials have provided over the years, as well as the local citizens that volunteer and show up in a big way.”

From volunteers all the way up to elected officials, events like the College Football Playoff National Championship wouldn’t go on without an immense amount of backing, and it is this support that can make or break a city’s bid for a marquee event or game.

What Being Awarded the Game Means for the Cities

When it all comes down to it, being awarded an event like the College Football Playoff National Championship comes with great responsibility, but also the opportunity to showcase your city and the best it has to offer to the thousands of people who make the journey and the millions watching on TV.

“The College Football Playoff National Championship will have a significant positive impact to residents and businesses while putting Indianapolis on a national stage as a great place to live, work and visit,” said Baughman. “National events like the CFP provide unique experiences through volunteer opportunities or once-in-a-lifetime experiences as a fan in your hometown, as well as building great civic pride as we entertain a nation of college football fans.”

Outside of the opportunity to showcase the city on a national scale, the economic impact for an event like the College Football Playoff National Championship extends far beyond just game day.

“An event of this magnitude and prestige provides our community with not only a great sense of civic pride, but also a tremendous economic boon to the area,” added Chavies. “Tourism is vital to our economy, and this provides an incredible opportunity to showcase our region and attract visitors from all over the country and provide them with every reason to return.”

Hosting the game also allows football-crazed areas like Houston to be the pinnacle of the season, something that community leaders believe is one of the greatest benefits.

“Houston is football crazy, whether it’s our professional team or the multiple universities in town, we live and breathe football,” explained Burke. “Having an entire college football season culminate in its pinnacle event right here in our own backyard is a powerful experience that our community has embraced with arms wide open.”

And for areas like LA that typically see a slowdown in traffic during the winter months, hosting the national championship game gives the city a chance to throw its collective weight at an event of this stature.

“It is a great opportunity for us to bring a massive audience to the area at a time of year that it is so slow because of the fact it is so close to the holiday season, so this is one of the windows of the year where we want events like this,” said Schloessman.

Although it only lasts close to 4 hours, preparation for the College Football Playoff National Championship begins months, if not years, in advance to accommodate the thousands of fans and hundreds of media members that descend upon the cities of choice.

It is this preparation, along with the coordinated support of the CFP, its partners, and the community partners of the event that have allowed the game to grow in stature and prestige.

So to Miami-South Florida, Houston, Indy, and LA, the floor is yours. Let’s see what you got.

Continue Reading

College Athletics

New Basketball League Wants to Pay Student-Athletes Upwards of $100,000 a Year

The Historical Basketball League wants to pay student-athletes and disrupt the NCAA.

Published

on

The Historical Basketball League wants to pay student-athletes and disrupt the NCAA.

The Baldwin Wallace University School of Health, Physical Education, and Sport Sciences (HPESS) presented a panel discussion on amateurism and paying college athletes with the founding executive leaders of the new Historical Basketball League (HBL), which aims to operate outside of the NCAA-controlled varsity athletics system and compensate its players. The panel consisted of Andy Schwarz, chief strategist; Ralph Green, chief marketing and licensing officer; and Ricky Volante, chief executive officer. It was MC’d by the Cleveland Cavaliers’ bilingual play-by-play announcer and RoadTrippinPodcast producer Rafa El Alcalde.

The league will be comprised of mostly, if not all, historically black colleges and universities (HBCU’s). Some HBCU’s include Spelman College, Howard University, Hampton University, Florida A&M University and more. Volante explained why they are targeting HBCU’s.

“We have decided to go with them mostly because they have the largest incentive to break away from the current system or try to create some alternative path to what they presently have.”

Schwarz, the original creator of the idea, is an antitrust economist, who has worked on numerous cases, including the O’Bannon v. NCAA case.

“The court found what the NCAA does is they cap payments. In this case, they cap licensing payments at $0 which was price fixing. But, the court’s remedy was very narrow, and as someone who worked on the case for five years, it was really disappointing,” explained Schwarz to the audience. “They said yes, you are doing all the classic things of a price fixer and we’re going give you a slap on the wrist, but you can still price fix, just be a little bit more generous with it.”

This case, combined with Northwestern attempting to unionize their football team, winning, and then being shut down by an appeals court were huge motivators for Schwarz in wanting to create an alternative for college athletes.

The season would take place in the summer months (June-September) when school is not in session, that way these student-athletes are able to focus on studies during the school year without having to travel and miss weeks of class. That is another huge factor the HBL is attempting to address. They also plan on providing their one-and-done players with an option where if they were to have some sort of career ending injury or for some reason, the NBA/G League do not work out, they are able to return to school on the same scholarship and finish their education.

Additionally, the league will play by official NBA rules; better-prepping players for the NBA from the get-go. This will take away some of the guesswork from NBA scouts and player operations personnel, as they will be able to evaluate the players in more of a professional setting.

Players will be able to monetize their likeness on social media platforms as well as hire an agent to take care of potential endorsement deals and contracts. As of now, the HBL is looking to pay its players anywhere from $50,000-$100,000. Volante went on to talk about other perks for HBL players:

“For us, it’s important that these guys have lawyers and agents day one. In addition, there are the ancillary benefits. We’ll have insurance policies in place for them; for the elite players, loss of value policies, so in the event of injury and their draft stock is negatively impacted, they’ll be covered there as well as 401k’s and disability policies.”

This league would not only benefit the players, it would significantly help the HBCU member institutions, as the HBL will pay signing bonuses to entice them to join the league. Most collegiate athletic departments are run on shoestring budgets, with the exception of a few. The HBL will provide another avenue for revenue generation, as member institutions will also be included in the revenues generated by the league, which can then be kicked back into the NCAA/NAIA varsity programs at the school. The league will primarily generate revenue through broadcasting rights and licensing fees. The HBL’s goal is to assist with new facilities as the league gets up and running as well.

The plan is to start with collegiate men’s basketball with the overall goal being to move into other sports. In order to abide by Title IX standards, the HBL would seek to provide additional scholarship opportunities for the women’s teams as the HBL will be starting out with only the men’s teams.

When asked about the possible repercussions from the NCAA, Green explained, “Because of the club designation, there probably isn’t a violation that the NCAA can throw at any school that’s participating, but there are some things around the edges that we’ve got to be sensitive to… such as the basketball staff within the school athletic departments… Are they going to face additional behind the scenes pushback? One thing about choosing the HBCU’s is that they [the NCAA] aren’t doing a whole lot for them anyway.”

There are a lot of variables at play when it comes to recruiting the talent that is necessary to make this league successful, but if done right, it could have a massive impact on the future of college sports. 

Things to note: These teams will be treated as club teams and be separate from the varsity teams. Players will essentially be employees of the HBL receiving pay for their services.

Link to panel discussion: https://www.pscp.tv/w/1yNxaVgXOrWKj

Continue Reading

Business

How a New Ticketing Technology Helped Troy Athletics Break Attendance Records

The department used AudienceView’s business intelligence system to help them capitalize on the biggest moments of the year.

Owen Sanborn

Published

on

Related image

Photo via: Troy.edu

With commerce skewing towards the mobile mind, college athletic departments have had to change the way they do business. The cold calls are still there of course, but less frequent. Instead, they are replaced with timely emails, fan profiles, and mobile sites that need to be streamlined in order to sequester a transaction. One misstep in the foundation of the mobile purchasing process, and a would-be sale will crumble in an instant.

Brent Jones, Deputy Athletic Director of External Affairs at Troy University, is well aware of this reality, and that is why he leans on the technology and support provided to him by AudienceView.

“AudienceView has helped with data mining and website aesthetics. We need to make sure that the buying experience mirrors the best marketplaces,” Jones told Front Office Sports. “We have been able to reduce the amount of clicks and reduce the amount of pages. You need to have a strong eCommerce site with a strong support team to go along with that.”

Precision and efficiency are common themes that athletic executives harp on whether their focus lies on the field or off the field. In the sales world, athletic departments are becoming more privy to understanding the purchasing preferences of their fans, as well as their general make up. In the past, a poor sales staff member without a lead would have to call a household with little to no information in their holster about the interests of the person on the other side of the line.

In today’s world, Troy’s sales staff is much more prepared when taking their athletic events to market. Thanks to business intelligence technology provided by AudienceView, Jones and the rest of his team are armed with customer profiles that capture and store information to assist with selecting a strategy to target a group or subset of fans.

“By building out fan profiles with AudienceView, we have made the buying process much more precise. A fan comes online to buy a single ticket, but it may make more sense for them to buy a flex plan – so we have a pop-up ad. They have helped tremendously with that.”

One taxing issue that will shuffle the brain of any man in Jones’ position is deciding when to market tickets for a prospective bowl game featuring their football team. There are cases when a team will play a bowl game a full month after the conclusion of their final regular season game, and executives are wary of infiltrating their fan base’s inbox with ticket offers prematurely.

“This past season we set an attendance record for Troy football, averaging about 25,000 fans a game. We knew we were going to a bowl game, but we were thinking ‘How do we make the (purchasing) process as streamlined as possible?’ We pushed our fans to go online to purchase our tickets, and we had the peace of mind to know that AudienceView had the site built out for us. They allowed us to best serve our fans.”

(Jones was being a bit modest there…The football team averaged nearly 25,000 fans a game despite residing in a town of only 19,000 people!)

Serving is a two way street with AudienceView’s business intelligence technology. When Troy upset heralded LSU in football this past September, Jones relied on the resources he had at his disposal to capitalize on the euphoric state of his fan base instantaneously.

“Through their business intelligence system, we were able to send out an email to our fans right after we beat LSU. It’s about being able to capture the moments to capitalize on those moments. We have to balance the way we communicate with fans and minimize solicitation. AudienceView has the tools that allow us to be successful.”

*AudienceView is a Proud Partner of Front Office Sports

Continue Reading

Trending