State Colleges

July 3, 2012

Small college sports information never goes on vacation

Gene Cassel has tricked himself into thinking he’s on vacation.

Gene Cassel has tricked himself into thinking he’s on vacation.

Only in the world of college sports information directors could someone working 9-to-5 every day do so.

“I’m out the door by five,” said Cassel, who has been Washburn’s SID since 1998. “Considering you work 70-plus hour weeks during the school year, summer hours are pretty good.”

While fall athletes grind away in preparation for the upcoming season, Cassel and a gaggle of SIDs from the MIAA, KCAC and Jayhawk spend their summers nose-deep in player biographies, statistics and poring over schedules in order to put together all the bells and whistles that colleges roll out for fans to get to know their teams better in the fall.

That football program you flip through before the game starts? That web site that you log onto to get to know the new freshman a little better? That’s somebody’s blood, sweat and tears.

Cassel has had to work ahead of schedule this summer in order to prepare for a trip to Europe with the Ichabods’ men’s basketball team from Aug. 1-Aug. 11.[ They’ll visit Stockholm, Denmark, Finland, Estonia and St. Petersburg.

“I’m making the final edits to the football guide and starting the soccer guide so I don’t have to worry about it while I’m in Europe,” Cassel said. “Even though there’s no sports going on in the summer, you’ve already shot yourself in the foot for basketball season if you get behind now.

“We’ve also got to keep our web site up to speed because that’s usually the first thing that recruits and their families go and look at when they start looking into a college. If that doesn’t look right, or looks janky in any way, it can be a deal-breaker right off the bat.

And while Cassel has the advantage of a full-time assistant in Jeremy Wangler, who was putting together the volleyball guide on Tuesday, neither the NAIA-affiliated KCAC nor the Jayhawk Conference junior-college programs have such an advantage. In the KCAC and the Jayhawk Conference, most schools are staffed with one full-time sports information director that handles all sports.

“We usually get lucky and also get an intern on board during the school year, someone with a sports management major most of the time,” Cassel said. “And we’ve got work study kids that come and help on game days.”

Southwestern’s Scott Nuss is in a unique situation in Winfield – he gets to be the first full-time SID in school history starting July 16. Nuss spent the last three years as the SID at Newman.

Southwestern’s SID duties were handled on a part-time basis before Nuss was hired last month.

“You get used to being a one-man show,” said Nuss, who graduated from Southwestern in 2007. “And the thing I learned at Newman in my first year was that while the games and stuff are fun, you need to understand that you’re basically going to be there until they force you to leave the building.

“Just starting out, it’s important to take stock of what people want, what their dreams are and what they want to see. Then you go from there.”

And there’s also a competitive aspect to the job of an SID – winning awards for media guides is something that departments can hang their hat on.

“All the SIDs, most of us get along pretty well,” said Cassel. “But, yeah, you want to have bragging rights … you want your stuff to be the best. There’s nothing wrong with that.”

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