Not long ago, college sports information staffs publicized their programs with media guides and weekly releases.
That seems about as relevant today as the Pony Express or 8-track tapes.
Wichita State's media relations department provides an example of how quickly things are changing. Last school year, the department produced printed media guides for each sport. This year, only volleyball stuck with the traditional bound book with roster, bios and stats. All other sports will use a "virtual" guide on goshockers.com, targeted at recruits and fans. History, facts and figures for stats geeks and media are available in a simple format, ready for printing and stapling.
"It's more an electronic age," said Larry Rankin, assistant athletic director for media relations.
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Recruiting, of course, drives most of the changes. The media relations department maintains Facebook sites for individual sports and a YouTube site. The staff carries small video cameras to record interviews with coaches and athletes. After a little editing, the interviews are posted on goshockers.com, YouTube and Facebook. Goshockers.com will be redesigned by January.
Cross country's visual guide is running at goshockers.com. Basketball is expected to be up within a week. The "virtual" guides offer the advantages of color pictures (media guides must be black-and-white on inside pages), and sound, video and quick updates.
The softball team filmed introductions for their guide last week. Coach Mike Perniciaro likes the flexibility and immediacy of the online guides. He plans to take visitors on a virtual tour of Wilkins Stadium.
Plus, it won't get lost in the mail.
"The virtual guide gives you a lot more options to get exposure, and you can do a lot more things with it," he said. "Our kids had fun doing that stuff. It adds a little bit of personality."
The technology also gives coaches and media relations staff some intel on who is interested. It can track page-view preferences. They can pinpoint users by state. Coaches can use that information to shape recruiting pitches and learn what interests athletes.
"It's going to tell you what pages and how long they're reading it," said Scott Quimby, account manager for Zmags. "It's fully analytical."
WSU isn't the only school following this trend. The NCAA discussed banning media guides, largely to save money for its members. Ohio State and Michigan jointly announced in May that neither would print media guides. The schools said they would save around $250,000. In the Missouri Valley Conference, Drake and Indiana State put their information on computer discs for distribution at basketball media day. Bradley's media guide is available online only.
Rankin said cost-cutting wasn't the driving force behind WSU's change.
"We could have gone either way, but it was more about being able to stay ahead or keep up with what some of the other people are doing," Rankin said.
Long shot — Cross country coach Marc Burns is realistic about the NCAA Region V Championships on Saturday.
And also just a little optimistic.
His women's team is ranked eighth in the region heading into the race in Springfield, Mo. He thinks they can do better after a strong performance winning the Missouri Valley Conference meet last weekend.
"We're prepared for this time of year," he said. "We look awesome. We're not hanging on for dear life."
Burns would like to see his team move up to fifth or sixth in the region. Illinois and Minnesota are the top two teams, followed by Iowa State and Iowa. The top two teams advance to the NCAA Championship.
There are 13 at-large spots. Burns knows WSU is out of the picture. Finishing fifth might give it a shot. Finishing fourth would give it a good shot.
"Fifth or sixth is realistic," he said. "Fourth would take some more help than just us. The stars would have align and we would have to run a good solid race."
* Seniors Rachel York and Olivia Martinez earned spots on the MVC scholar-athlete team. York, from St. Clair, Mo., finished 13th at the MVC meet and carries a 3.61 grade-point average in anthropology and criminal justice. Martinez, from Amarillo, Texas., carries a 3.2 GPA.
Worth noting — The "Shocker Sports Report" began last week. Kansas 22 will broadcast the show at 9:30 p.m. each Tuesday and shown again at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesdays.... The WSU Alumni Association is taking bus trips to men's basketball games at Missouri State (Jan. 6), Creighton (Jan. 16) and the MVC Tournament (March 4-7). For information call 316-978-3874.