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January 31, 2011
By Tony Phifer
CSU men's basketball coach Tim Miles utilizes new media such as Twitter and Facebook to spread the word about his up-and-coming program.
Basketball enthusiasts know the importance of terms like dribbling, pivoting, and rebounding when it comes to building successful college basketball programs.
But Tim Miles, Colorado State University’s high-energy, tech-savvy men’s basketball coach, has added some new terms to this vernacular as he builds the hoops program. Like tweeting. And Facebooking. He’s even the star of a TV reality show, Reaching the Peak, on The Mtn. sports network.
“We don’t have the budget or reputation of other programs, so we’re trying to reach out in different ways,” says Miles, who is entering his fourth season as Rams coach. “It’s a visual age – a different generation that’s tech-savvy – and we have to keep pace. We’ve looked at various ways to grow our fan base, reach our followers, and let recruits know about our program.”
Since arriving in 2007, Ben Chulick, director of marketing for CSU’s athletic department, has been pushing coaches and other personnel to get on the social networking bandwagon. He set up Twitter accounts for football, men’s and women’s basketball, volleyball, and track and field. In addition to the department’s general Facebook page, several sports have their own Facebook pages.
Chulick says such tools, including video postings on YouTube, have enormous promotional potential. Ohio State University, for example, has nearly half a million Facebook “friends.” Utah is the Mountain West Conference leader with 25,000 on its athletics site; CSU has slightly more than 4,000.
“We love the fans who have been supporting us for years, but they aren’t going to be there forever,” Chulick says. “We need to grow a younger generation of fans to support us in the future. We can use Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube to promote our programs to fans and prospective student-athletes and their parents.”
While football coach Steve Fairchild, volleyball coach Tom Hilbert and other coaches have embraced social media, Miles sets the standard. He not only sends regular tweets to the more than 1,500 fans on his Twitter account, he makes sure the 140-character messages are keepers. His offbeat sense of humor and passion for all things CSU come through.
“I don’t like to tweet just anything,” he said. “It has to be entertaining and interesting. I try to tweet things that are happening in my life – things that are funny. Well, at least I think they’re funny.”
Miles tweets pretty much anything from catchy song lyrics to restaurant fare. Favorite topics include his kids and college athletics, and he seems to take particular delight in delivering regular jabs to his siblings.
While much of his material is downright funny, Miles also knows potential recruits and fans are following him via Twitter, so he makes sure to include links to stories, photos, and videos that reflect well on CSU and his program.
“Tim’s definitely been the best of the coaches when it comes to using these tools,” Chulick says. “He jumped in with both feet and went a hundred miles per hour right off the bat. Promoting the program in any way is going to help us draw more fans.”
While Facebook and Twitter are useful additions in CSU’s promotional toolbox, the most impactful use of modern media has been Reaching the Peak, which chronicles the day-to-day life of Miles and his basketball program. Miles granted full access to video crews from The Mtn., and fans get to watch the team develop – warts and all.
The show has been a huge success for both CSU and the network. Not only is it the highest-rated, non-event program on The Mtn., Reaching the Peak has been nominated for Emmy Awards in each of its first two seasons.
The No. 1 reason: Miles.
“People in the industry can’t believe coach Miles is letting us do this all-access show – they tell us how great it is,” says Alysen Hargrove, the show’s co-producer. “Most of the coaches we’ve interviewed said they would not do a show like this, but coach Miles has embraced it and made it work for him. He projects exactly what a student-athlete is looking for. The kids on his team enjoy their time with him. He’s their coach, but he’s also a mentor and friend.”
Miles, 44, is always looking for new ways to take advantage of technology. He’s already a whiz with his iPad and uses it regularly during recruiting trips. This fall he plans to start writing a blog about his program.
“We like projecting ourselves as a program with people who have fun and really care for each other, but who also have lofty goals,” he said. “We want to be a top program, and technology is helping us get there.”