On Thursday, August 18, the University of Utah athletics department will host it's first Social Media Day, featuring hosts Stephanie McAllister of the gymnastics team and Austin Fiascone of the men's swim team.
The event is an unprecedented one for the Utes, which was designed to showcase not just the football team, but all of the University of Utah athletic teams. In a time where information is instantaneous and readily available, it only makes sense to provide a supportive fan base with access to players and coaches.
"The University of Miami did it first in the spring, and we took a look at it and thought it was an interesting idea. Some other people in the country took a look at it, but only one other school did it, and that was Indiana," explained Liz Abel, who is the Senior Associate Athletics Director/Director of Communications for the University of Utah. "We kind of came up with our own ideas of how we wanted to do it. Anytime you're not the first, you try to come up with some new twists of your own. We're already coming up with some ideas for next year."
The event will air via a live Internet feed, with questions submitted by fans from several media outlets.
"We have set it up so that people can submit questions via the Internet through Twitter, Facebook and Cover It Live," Abel informed. "If you're watching the live stream, you'll be able to see the questions in a queue down the side of the screen."
Whether actively participating by submitting questions, or just watching the event which features Jordan Wynn, Tony Bergstrom, Chaz Walker and Norm Chow of the Ute football team. Athletic Director Dr. Chris Hill will also participate, as well as members of the volleyball, soccer, gymnastics and the men's and women's basketball teams.
Though fan support is at a fever pitch for football and gymnastics, the athletic department is likely looking to use the event to harness some of that support, and redirect it toward the other teams within the department in terms of attendance, ticket sales and donations. The primary goal however, is to drive traffic to the Utah Athletic Department's social media sites and bring more attention to those a source to keep connected with all teams.
"We were always going to do the event regardless of whether we switched conferences. With that, the feeling is that there is more interest, more curiosity out there," Abel stated. "We're hoping with [the increased attention], we can get more play and we're hoping with this event that it will bring them to [Utah's] social networking sites to see what we have going on here."
The undertaking of such an event has proved to be enormous, and the sports information department is working overtime to ensure that it goes off without a hitch.
"It's very intricate, all the things that are going to go into it. We hope people will see that we're doing a lot of things go as smoothly as it can from a technical standpoint," Abel said of the production aspect of Social Media Day. "It will be in high definition, so it is a high-end deal and it will look good."
While there are a lot of technical aspects to the production, Abel indicated that the intent was not to make the event come off as a highly produced, highly scripted event, which may take away the highlight from the student athletes, coaches and staff.
"What we don't want people to think that is it's going to be some slick where people have had a lot of practice," Abel said. "Our two student hosts are on vacation, will walk in the door and not have had a script, or any practice, so it's going to be fun."
The event will air live on location from Rice-Eccles Stadium on Thursday, August 18 from 10 A.M. - 1:30 P.M. Fans may submit questions via Twitter through hash tag #utahsmd. For more information, visit the University of Utah athletics site at http://utahutes.cstv.com/sports/m-footbl/spec-rel/080811aab.html.