Powered by Nevco, A New Gameday from CollegeAD focuses on how athletic departments are working towards the eventual return of sports and what that will look like on gameday. UIW AD Richard Duran joins this week’s podcast.
Richard Duran was evaluated from interim Director of Athletics at the University of the Incarnate Word to Director of Athletics just over one month ago (June 15, 2020.) He’s interim year was punctuated by a pandemic and uncertainty in college athletics. He joins the podcast to talk about communication, collaboration, and finding opportunities.
He started the conversation by saying there are a lot more smiles on the UIW campus now that they’ve made the announcement of what the fall will look like. The university made the decision to postpone all competition for Fall 2020. The Cardinals will hold voluntary practices and strength and conditioning sessions through the fall and hope to compete in the spring.
“There’s been some great conversations with the Southland Conference. For the past two months, my perspective is that Spring was the way to go. I really felt that was our best opportunity to compete in championships. For a long time I was the lone voice in the room, but over time perspectives began to change a bit. Over the last week or so that group of AD’s really came to see the spring as our best opportunity and saw that it was time for a decision.”
Richard Duran explains that the conversations with other AD’s in the conference were invaluable to making a decision. They feel that the agreement gave opportunities to universities who wanted to play non-conference games.
“For months we’ve been talking about health and safety. If the Southland is not putting a season, the NCAA not putting on championships, why are we going to put our student-athletes out there? It was a quick decision and I’m glad I had support at UIW.”
Duran says that there is typically a template that universities follow to hype fall sports and engage with fans during the downtime of the summer. However, that hype now has to continue until the spring and he explains it will be a challenge. He said their external team and Media Relations department shifted storytelling elements and are really trying to highlight their student-athletes.
“They’ve really done a great job with that; we’ve had great media coverage because we have such great stories to tell. We looked at some of our alums in the medical profession and shared the great work they are doing, how they are serving their communities. Service is really what UIW is based off of.”
Duran explains with students returning, it’s time to focus on that story and how they engage the returning students. He says the university PR department has really been on board with everything they are trying to accomplish. He explains since the university has a hiring freeze that they’ve really stressed utilizing the expertise they already have and even with the reduced staff he feels the team pulled together.
“We’ve put out some great content over digital and social media, some great storytelling. I’m excited because some more support coming in very soon and it will let us do even more.”
The conversation then turned to what a new game day might look like when sports return in the spring. Richard Duran says they’ve learned how to build excitement on social media and is certain that will still be a part of gamedays to come. He also says that if they are able to play basketball in the coming months, capacity will likely be reduced for fans to watch in person. He also explained it may mean some physical changes for UIW, like where they place their spirit section or whether or not the band can play.
“If you think about it, there are solutions to everything, we’ve just got to figure out what those are and what you can successfully implement.”
Duran says when you lose those in-game opportunities, you lose that inventory to support your partners. But he points to the collaborative approach his team is taking with their partners. He says many partners have their own ideas about how to engage the people they are trying to reach.
“We’ve got me makeup that inventory somewhere, at the end of the day it’s all about communication. At the end of the day, you have to make sure you’re supporting your partners to the best of your ability. It’s been exciting because it’s really made us think, made us pause and take a look at the big picture. How does each partner fit into the big picture now? The partners have been understanding and appreciative of the situation we are all in but that has not slowed their excitement at being partners with UIW.”
He stresses collaboration and communication, saying they had always been a part of doing business at UIW, but now they are leaning on those efforts because they are a daily necessity. He says everyone has to be willing to give and take a little and listen.
Richard Duran closed the conversation by saying the one message he is driving home to everyone is to do the right thing for the right reasons. He says there is a great opportunity here to get a competitive edge and points to UIW’s decision not to rush things for the health and safety of everyone.
“Do the right things for the right reasons, even if no one else is doing what you’re doing. If you are making decisions for the right reasons, you can overcome anything. We’ve been gifted an opportunity to train over the next few months so we have to take full advantage of that. Do the right things for the right reasons and continue to build those champions for the community and get them ready to be champions in competition.”