By RICKY LINDSAY, Editor-in-Chief
The University of Michigan-Dearborn athletic department unveiled a bold, updated look last month.
The website, powered by SIDHelp, features the Fieldhouse banner at the top with story updates and a weekly schedule in the center. Sports are separated by three categories: Men’s NAIA sports, women’s NAIA sports and non-NAIA sports.
According to athletic director Matt Beaudry, the planning for a new website started shortly after his arrival in October 2014.
“Early into 2015, we internally talked about making some changes that would help with recruiting and the promotion of our sports and student-athletes,” Beaudry said. “That was one priority that came forward. (Assistant athletic director) Bryan Earl took the lead for our department and did an outstanding job with the vendor and getting it to a point where we could launch at some juncture in the 2015-2016 school year.”
Of the 12 Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference universities, seven (Concordia, Cornerstone, Lawrence Tech, Madonna, Marygrove, Northwestern Ohio and UM-Dearborn) have their athletic website powered by SIDHelp.
Davenport, Indiana Tech and Lourdes work with Sidearm Sports, while Siena Heights opts for PrestoSports. Aquinas is the lone member of the WHAC whose athletic website features an outdated look.
With 10 of 11 conference competitors using an updated athletic website and web application to power it, there’s a lot of inspiration.
“A lot of intercollegiate priorities is benchmarking your peer institutions, and when we look at trying to help our coaches and programs be successful, that’s just one minor aspect,” Beaudry said. “Looking at the competitors…we realized there was a discrepancy and something that we needed to fix. There are other priorities along those lines but that was one from the very beginning that we wanted to fix.”
But a new website isn’t the only thing UM-Dearborn is implementing for athletics. The department has focused on social media efforts as well with Facebook (UM-Dearborn Athletics), Twitter (@GoUMDearborn) and Instagram (UM_DearbornAthletics) accounts.
Matt Read, an administrative intern with the athletic department and Student Government’s student athletic director, said the reception of the social media efforts has been positive.
“It’s been great. Just on Twitter, it’s fun to see people retweeing our tweets online, which come from the athletic department,” Read said. “It’s fun to see interaction with other schools. It’s been nothing but positive.”
But just like any endeavor, the athletic department is not exempt from challenges. The biggest one for Read?
“Keeping up with the technology, making sure we’re up to par as far as what’s going on within the conference and just doing what’s right and then going a step further,” Read said. “What can we improve upon in making ourselves a leader in this field?”
Going forward, Read would like to see student-athlete interaction with the social media effort, calling it “the number-one thing that we’d like to do.”
“We’d really like to bring our athletes more into the light and show the positive things that they’re doing on the field and off the field, in terms of academics and their personal lives, as far as internships or accomplishments,” Read said.
After months of planning, Beaudry has been pleased with the website’s response.
“The reception’s been outstanding. Bryan and Matt, since we’ve launched it, have really managed and helped create a great atmosphere and platform for our student athletes. That’s the difficult part of it, once the aesthetic piece is launched, that’s exciting, but then there’s the management aspect that requires time and commitment each and every day.
“Bryan and Matt have worked tandemly to work on improvements and ways that are similar. Just a few minutes ago, we were looking at Madonna’s website on other areas that we want to expand upon on our website.”