Autumn Saturday afternoons and college football go together like ES and PN. But a college football game on a Thursday night? Yes.
"We've had an awful lot of interest in the Cal-Berkeley game, particularly in the Kansas City area," says Scott McMichael, assistant director of the Kansas athletic department's Williams Fund.
When ESPN asked Kansas to move its scheduled home game against California from Saturday afternoon, Sept. 26, to Thursday night, Sept. 28, any misgivings KU officials might have had quickly disappeared.
Why the surge in interest?
"In the Kansas City area," McMichael said, "we normally fight golf and kids soccer on Saturdays, but on Thursday night we're not running into weekend activities."
THERE IS A down side, though.
"It will be tougher on the (distant) out-of-towners," McMichael said. "But we faced the same thing in basketball."
Kansas basketball games on ESPN didn't start until nearly 8:40 p.m. The Cal-Kansas football game will kick off about 7 p.m.
With Kansas coming off its first winning football season in a decade and with a Thursday night game to stir excitement, KU's season ticket sales are ahead of last year's pace, McMichael said.
"We probably have 300 to 400 actual new season tickets off our brochure mailings," he said.
Basically, mailing brochures is all the athletic department had done in marketing season football tickets until this week.
On Tuesday evening at Homestead Country Club and at noon today at Alvamar CC, the annual Hawks Club season-ticket drives began with pep talks from head coach Glen Mason.
"I THINK any way I can help promote the program is part of my job description," Mason says. "I go anywhere they ask me to go."
Hawks Clubbers are businessmen in Lawrence and in the Kansas City area who volunteer to push season tickets.
"They're our leaders," McMichael said. "In Kansas City we've had as many as 75 or 80 at one time, and we've had 50 or 60 in Lawrence. Principally, they spread the word about group sales, trying to get 20 or 30 to do a block of seats and make it an event. What we try to get is 10 to 15 new tickets per volunteer."
McMichael concedes the Hawks Club is not a "high-dollar" operation, but the athletic department does offer incentives to its members everything from a lapel pin to the grand prize of a trip for two to the Jayhawks' season opener at Oregon State on Sept. 5.
Another Hawks Club is in the works for Topeka with a kickoff session scheduled in July. "We really haven't hit Topeka as much as we'd like to," McMichael said.
KU DOESN'T have a Hawks Club in Wichita, but it does have some boosters who help with group sales among some of the large businesses in the state's largest city.
The KU athletic department doesn't spend a bundle on marketing football tickets. Even its multi-colored brochure and pocket schedules are underwritten by Brandon Woods and by the KU Bookstores respectively.
Tradeouts are popular. Any time you hear a promo for KU football on the radio or see a KU football billboard, the athletic department probably paid for the ad in tickets or in game program space, not in cash.
"That's the nature of the beast for most universities," McMichael said. "Obviously, you'd like to use tradeouts as much as possible."
Many newspapers including the Journal-World and television stations do not accept tradeouts, however.
The Kansas athletic department has a new marketing contract with Host Creative Communications, but HCC's focus is ad sales for football and basketball game programs and corporate sponsorships.
ALL THE marketing money in the world, it goes without saying, won't sell an inferior product. Kansas football isn't inferior anymore, but it isn't superior yet, either.
"Obviously, the bottom line is, if you start winning," McMichael said, "people will be more anxious to buy tickets."