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The Growing Pains Of A Student-Athlete

By Cheval John

University of Georgia’s tailback Todd Gurley was suspended indefinitely by UGA’s athletic department.

Gurley is currently being investigated by the NCAA for an undisclosed rules violation.

One could suspect that it was for accepting improper benefits, which is an NCAA violation.

“I’m obviously very disappointed,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said in a statement. “The important thing for our team is to turn all our attention toward preparation for Missouri.”

If it’s true, then Gurley made a huge mistake on his part.

However, we have to look at the bigger picture at what is going on in college athletics.

The NCAA is making billions of dollars a year, mostly from football and basketball.

Though college athletes receives a stipend in the form of scholarships, they do not receive a share of the revenue.

We have heard from many prominent figures that mentioned that the NCAA is taking advantage of the student-athletes.

They might go even further as saying that the NCAA is run like a business despite being a non-profit organization.

If that was the case, then the non-revenue sports would not be there and it will devoid those, particular women athletes, the opportunity to gain an education.

On the other hand, the NCAA has so many byzantine rules that it is difficult for athletic administrators to really see if they are following the rules.

I could go even further to say that most of the rules are so petty and ridiculous that it seems that they want the student-athletes to remain poor while they are in school.

Though I am not condoning the alleged improper benefits violation of Gurley, a person can understand why he did it.

If the NCAA can ease up on some of their rules like allowing a family friend to pay for meals they can’t afford, then I think that we would not see so many violations of improper benefits.

That is something that they can think about.

Lessons Every PR Professional Should Learn From Josh Shaw

By Cheval John

On Monday, the University of Southern California (USC) released to the public about how Josh Shaw broke his ankle trying to save his 7 year old nephew.

Everyone was hailing Mr. Shaw as a hero because of his bravery and the feel good narrative of a player risking his life to save another.

Immediately, there were contradicting reports about how Mr. Shaw broke his ankle.

Many were hoping that those reports were false and that Mr. Shaw was telling the truth.

Unfortunately, everyone hopes were dashed away as Mr. Shaw said to the athletic department at USC that he lied about the whole thing.

Now, Mr. Shaw is suspended indefinitely from the team and it’s likely that he will not be able to play football again.

What’s worse is that Mr. Shaw has sullied the reputation of the football program and the school.

Here are three lessons public relations professionals can take away from this debacle:

1. You Must Do Your Research

The spokesperson/s for USC did not do their due diligence in investigating Mr. Shaw’s story of how he broke his ankle.

Instead, they took his word for it and released Mr. Shaw’s accounts to the public.

If you are going to release a story that will bring attention to your client/s, you better be sure that it is accurate.

2. Always Follow Your Instincts

USC’s first-year head football coach Steve Sarkisian said to reporters, “They was no reason to doubt his story because he was a model citizen.” Quote Paraphrased.

It is probably safe to assume that they got the information about Mr. Shaw from the coach himself.

If your instinct is telling you that something is fishy, you should always listen to it because 9 times out of 10, your instinct is always correct.

3. You Must Go Into Journalism Mode

The spokesperson/s of USC did not put on their journalism hat and interviewed others who were there at the scene to find out if Mr. Shaw’s story of saving his nephew was true.

Because of that massive failure, they are now in damage control to try to repair the image of their school.

In this day and age, the lines are blurred between public relations and journalism.

If a person works in public relations, they must switch to journalism mode when the situation calls for it because if someone comes to them with a feel good story and they do not go into journalism mode, the reputation of their clients and even their own will be ruined for a long time.

#SHSU Sets The Bar To A Championship Level

By Cheval John

SUNP0015

When Bobby Williams took over as the athletic director 17 years ago at Sam Houston State, his vision was to make the department a first class organization that wins championships and excel in the classroom.

Those goals came to fruition and then some.

SHSU has won a combined 23 Southland Conference (SLC) titles, 17 NCAA playoff appearances that includes the school’s first ever national title at the Division I level (SHSU Bowling 2014) and two consecutive Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) Finalist (Football 2011, 2012) and four Southland Commissioner’s Cups (2005, 2006, 2007, 2013).

In addition, the combined GPA for entire athletic department for the 2013-14 school is 3.04.

The department have extended a new tradition for the “student-athletes” called, “The Night of Champions,” an event that is as close to the ESPY’s that highlights the teams that have either won a SLC title or in the case of the bowling team, a national championship; spotlight Bearkats who have made it the national spotlight; and the achievements in the classroom.

Even SLC commissioner Tom Burnett was there to present former Bearkat running back and future NFL draftee Timothy Flanders with the award of becoming the first Southland player to rush for over 5,000 career yards in the FCS and setting the career rushing mark in the conference.

Of course, they deserve the recognition because they have brought the city of Huntsville a first-class athletic events that is as close to a major professional sport franchise.

What I mean is that cities (with the exclusion of Green Bay) that want to be the home of a professional sports organization, must have a strong tax base in order to build a stadium; Have a significant amount of people (300,000 and over) in order to support the giant salaries and have a strong media presence.

That poses a strong problem for small cities/towns like Huntsville because they don’t have those elements.

That’s where college sports comes into play because all of the amenities like maintenence of facilities, etc. are the responsibilities of the athletic departments of universities that sponsors collegiate athletics.

With universities being tax exempt, it makes it easier for these smaller cities to focus on other matters.

In the case of Huntsville, Texas, they have gotten more recognition over the last three years because of the SHSU’s football team making consecutive runs at the FCS playoffs (2011, 2012, 2013) and the bowling team national title win against University of Nebraska.’

Members of the SHSU Bowling Team with former Bearkat running back Timothy Flanders.

Members of the SHSU Bowling Team with former Bearkat running back Timothy Flanders.


Those runs gave SHSU and the city of Huntsville, national exposure when they were featured on the ESPN family of networks that brought great name recognition like the major schools that always get the national spotlight during the regular season.

Mr. Williams can say that his vision came to fruition.

They are all champions because of the way they carried themselves in the midst of the pressures of being a full-time student and a full-time athlete.

A Little Preparation Goes A Long Way

By Cheval John

Sam Houston State's first NCAA Division I National Championship in the Athletic Department's office

Sam Houston State’s first NCAA Division I National Championship in the Athletic Department’s office

If someone sees the success of a person, organization and/or sports teams, one of the first things that come out of their mouths is that they were lucky.

What they don’t see is the years of blood, sweat and tears that the person, organization, and/or sport team went through in order to put themselves in position to succeed.

Here are two examples of how a little preparation went a long way for these guys and how you can apply the same mindset to your life:

Sam Houston State Bowling Team

The Sam Houston State (SHSU) Bowling Team won the NCAA Division I National Championship in the Cleveland suburb of Wickliffe, Ohio about two weeks ago after defeating defending champion, the Nebraska Cornhuskers, 4-2 in the best of seven baker format.

The championship was the first ever for SHSU since moving up to the Division I level in 1986.

What is more impressive is that the bowling program is in it’s fourth year of existence and the team have made two previous appearances in the NCAA Championships prior to winning it all this year.

The team contributed their success to a second half surge in the 2013-14 season that allowed them to make their third trip to the championships.

However, I honestly believe that it was what head coach Brad Hagen did before the season even began: Held a pre-season exhibition with Texas Southern and Prarie View A&M at the Huntsville Lanes Center in Huntsville, Texas.

Even though, his team didn’t do well in the exhibition, it allowed them to see their weaknesses and correct the mistakes before the season began.

That little preparation by coach Hagen is what made the difference in helping the team secure the school’s first NCAA Division I National Title.

“Jane Doe”

Diane Gottsman, owner of the Protocol School of Texas, right.

Diane Gottsman, owner of the Protocol School of Texas, right.

Diane Gottsman, owner of The Protocol School of Texas, shared a story at the Etiquette Dinner recently held at SHSU about a young college student, who she didn’t identify, so that is why I call her Jane Doe.

Mrs. Gottsman said that Jane Doe came up to her after one of her dinners and wowed her after Ms. Doe explained to her in detail about her background, what she said in her blog, www.dianegottsman.com her appearances on television, you name it.

Mrs. Gottsman added that even though “Ms. Doe” will be graduating from college two years from now, she is willing to wait for her because of the “extra preparation” that she did before the dinner.

In effect, Ms. Doe don’t have to worry about finding a career after graduating because she has already secured her first with a nationally recognized etiquette expert in Mrs. Gottsman.

Conclusion:

So you see the two examples of how a little preparation has led to the success of the SHSU Bowling Team and “Jane Doe.”

You really don’t have an excuse anymore on why you can’t succeed in life.

If you go out, work hard and smart, and even put out the “extra preparation,” then you will achieve the success that you dream of.

GPAC: A Game Changer For Huntsville, TX

By Cheval John

The Houston Symphony is one of the most recognizable orchestra in America and the world.

Every year, they perform concerts for thousands of people in the Houston area.

In their 100th year of operation, the Houston Symphony is getting better than ever.*

Recently, they held a concert in Huntsville, Texas.

You are reading that right, Huntsville, a small city located an hour north of Houston and has a population of close to 40,000.

You might be wondering: “Why on earth would they travel north to give a concert in Huntsville?”

The main reason is because of the James and Nancy Gaertner Performing Arts Center (GPAC), located on the campus of Sam Houston State University (SHSU) in Huntsville.

James and Nancy Gaertner Performing Arts Center (GPAC)

James and Nancy Gaertner Performing Arts Center (GPAC)

Opened in 2010, the GPAC is an 100,000 square foot building that houses the 800-seat David and Grettle Payne Concert Hall, where the Symphony performed, the 175-seat Recital Hall and the 160-seat Dance Theater.

Emily Binetti, Marketing Coordinator for SHSU’s College of Fine Arts and Mass Communication, says that the GPAC is a game-changer for the School of Music and the city of Huntsville.

“I think the School of Music is able to bring in more world-class guest artist like the Houston Symphony because of the beautiful Gaertner Performing Arts Center facility that we now have,” Binetti said. “The event that they just performed here, is an example of the kind of cultural offerings that we’re able to bring to the Huntsville community here at Sam Houston.”

The residents of Huntsville and the university community got an opportunity to hear the Symphony’s rendition of Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons,” a 1723 violin concertos that is the most recognizable piece in the world.

The concert was led by violin soloist, Frank Huang.

Huang, a faculty member at Rice University, has performed around the world with orchestras that includes: the Cleveland and Genoa Orchestras, the NDR Radio Philharmonic of Hannover, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Saint Paul and Amadeus! Chamber Orchestras and the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra.*

In addition, Huang made national appearance on NPR’s Performance Today, Good Morning America and CNN’s American Morning.

You would even be more surprised to find out that it was the Houston Symphony’s third time to perform in Huntsville in the last four years.

My guess is that they love the quality sound of GPAC’s concert hall.

GPAC's David and Grettle Payne Concert Hall

GPAC’s David and Grettle Payne Concert Hall

One thing is certain: It’s a huge benefit for Huntsville residents because they get a quality performance from one of the most recognizable orchestras in the world at nearly half the price.

It also elevates Huntsville as a hidden treasure for the performing arts.

“In the past 20 years, Huntsville’s arts scene has grown tremendously, especially for a small community like we have,” Binetti said. “The Houston Symphony concert is a good example of the events that Huntsville wants more of and that the School of Music is able to provide.”

*Both videos are courtesy of Houston Symphony Orchestra