BYU Athletics still riding the Jimmer wave

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The BYU Athletics communication department is rapidly growing and still reaping the benefits of Jimmer Fredette’s unprecedented national media attention.

While the growth started about six years ago as accessibility to BYU sports increased with the rapid growth of the Internet and social media, it reached its climax during the winter of 2011 when Fredette led BYU’s basketball team on a magical and historical run.

Students in line at the BYU Bookstore wait for Jimmer to autograph his book. Photo by Chris Bunker
Students in line at the BYU Bookstore wait for Jimmer to autograph his book. Photo by Chris Bunker

Duff Tittle, BYU associate athletic director of communications, has fond memories of Jimmermania.

“I have been in this business since 1990, and I’ve never seen anything like it,” Tittle said. “Jimmer was getting interview requests from all over the world — Germany, England, Australia and France. It was out of control.”

The Jimmer craze took off after Fredette scored 47 points against the University of Utah on Jan. 12, 2011, including a buzzer-beating half-court shot that Tittle deemed “the shot heard around the world.”

“I remember watching ESPN later that night,” Tittle recounted. “The whole SportsCenter show turned into a big joke about Jimmer. When they showed golf highlights they said, ‘Tiger should be the clear favorite on Tour this week, unless Jimmer enters the tournament.’ Then they previewed some NASCAR race and predicted the winner. Then they added, ‘Unless, of course, Jimmer races.’ There were other Jimmer references throughout the show. That’s when I knew this was big-time.”

The timing of Jimmermania created the perfect storm. According to Tittle, it allowed BYU to show off its brand new broadcasting building.

“The BYU Broadcasting building had just opened and they had a satellite feed, so he could talk to anyone in the world,” Tittle said. “No other university in the country could do that.”

Jimmer signs autographs for his fans at BYU. Photo by Chris Bunker
Jimmer signs autographs for his fans at BYU. Photo by Chris Bunker

Over the next 10 days, Fredette appeared on 11 national television shows — “SportsCenter,” “Pardon The Interuption,” “Mike and Mike,” “First Take,” “The Jim Rome Show” and “The Dan Patrick Show” among them. A few weeks later, Fredette was featured on back-to-back covers of Sports Illustrated, and ESPNU visited BYU to produced a 30-minute show called “ESPN All Access: BYU Basketball.”

“You just can’t buy that kind of exposure,” Tittle said.

While the actual fiscal amount of exposure Fredette brought to BYU is hard to determine, estimates show that Tittle’s previous statement is correct.

“I had a guy call me at the end of the season who had a media tracking system,” Tittle said. “He tracked all our online, radio and TV exposure for two months. He said he estimated the exposure at about $37 million for BYU Athletics.”

Daniel Croshaw, a BYU student who runs his own sports blogs, reflected on the national spotlight showered on BYU.

“I monitor sport news frequently for information about my blogs, and BYU was all over the national radar during Jimmer’s run,” Croshaw said. “We were getting more attention than traditional powerhouse basketball schools. It was amazing.”

The BYU Athletics communications department comprises five departments: media relations, video services, web services, creative design and social media.

According to Tittle, all of these departments have grown and benefited from the increase in national media exposure. While BYU’s exposure has decreased some since Fredette’s departure, the BYU Athletic Communications efforts have permanently been elevated to a higher level.

“When you go back down, it doesn’t go back as low as before … because now you’ve built relationships and developed new contacts,” Tittle said. “For example, Kyle Van Noy, Taysom Hill and Tyler Haws are benefactors of Jimmer. The communications platform of BYU Athletics is raised.”

Evidence of BYU’s elevated status is found by reviewing the athletic department’s partnerships and numbers.

BYU is currently finishing the third season of an eight-year contract with ESPN. ESPN airs nine out of 13 BYU’s football games live as well as 13 live basketball games. BYU Radio was just launched on SiriusXM Radio and is now available to 20 million subscribers. BYU’s athletic website, BYUCougars.com, is ranked in the top-10 college websites in the country, and its iTunes app BYU Cougars has more than 40,000 downloads.

For more information about BYU Athletics visit BYUCougars.com or download the BYU Cougar app.

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