The Cat is on the prowl.
The University of Arizona isn’t waiting for the rest of the state to come to Tucson to experience its sports programs. The ‘Wildcat experience’ will soon be coming to a town near you.
Just days ago, UofA’s new athletic director, Greg Byrne, was shaking up the news cycle with speculation that the school is looking at the idea of playing one of its home football games in Sun Devil country, at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale.
Playing at the NFL stadium would give the game about 17,000 more seats than at Arizona Stadium in Tucson and make it more accessible to fans around the state, particularly the large contingent in the Phoenix market.
Byrne figures it would give the school increased exposure in central and northern Arizona, would garner national attention for recruiting purposes, and might attract a high-profile non-conference team that would like to play in an NFL stadium.
But the traveling home game idea is just one of many new marketing opportunities the newcomer is exploring. The 38-year-old Byrne, an ASU alumnus, took over the AD job May 1, but he hit the ground running.
He has been out of the office more than in it, traveling around the country as he tries to get his arms around his new job.
Byrne is reaching out to Wildcat fans via social media. He is the first UofA athletic director to set up Twitter and Facebook accounts, already gathering 2,435 followers. He feels it will get people thinking about UofA on a regular basis and allow the athletic department to get information out to a large number of people in a very short time.
Twitter followers also got a chance to win a couple of tickets to a recent Yankees and Diamondbacks game, letting the athletic department do a little cross-marketing with a Phoenix sports team.
While the public quickly tuned in to the idea of playing a game every few years in Phoenix, fans may not have picked up on Byrne’s latest idea he’s calling “The Arizona Road Trip.” Unless, of course, they’re following the AD on Twitter.
The Road Trip is a five-day journey that begins Aug. 10 and rolls across the state, bringing members of the athletic department, select coaches, notable alumni, and various supporters to cities and towns around Arizona.
“We don’t want our only contact with (our fans) to be when they travel to our games at their own expense,” Byrne explained in a news release. “We are excited to go to their towns and bring them as close as we can to our programs.”
The RV full of Wildcats begins with stops in Casa Grande and Chandler on the first day and then includes Glendale and the White Mountains on Day 2; Phoenix and Scottsdale the next day; Globe, Safford, and Benson on Day 4; and concludes with Sahuarita and Sierra Vista.
On the final day, a Saturday, the UofA football team will host an intrasquad game at Buena High School in Sierra Vista that will be open to the public. It will serve as one of the team’s fall practices.
There’s no guarantee that the football game at University of Phoenix stadium will ever happen. But the Arizona Road Trip is off and running.
Just like the energetic new athletic director. Off and running.