Last real home game as a student. Pass the tissues.

As a born-and-raised Oregonian, the Civil War football game has played an important role in my life. My dad is an OSU grad, and he took my sister and me to a few Civil War games growing up. Most were at Reser Stadium in Corvallis, but he took us to one at Autzen (2003, I believe) – the picture of Hope and me decked out in OSU gear with Autzen in the background is ironically hilarious now that I’m a UO fanatic.

Anyway, the Civil War is always a special game, especially when you’ve grown up in the state and have bragging rights on the line.

Today also marked my last official game as a UO student – the Pac-12 championship game, which I will attend, doesn’t really count in my mind – and it’s causing me to freak out a little.

Honestly, going to football games and following the team has been my favorite part of college. The memories created inside Autzen – falling in love with college football when GameDay came in ’09; storming the field after securing a Rose Bowl bid in the 2009 Civil War; going crazy during last year’s Stanford contest; yelling, “It never rains in Autzen Stadium” before every game; clapping along with the fight song – will stay with me forever.

When college begins, you never really think it will end. Up until now, life and education have come in manageable four-year chunks. Now, it’s off into the great unknown. (“Fears for the future” could be a post in and of itself, but you get the idea.) Who knows if I’ll be at all the games next fall? Who knows if I’ll even make it to one? Will I ever watch games from the same angle again? (Literally; I can’t imagine looking at Autzen from a different perspective after sitting in the student section for four years.)

Of course, I know I should be happy that the biggest problem facing me at the moment is how I’ll handle myself without a student ticket to Duck games. But it’s a strange feeling, knowing that I’ll never have quite the same relationship with the Oregon football team.

All nervousness aside, it was a beeea-u-tiful day in Eugene and the Civil War was a blast. I’ll let the pictures do the rest of the talking:

My roommates Shannon, Katy and me on the walk into the stadium. (Yeah, this is Instagram'd. Judge me.)

This isn't a great angle, but the UO and OSU marching bands played the national anthem together. The UO band formed an "O" and the OSU formed an "OS," like their logo.

Celebrating a Duck victory with friends. Won the day.

Weekly Recap: Kirk & the Quake, Social Media in Pro Sports & Baseball Withdrawals

Happy Sunday night from the library!

Between bouts of studiousness, I decided to recap my favorite readings from the week – lots of good stuff in the baseball, social media and college football worlds.

As great as this weekend was in college football (or not great, depending on how you look at it – the guys at The Solid Verbal aptly termed the ‘Bama-LSU showdown the “Lame of the Century”), I have to admit that I miss baseball. Desperately. There is something about it that’s more constant than football.

Sure, no one’s going to sit on the couch and watch baseball games for a whole Saturday, and unfortunately the season isn’t filled with World Series Game 6-style contests. Football provides an exciting burst every weekend for a few months, but it’s nothing like the steadiness of baseball that can occupy your thoughts from March to October.

My grandpa frequently tips me off to interesting articles, including this NPR story by Glenn Stout that touches on those baseball-withdrawal emotions. It will resonate with baseball fans. Take heart, he reminds us: it’ll be back soon enough.

Speaking of baseball, I was lucky to stumble upon a blog series hosted by the Social Media Club. During the first week of every month, they feature posts on a specialized topic, and November was focused on social media use in professional sports.

Wednesday’s post looked into the Cleveland Indians’ social media efforts, specifically their hugely successful Tribe Social Deck promotion, which launched in 2010 (now named the Indians Social Suite). Rob Campbell, former digital media coordinator for the team (talk about a dream job title), detailed how social media impacted the team. Some eye-popping stats:

  • In a sentiment analysis conducted prior to the implementation of their social strategy, they found that online sentiment about the team was 50% positive, 10% negative and 40% neutral. Two years later, an analysis measured a near 80% positive rating.
  • By using a unique approach to social media-based promotions, the team increased its social media revenue by over 125% this year. They offered their Twitter followers and Facebook fans a ticket discount, but offered them a greater discount if they shared it with friends.

I also learned a lot from Kevin Saghy, a public relations and marketing specialist for the Chicago Cubs. His post looked at how the Cubs enhance the fan experience by expanding online relationships; for example, if someone tweeted that they were at their first Cubs game, someone from their PR team would ask for their seat location and bring them a small gift. How cool is that?! It’s awesome, but he stressed the importance of meeting fan expectations before trying to exceed them – something that can be easily forgotten when you’re rushing to make a big impression.

And now for one frivolous item:

I hate to make fun of this face, because I'd freak out if an earthquake happened while I was on live TV. But Herbstreit's earthquake eyes make me laugh.

A few weeks back, after attending College GameDay in Eugene, my roommate Miranda developed a crush on Kirk Herbstreit. She didn’t express interest during the actual taping, but we had ESPN on the tube later that night and she revealed her affections. Our conversation:

Miranda: Who’s that guy on the far right?
Me: Kirk Herbstreit.
Miranda: Kirk Herbstreit?
Me: (jokingly, but knowing she wouldn’t ask for no reason) Yeah. Why, Miranda? Do you have a crush on him?
Miranda: A little bit! (A minute later, after Googling) Oh my gosh, he’s 42!

You can only imagine how adorable she found his reaction to last night’s earthquake in Stillwater, Oklahoma. “His eyes got so big!” she exclaimed. I know this video has made its way around the Twitters today, but I found it hilarious and had to include it anyway. (I’m so glad Yahoo!’s Graham Watson pointed out how long Fowler’s question was to begin with; the first time I watched it, I couldn’t believe how much he rambled. I wouldn’t have blamed Herbstreit for asking him to repeat it, even without the quake.)

If you’d like to divulge your television broadcaster crush (mine is Brian Williams) or share any interesting tidbits or articles you read this week, I’d love to hear!

Flowers, Football and a Wedding. Saturday.

Fall Saturdays make the greatest days.

Mine began at 8:30 a.m., when I took my pillow and blanket into the living room and posted up on the couch for the final 30 minutes of College GameDay.

On this particular Saturday, several friends were in town because an old housemate was getting married. By the time GameDay was over, our house was buzzing and coffee was brewing.

My roommate and I took an impromptu trip to the Eugene farmer’s market and swung by HomeGoods to pick up a wedding gift (even classier than buying the gift day-of: writing and signing the card in the car en route to the event).

Until we left for the wedding, I had one eye on football games and one on getting ready. It was held at the Mt. Pisgah Arboretum, just outside of Eugene. The wedding was perfect: short but meaningful ceremony, great dance playlist and Cafe Yumm! bowls for lunch. (If you’re not from Eugene, Corvallis or Portland, you don’t know what you’re missing. Yumm bowls are my kryptonite.)

If you’re a college football fan, I know what you’re thinking: Who gets married on a fall Saturday? Well, neither the bride nor the groom are huge football fans, and we made it back during the first quarter of Alabama-LSU. Not bad at all. By the time all the evening’s action was in full swing – there was frantic remote-control flipping between ‘Bama/LSU, OK State/K-State and Oregon/UW – we were out of our fancy wedding attire and back on the couch to take in the night games (including a Duck win over UW. Nice try, Chris Polk!).

Fun farmer’s market trip. Beautiful wedding. Solid Ducks victory.

Not a bad Saturday.

Just to humor myself, a few photos from the day (Yeah, I used Instagram. Judge me all you want.):

Unfortunately, I didn't bring any of these bouquets home, but they're a lot prettier than the beets and broccoli I bought.

Yumm bowls and beer. Can't go wrong. (For the uninitiated, Yumm bowls are made with brown rice, black beans, a to-die-for sauce called Yumm sauce, tomatoes, olives, cilantro and sour cream. There are other variations - for example, some people like guacamole or salsa with their bowls - but I've perfected my Yumm preferences.)

A few of the friends with whom I enjoyed the ceremony, Yumm bowls and dancing. From left: Lauren, Miranda, me and Brad.

The Big, Scary Thesis

As a freshman, the Honors College thesis was a semi-intimidating, rather mysterious project that we didn’t have to think about for three years.

Now as a senior, the Honors College thesis is a wildly intimidating, still mysterious project that IS DUE IN EIGHT MONTHS. So start researching.

Gratuitous Duck photo: backup QB Bryan Bennett, who shined vs. Arizona State after taking over for the injured Darron Thomas. Bennett does tweet though: @BryanBennett3.

Dramatic? A little. But still true. As a student in the UO’s Clark Honors College, one of my graduation requirements is to write an undergraduate thesis on some topic related to my major. Since I graduate this spring, I’m in the Thesis Prospectus class this term, which is designed to help us narrow our focus and start the research process.

I’m a public relations major who l-o-v-e-s social media and sports, so combining the two for my thesis seemed natural. That’s how I arrived at my topic: a look at the development of social media policies in college athletic departments and their implications for college athletes’ free-speech rights.

Even the casual fan can’t help but notice that social media is becoming an increasingly important factor in the sports world. Hardly a day goes by when ESPN doesn’t quote an athlete tweet instead of a prepared statement, and fans clamor for re-tweets and mentions from sports stars.

However, there’s bound to be trouble when you let college athletes (students aren’t always known for having the greatest judgment; for example, I’m writing this at 1 a.m. and ate a massive Voodoo doughnut an hour ago) freely use a social platform that allows them to say anything they want in under 140 characters.

More and more schools are implementing social media policies (or “responsible use guidelines”) for their athletes. But do athletes, even though they’re on scholarship and publicly represent the school, deserve to face such restrictions? A 4.0-student who receives a full academic scholarship and participates in, say, the debate team, can tweet anything he or she wants. Are athletes facing unfair treatment?

No, I’m not going to be standing on the street corner, crusading for athletes’ First Amendment rights. But the question fascinates me, especially as a greater number of schools place restrictions on athletes’ social media use.

My prospectus is still in its early stages, but tomorrow I present it for my class and make my first big leap into thesis-dom. It’s still early in the process, and I’m uncovering new research and new angles every step of the way.

How does the intersection of sports and social media interest you? If you have any thoughts or suggestions for my process, or any random thoughts at all, I’d love to hear them! (And in the off-chance that you’re a college sports reporter who’s covered social media-related topics…can I interview you?)

As scary as the thesis is, being an Honors College student is worth it, if only for this photo. When GameDay was in Eugene last week, their production crew used rooms in the Honors College building; as a "thank you" for letting them take over our space, they gave us set tours. This is me in Chris Fowler's usual spot.

GameDay Overtakes the Quad

Awesome = College GameDay setting up on the campus quad today.

Not awesome (from a school standpoint) = My inability to focus on anything besides Saturday.

A view of the GameDay set from the Knight Library. At this point, the "O" hanging from Lillis was only half-completed.

When I emerged from class an hour later, the “O” was finished.
A view from the other side of the set, where the fans will stand.
I have my doubts about how visible the “O” will be on TV Saturday, but it’s going to look awesome on campus for the next few days.

Third Time’s a Charm

From a football standpoint, I couldn’t have picked a better four-year span in which to attend the University of Oregon. Aside from trips to the Rose Bowl and BCS title game, ESPN’s College GameDay came to Eugene not once, not twice, but THREE TIMES in my four-year career. (Or at least, it will have come three times after Saturday.)

In what amounts to a pretty slow college football weekend, the GameDay crew will come to Eugene on the heels of Saturday night’s Oregon-Arizona State matchup. Will it carry the “must-win” atmosphere of last year when they came before the Stanford game? No. (Even though this could be a Pac-12 championship preview, neither team comes in undefeated like the Ducks and Cardinal did last year.) But it’ll still be wildly exciting.

Probably the best part about all of this? It’s pretty much happening in my backyard. While the setting from the past two years – near the Casanova Center with Autzen Stadium in the background – was picturesque and exciting, construction in that area has forced GameDay to our Memorial Quad on campus. It’s just a few blocks from my house, and I couldn’t be happier to avoid an early-morning trek to Autzen. (Sidenote: I’ve never once heard someone refer to our quad as “memorial.” It’s always been ” the quad” to me. Am I the only one who thinks this?)

GameDay host Chris Fowler tweeted a picture of the setting this evening (the tweet was wordless, consisting only of a link to the picture):

Watch College GameDay on Saturday and that’s what you’ll see (minus that white tent). That’s Lillis Business Complex in the back; the hosts will face Knight Library at the opposite end of the quad. (Fowler later tweeted an explanation of the photo for his non-UO fans.)

What astounds me is how the center of the college football universe will be just a few steps away from me on Saturday morning. Is it the world’s most exciting matchup? No. Will most of the country still pronounce it “Ora-gone” at the end of the day? Probably. But for a few hours, college football nation will be focused on rainy little Eugene, Oregon. They’ll see the campus we call home and learn more about the team we cheer for. And all I have to do to be a part of it is roll out of bed and walk two blocks east. That’s pretty awesome.

Is it Saturday yet?

College Football Weekend Recap: “The Pac-12 Sucks” Edition

Since there are so many people writing so many words about college football every weekend, I decided to aggregate some of my favorites in a handy little blog post (that I hope to publish every week this season). I’m doing this partly because I’d like to share what I found intriguing, but mostly because I’d like to hear from others about what articles or blog posts caught their eyes over the weekend.

One overarching theme: The Pac-12 sucks.

At least over the last few months, Pac-12 fans could point to Oregon’s appearance in the BCS title game as proof of our conference’s relevance, but when Oregon, Oregon State, UCLA and Colorado all lose (and Washington and USC barely win), our defense against SEC fans is flimsy. It hurt to read, but The Register-Guard‘s George Schroeder spoke the truth about how Oregon’s loss only widened the gap between the Ducks and the truly great college football programs.

“If only the Pac-12’s football teams would start playing at a level befitting the conference’s newfound status,” wrote Stewart Mandel of SI.com, contrasting the league’s poor play with its recent status as a “destination” conference for teams looking to realign. Bruce Feldman, now of CBS after leaving ESPN post-“Free Bruce” movement, made a similar argument, saying that “Phil Knight’s favorite team was short-circuited on a big national stage once again.” Ouch.

Something decidedly more awesome than my favorite conference getting trashed all over the internet (albeit with good reason)? Rice University’s “Marching Owl Band” and the shot it took at Texas A&M‘s intention to move to the SEC. Definitely gives Script Ohio a run for its money as far as creativity is concerned. (But according to Houston Chronicle columnist Richard Justice, Rice will receive a letter of reprimand from ESPN for the stunt.)

It’s not directly related to this weekend’s action, but here’s an interesting piece from Lindsay Schnell, an Oregon beat writer for The Oregonian here in Portland (I followed her on Twitter before I really started reading her stuff in the paper, so I almost typed “@LindsayRae19” instead of her real name). While in Texas for Oregon-LSU, she dug into the emerging pipeline between high school stars in the state (a HS football hotbed) and the UO, which first sprung up when LaMichael James and Darron Thomas committed in 2008.

Lastly, I’m not as on top of the realignment talks as a good fan should be, but I do think it’s interesting/funny/fascinating that Mark Cuban (best known, obviously, for his appearance as Saturday’s College GameDay guest picker) felt the need to weigh in on the topic. His latest Blog Maverick post implores Big 12 teams to “say no to super conferences” and makes a slightly awkward Big 12-AL East comparison. Best part: the commenter who turns a football-centric post into a chance to whine about being an Orioles fan. “…I basically think we are screwed in the AL East.” Well, good for you.

Those are a few things that caught my eye. I know there are dozens, if not hundreds more pieces out there that were great, so if you read a particularly intriguing piece of college football writing this weekend, please share!