Inside Communications: The Challenges of Winning, Losing and Kevin Ware

On the third Monday of every month, a member of the Sports Communications staff will give a behind-the-scenes look at what’s going on around its area and the department. Over the course of every month, each department will be featured at least once. Coming Wednesday: Facilities and Operations

I will proudly be finishing up my fifth season overseeing communications for our men’s basketball team in the next five, six (hopefully seven or eight) weeks. When I speak to classes or am even just around a group of college basketball fans, I am often asked about the challenges of my position. I could easily make the case that this season has been the most unique of all five.

My first season was the year before coach Hunter’s arrival. It was tough because we were losing and no one really wanted to talk about us. From a sports communications standpoint, you feel like you are not doing your job to generate interest for your program.

Since Hunter’s arrival, there has been winning…a lot of winning, 79 games to be exact. This has created a new challenge, but one that I definitely enjoy. Requests from media for Hunter and all of our student-athletes come in on daily basis and no longer do I have to beg for coverage. This season alone, we have had countless pieces written by ESPN.com, Sports Illustrated, Bleacher Report, USA Today and Fox Sports. Although I say countless, we actually keep track of all of the articles written and try to feature some of those on this blog every week in ICYMI.

This season has created a new challenge with the addition of Kevin Ware. Ware transferred home to Atlanta following three seasons at Louisville, helping the Cardinals to a national championship in 2013. Unfortunately, Ware is most known for a gruesome leg injury in the Elite Eight of the 2013 NCAA tournament that turned him into a celebrity overnight. To put it into context, Ware has more followers on Twitter than every school in the Sun Belt combine. The list of followers includes celebrities and even the White House.

From the time I got the phone call from coach Hunter telling me about Kevin’s addition to the team, I wondered how things would play out. Let me start out by saying that although it has added some extra work to my plate, it has been a joy to have Kevin as he is a great student-athlete who really just wants to be known for his basketball skills and help lead this team to an NCAA tournament appearance (or two).

Just a few weeks into his arrival at Georgia State, Indiana Pacers superstar Paul George suffered the same type of injury that Kevin did. The injury happened late on a Friday night and I remember waking up on Saturday morning to 13 e-mails and six voice messages of members of the media overnight wanting to talk to Kevin about the George situation (The list quickly grew that day). Everyone from ESPN to NBC’s Today Show wanted to get his reaction. Kevin has always been more than glad to oblige as his goal is to help make those injured feel better and know that they can overcome, just like people reached out to him.

Although with much less fan fair, the same type of thing happened a couple of weeks ago when a high school senior named Bronson suffered the same type of injury. Kevin reached out to him and it has now become a national story. Just last Thursday I spent the entire day with a crew for a piece on Kevin (details coming soon). Although it is a challenge to be away from my desk all day, it is also a reward to see exposure come to someone who is trying to do good after going through something so difficult in life.

Now I just hope for the next challenge…an NCAA tournament appearance and all of the great attention that will come from that. I know that we will be ready for it and look forward to being one of the 68 teams announced on Selection Sunday.

–Mike Holmes

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