UConn launches social media platform just for athletes
STORRS, Conn. (AP) — The University of Connecticut’s athletic department, struggling financially and looking to re-engage its alumni base, has set up a social media platform exclusively for former athletes.
The National C Club is a web-based forum, open to the approximately 7,000 living former athletes or team managers who have earned an athletic letter at the school.
“We’re trying to create a sort of like a LinkedIn for alumni student athletes,” said Jamelle Elliott, a former basketball player and assistant coach, who was brought in this year as an associate athletic director to work with alumni. “You’re able to connect with some of your teammates, some people who may have played your sport. You can cross-reference and connect with people from other sports and different times.”
The site is run through a company called Athlete Network, which was set up about a decade ago to help job-seeking former athletes connect to companies in the private sector.
Former basketball star Ray Allen agreed to make a promotional video for the UConn site, and about 450 UConn alumni have signed up since it went live in October, Elliott said.
The site gives the school another way to solicit donations, said Chris Smith, the founder of Athletes Network. That is an important component for schools, such as UConn, which recently reported a more than $40 million deficit in its Athletic Division.
“Frankly, that’s one of the main purposes,” Smith said. “It gives schools a way to promote, brand and market themselves to a group of alumni that often is motivated to see the school do well. They also now have a way to keep in touch with these athletes. In the past, that was normally done through the individual teams. As coaching staffs changed, people would lose touch.”
Elliott said the UConn site, which she put together, doesn’t make a hard sell for donations but is designed to make the former athlete feel special and reconnected to the school.
“My job is to get them comfortable enough so that if they want to do that (donate), they can do that,” she said.
But, she said, the site’s top focus is networking.
There are links to upload resumes and connect to companies that have expressed an interest in hiring former athletes. There are also areas for former athletes to connect with current ones and offer mentoring or even internships.
“We’ll connect them,” Elliott said. “The current athletes are really excited to be able to talk to somebody who has been in their shoes, who has gone through what they are going through, whether it’s in their sport or maybe a major they may be in.”
“It will foster an environment that will allow us all to stay connected and always feel like a part of the UConn Huskies team,” Allen said in a statement.
In addition to the communication services, it also gives the former athletes access to discount tickets, UConn merchandise and news, including maps of Storrs Center and the schematics for the school’s new athletic fields.
Other schools have used their sites to do things such as provide former athletes with free letter jackets, Smith said.