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Changes Mean Big Opportunity in Athletics Communication at UB

Bulls Quarterback Tony Daniel in front of Alumni Arena

Article and photo by Blake Cooper

Published December 3, 2015

Blake Cooper (UB Student, Class of 2016) is originally from Canandaigua, NY. He is studying Spanish, Linguistics and Comparative Literature, and beginning work on translating an Argentinian novel into English.

Everyone knows technology is changing the way we work. For Brian Wolff, Associate Director of Athletic Communications at UB, and for the athletes he works with, this change has been profound…but embracing it has opened up a new world of possibilities.

Big changes… and big rewards

"In many ways, the field of sports information is completely different than it was five years ago," Brian said. UBIT News met Brian in his office in Alumni Arena, and as he speaks his eyes dart occasionally to his monitor, where he receives social media updates in real time.

Clearly things move a little faster now, and while that can be challenging for someone in Brian’s position, these days he’s mainly focused on the benefits.

"We used to have to pay to design and print these media guides, and then by the second game of the season they’d be obsolete." Brian says the investment ultimately wasn’t worth it, since the media became the gatekeepers-- they either took the information in the media guides and decided how much of it to report to their specific audiences, or they just ignored it.

But by embracing social media--Brian says they mainly use Facebook, Twitter and YouTube--Brian’s department has changed the narrative. Communication is now a two-way street, and it’s more responsive and extends farther than it ever has before.

"Our audiences are all over the world," Brian says. "We have international students in sports like Tennis where we play at 7 p.m. here, and that’s the middle of the night where some of their families are."

Technology has enabled Brian to reach out to anybody who’s passionate about sports at UB--from current students to alumni and their families--wherever they are, offering them the information they want.

The bottom line: Brian and his team now control the message. This gives them the freedom to interact with UB fans on their own terms. They can showcase sports that don’t traditionally receive as much media attention, and they can showcase and promote their student athletes like never before.

In capable hands

Brian has seen the culture around communication and technology change over the course of his career. But the student athletes, the stars of the show, are natives in this digital world. And for that reason, UB’s student athletes are increasingly not just in the spotlight, but controlling the message.

Tony Daniel is a senior Social Sciences Interdisciplinary student at UB, and the Bulls’ Quarterback. Brian recognized Tony’s communications talent early on, and from his sophomore year on, Tony has been in charge of the social media accounts for the entire football program at UB.

When I spoke with Tony, he explained his philosophy when it comes to social media-- just have fun. “We do shoutouts on birthdays, we take videos on the road” he explains, “We just recently got a GoPro, and we took it to Darien Lake and had a great time.”

To Tony, this is a natural instinct, something he’s been doing on his own for a long time. But now he’s thinking about it like a marketing professional, thinking about the UB Athletics brand and its audiences.

"Facebook in particular is very parent-driven," he informs me. "Parents check Facebook to get updates on their kids and their friends, as well as game day info and scores." He says high school coaches also follow UB Athletics, so it’s important to promote the program and maintain a reputation among the up-and-coming high school players.

The tech effect

The "tech effect," as it were, is most often more than just a change in the pace or nature of our work. It’s changed the way we interact with those around us, and changed the way we think about our work and integrate it into our lives.

It surprises even people like Brian Wolff--who admits that, like most of us, he was skeptical that social media outlets like Twitter could be useful for someone like him--adept professionals who, once they take the opportunity, find themselves able to work better and more efficiently.

And it reaches more of us than ever before. For Tony Daniel, born into a digital world with an almost innate understanding of the power of technology, it’s an opportunity to build skillsets with meaningful work that will impact the rest of his life. Tony, who’s considering an MBA program after his undergraduate degree, thinks the marketing experience will give him the edge in his professional life going forward.

Across generations, from faculty and staff to students, the tech effect continues to unite us and help us grow.