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Episode 17: Ed Scott, Morgan State University

Episode 17: Ed Scott, Morgan State University

Cody Junot 00:15
Welcome to A New Gameday, powered by Nevco, changing the game with scoreboards, video displays and scoring solutions. I’m your host, Cody Junot, and in this podcast series, we’re talking with college athletic administrators and leaders about a new game day as we get set to thrive in a post COVID-19 world. We discuss what that new game day is going to look like, what it’s going to feel like and how leaders are already adapting to our ever-changing world and society. Our guest today is getting set to start his fourth year leading the athletic department at Morgan State. Pleased to be joined this afternoon by Ed Scott. Ed, appreciate you taking the time. How’s everybody at Morgan State? How’s everybody in Baltimore?

Ed Scott 00:55
Everybody’s doing well, Cody. First of all, thanks for having us. Thanks for having me and Morgan State. We’re happy and proud to be on. And secondly, everyone is safe and healthy right now. And that’s all we can ask for, taking it one day at a time and just grateful for the opportunities we have.

Indeed, I think that’s all we can do one day at a time and you know, things change, and hopefully we’ll get back to some sense of normalcy sooner, rather than later. And, you know, kind of that new normal is what we’re gonna spend a lot of our time talking about here today. And being a member of the of the MEAC, you actually have a plan to play in the spring. And so we’re gonna dive into some of that, you know, how you’re going to manage to get all of your sports happening at the same time, and all of the juggling acts that you and your staff are going to have to pull off and and so we’ll dive into some of that, but let’s go back to kind of March and then, you know, span to where we are here in the middle of September. And let’s start with communication. It’s a Wednesday night. Rudy Gobert, Jazz, Thunder and all of a sudden, it’s real. And for most people, I know myself, that’s when it was like okay, this is something real, right, wrong or different. That’s the the moment I think most of us associate it with. And so things just started changing rapidly. And so over the course of that time, you obviously had to evolve in a way what you were communicating with your players, your staff, your fan base and your constituency. So let’s talk about that. How are you communicating with all of those groups to keep everyone aware of the ever changing situation?

Ed Scott 02:22
Yeah, I think there’s three main ways. There’s two ways we’ve done so externally, really through our website and through our social media platforms, right. Instagram, Twitter, Facebook. We have an older demographic to at Morgan that really is on the Facebook platform. And it’s funny, right? You know, as platforms cycle, through you have to figure out what demographics are using which platforms to be able to reach them where they’re at. And so our external guys have done a really good job of that. Our website is always our main hub. You know, that’s the first point of contact, I think almost for any athletic department, regardless of level. So we want to make sure we keep that up to date. We had put our three phase plan out there so folks would understand exactly what we were trying to do and how we were going about it. But internally, I would argue has been equally as important, if not more important, and Teamworks has been just the bomb for that. Because we set up with teamworks, I want to say maybe two years ago, we were the first HBCU to go full athletic department with teamworks. And I think when I brought it on, some of my staff thought I was a little bit, you know, why do we need this? We don’t understand, you know, we got GroupMe and all this other stuff. And I said, ‘Look, I’m telling you. We need to be more efficient and effective, especially as we grow. ‘ And so long story short, we have COVID-19, all of a sudden, I look like I knew what I was talking about. Now, in all honesty, I had no idea COVID-19 was coming. But I think you know, the decisions that we make, sometimes they come back and you look at them in hindsight and say, ‘Wow, that was a really good decision’ because teamworks quantified the number of messages we sent out, Cody. It was ridiculous the amount of messages and times we engaged our student athletes in the platform. And so now our student athletes are completely used to that. So they’ll get real time updates internally as we’re giving them out externally. And what that does is it helps us control the message. So whatever our students are getting internally about changes we’re making, same thing are external constituents are getting, our alumni, our donors, our corporate partners, and so that for us, I think, is probably been the key is the consistency in the communication.

Cody Junot 04:35
And so I guess beforehand, right, we’re able to see each other so we were probably communicating in a couple different ways. Or were you still very heavy handed at least externally dealing with your constituents using the social media where you may be using other methods. Did COVID kind of force your hand one way or the other?

Ed Scott 04:53
I think for us at Morgan, in being fully transparent, the external was the last piece of my four year plan that I presented the president, you know, when he offered me the job, and so COVID actually, in this case in Morgan, looking at a little bit differently, it gave us more space to be surgical and to be more intentional, right? Because I think for a while, as far as digital was concerned, as far as our external presence, we were playing catch up, right? So we’d be in the season just trying to pump out content. As content became available. Where now we’re, we’re saying, ‘Okay, this month, we’re focusing on this. Every month, we’re gonna run a bear classic recap.’ Right? So it’s given our external team a chance to actually step back and not be forced to push athletic content – current game recaps those kind of things – and is allowed them to focus on being proactive and more intentional with some of the information we put out. So actually, from my perspective, it’s been positive. And then, what I think it’ll do on the back end to your point as we come through COVID, we’ll be well positioned, you know, much more better positioned than we were to have these mechanisms set up on various platforms. So now it’s like changing the oil, right? Anytime you build something the first time, it’s more difficult. And I always try to get our team to where, okay, we built it. Now, how do we sustain it and tweak it as we move it forward. And so that’s going to be our focus.

Cody Junot 06:19
So that building took place, maybe COVID kind of forced that. And so now that you worked through that, it sounds like the social media aspect of it, the digital aspect of it could become something that you’re going to rely on maybe a little bit more as you’re engaging your constituents, whether it’s today without any athletic activities, or you in the MEAC when you get to the spring and you’re trying to juggle every sport. So walk me through some of that. Uou’re doing a lot of planning as we go today. How much of a role, and it sounds like a much larger role, are those social and digital teams going to play?

Ed Scott 06:56
Well, so you bring up a really good point. I would call it a tool, right? You were searching for a word there, the word I would use is it has become a tool now, right, that’s now in our toolkit that we’re better able to utilize. It’s like having a hammer and not knowing how to hit the nail on the head all the time. I think now we can do it much more accurately. And so what we’ve done, one of the things we’ve done is we’ve taken all of our social platforms, right, that were broken apart, like say football and softball. And we actually have collective meetings that are run by Lydell and our external team. I was able to get Lydell Sargeant from UCLA, he oversaw annual giving as an assistant AD out there, so we got a big win in somebody coming in who understands that social presence on a different level. And so we brought everything in under one umbrella now, and the branding is consistent when the messaging goes out, we can leverage the content amongst all of our followers, right? And we’re getting out much more robust content because softball or volleyball is not putting out something in their own pocket without football or whomever else knowing about it. So I think for us, it’s going to help us engage our donors, it’s going to help us engage our alumni. It’s going to help us engage prospective student athletes in a way we probably couldn’t before. And so we have a term for it, Cody, that we’ve we’ve kind of put together. We call it ‘Edutainment.’ Part of it is education and part of it is entertainment. And so what we’re trying to do is find the right balance and mix of the two. We need to educate our constituents, but we also need to keep them entertained. And the more we can keep the brand in front of them, the more they’re going to be closely associated with it and want to give back to Morgan in the long run.

Cody Junot 08:35
Have you developed specific ways you can keep that edutainment and bring it into game day?

Ed Scott 08:40
Yeah, we really have. So senior spotlights are one of the things we’ve done right just to try to let folks know who our seniors are. Because with not playing for over a year now, you lose that. Okay, well, I could come to a game, pick up a program or look online who was playing well, and so you don’t have that same ease of access to information. We’ve done a classic bears recap, which has been a lot of fun, right? You don’t realize who’s at home watching your website until you start getting emails and phone calls of, ‘Hey, I remember that day because I was on the field when so and so ran that record.’ And you’re thinking, ‘Wow, we just put this out because we thought it was cool. We had no idea this many people would, you know, evoke emotion over it.’ And then, bear makers has been another one. And this is really going to help us with our annual giving as we move forward. It’s former student athletes that are out doing something in the community now. We actually do an interview with them, a question and answer. So what it was like when they were a bear, transferable skills that they learned to get into the workforce, and then how they’ve been able to materialize them to where they are now. So those are all things leading up to game day. And then on game day, we’re working with our corporate partners on digital billboards. As I said before, it’s given us a chance now to set up charging so we’ll be able to charge for our streaming in a way that we couldn’t before, especially for non-conference contests. So we have a lot of different ways that we want to engage folks to bring them into the game they experience, even when we come back live in person

Cody Junot 10:10
You talk about charging and you know, revenue, obviously, has taken a large hit. You look at what’s happening across the country and you go back to last March, you know, NCAA cancels a tournament, which means distributions are cut by almost two-thirds. Until you start extrapolating that forward, and we’re unfortunately having to see a lot of hard and tough financial decisions happening around the country. So revenue has clearly always been important. It always will be. But I don’t know that it’s ever been more important as we sit here today. And so it sounds like you guys have already started to work on some potential new revenue streams. But what are ways that you can brand things maybe differently, take this opportunity to help grow some of those revenue streams?

Ed Scott 10:53
One of the things I failed to mention was our sponsorship spotlight. So our team, Andy McGee, and Robert Anderson and Lydell came to me and said, ‘Look, Doc, we got this idea. We want to, you know, at least once a month, if not bi-weekly, take one of our sponsorship partners, and we want to highlight them because this way we’re giving them free advertisement. But we want to do something for them, because normally we’re going to them with our handout saying we need you to help support us. Well, a lot of our folks, you know, are local, and we don’t want them to close their doors. So if we can help drive business to them, in a time where folks aren’t coming and putting butts in our seats, then we want to put butts in their seats.’ It’s went over so well, our sponsors love it. I’ll tell you, I’ve been shocked. When I got to Morgan, as I told you, Cody, external was the last piece right and no lie on this. We had about six sponsors total when I got to Morgan and we’re in a top 15 media market, right, it’s head scratching. And now we have approximately 40 sponsors, right 40. we went from six to 40. We haven’t lost a single sponsor, we’re about to sign a new apparel deal which I’ll be releasing within the next week or two hopefully because the contracts about to get fully executed. And then we just got a verbal commitment from a title sponsor for our golf outing, who makes a very nice stout. So folks are going to be very excited about that, too. So I’m serious when I say this, what I’ve told our team is this, when you’re in a situation like this, you can either survive, or you can adapt and try to thrive. And what we’ve done is we’ve tried to build new sources of revenue by using different ways of engaging our partners, right. So the digital billboards, even when we go live, we’ll be able to increase what we’re getting for sponsorships just because of that, right? Because we’ll be able to overlay some of that on our own stream based on our own capability. So I’m looking at this as a growth opportunity, right? The same way you and I have talked about how do you network during this period of time, it’s the same position with the external side, I think if, if you’re just thinking about oh, my God, how do I keep the lights on then you’re going to miss the larger picture. At some point we’re going to get through COVID. And when we get through COVID at Morgan, I can tell you we’re going to be prepared for the next stage from that point on.

Cody Junot 13:02
So it sounds like your external team has really taken, as you just pointed out, an opportunity to survey, adapt, and now advance and thrive. And I have to imagine that’s because your partners probably have been very eager to work with that external team. And so I would imagine, you know, it seems like it’s been a very collaborative process between the two.

Ed Scott 13:24
Yeah, it’s relationships. It really is. And you hear that a lot in the business. And I can say this as an AD originally came from the internal side, it’s no different than building good relationship with a coach, right? You don’t go see the coach when you only have bad news, right? You need to make sure you got some capital in the bank. And I think what really happened to us at Morgan, is that we did it based on building relationships, right? We want to work with folks who get our vision, and who can also offer something to the local community. And so in doing that, we’ve built such strong relationships where when we got into the COVID situation, we engaged all of them. We went right down the list of every one of our partners and said, ‘Look, where are you financially? What does this mean for you and your company? What do you think this means for our agreement? We’ve only had to restructure one agreement. And we’re doing all of this in house, and so I’ve been extremely proud of the fact that folks understand the value that Morgan brings in the Baltimore community, right. We may not be Ohio State, and we may not have the national or international footprint because we don’t have the same number of alums. But it doesn’t mean to our community, the city of Baltimore, that we mean any less. And so I think when you take that approach as an athletic director to say, you know, what is the cause we’re here for and our cause at Morgan State is really this Baltimore community and then out from there, Folks understand that now and they want to partner with us. We we have folks calling us now to talk to us about partnerships where before I had to you know, beg, borrow and steal to get in the door when I first got here.

Cody Junot 14:55
It seems like you’ve come quite the way since the the six partnerships just four years ago, when you put it in perspective like that. You know, one of the last things I want to touch upon is the opportunities of the spring. Okay, so being there in the MEAC there’s a plan in place as we sit here today to play some football in the spring. And, you know, aside from you figuring out how you’re gonna juggle having your fall sports in the spring, and, you know, hope coffee becomes your best friend, right, of being able to make sure we can work all of those and get there. It has to also bring some really cool opportunities for not only you, but also your partners.

Ed Scott 15:34
Yeah, it does. The digital footprint will be much more expansive just because we’ll have more content to be able to push out, so they get more impressions, which they always love. We’ll have more folks in on campus, around campus, at a time of year where it’s probably a little nicer to experience Baltimore. So I think that drives business again for them. You know, I think they’re excited to work with us. One of our partners, Medstar Health, is probably the most concerned because they understand, you know, what we’re facing as far as the health and welfare side of things. But our partners are really excited about it. And most importantly, because of what you said, we had a plan, and one of the things we’ve been able to do is articulate that plan to all of our constituents early. And when the plan changes, we keep them informed of all the changes. So there’s no one, our alumni, our student athletes, our parents, I’ve been on zoom calls with parents, they’re all getting the same information. And that consistency is key. Because now what you don’t have happening is what you see in certain pockets of the country where you have certain people saying one thing, and then others may be saying something different. That hasn’t been the case in the MEAC. That hasn’t been the case at Morgan State. And so I think what it does is it makes our partners feel more comfortable and more secure in the relationship because they’re getting that consistency and messaging. And so it’s, again, it’s allowed us to continue to build our numbers, as opposed to potentially losing.

Cody Junot 17:04
Yeah, no, that’s amazing. Lastly, Ed, the thing I want to close with here. So we’ve talked about how you’re communicating and how you went about that. But what’s the one message you’re driving home, whether it’s with your staff, your student athletes, your constituents, your family, you know, what’s the one message you’re driving home as we now continue to chug through this COVID era?

Ed Scott 17:26
Yeah, it’s a really simple message, actually, what you do in the dark, will come out in the light. And that’s what I keep telling our student athletes, our coaches, our staff, and that’s what I’ve told the president’s cabinet. We have an opportunity – when I got to Morgan, if you’ll indulge me for a quick second. When I got to Morgan, we were in a really tough spot. We had great people. My predecessor was a great person. But we were just in a tough spot from an NCAA sanction standpoint, a financial standpoint. And so what I told folks is it was going to take us three or four years to really build a foundation for something special, and I think we’ve laid the foundation now. The external part, for me intentionally, was last because I wanted to show potential donors and corporate partners that we would be good stewards of those resources. And so the reason why I keep saying this to our student athletes and our coaches in campus, all of this work that we’ve been putting in pretty soon when COVID is over, is going to come to light, and to the rest of the world it’s going to look like the bamboo. Right? All of a sudden, it just shot up in six months. Well, no, we’ve been growing this bamboo for about four and a half years, right. And so now when you see us start to come out, and we’re playing better basketball, or our branding and our marketing is better, and it’s tighter than it was before, folks are going to start to say, ‘Oh, wow, look what Morgan just started doing.’ Well, no, we’ve been laying this foundation. And so it’s allowed our team, really, Cody, if you will, to keep perspective, right, to keep perspective that we’re putting in work that is for a purpose. And when we get a chance to show the world what that purpose is, everybody will be rewarded. So that’s the message that we’re staying on right now.

Cody Junot 19:00
I can’t wait to see some of that come to fruition. So, Ed, really appreciate you taking the time here this afternoon hanging out with us giving us some insight on the things you guys are doing there at Morgan State. Really appreciate your time.

Ed Scott 19:12
My pleasure, thank you for having me.

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