Western Michigan wants to turn practice into a campus party
Plenty of coaches around the country have tried to supplement their practices with a party-like atmosphere in recent years. A look at the play list of any Texas Tech practice this spring is evidence to that. But no staff is taking the "practice = party" idea more literally than Western Michigan.
Under first-year head coach P.J. Fleck, the Broncos are hosting Nekton Neon Night at Waldo Stadium on April 12. What in the world is Nekton Neon Night? Essentially, the football program is inviting the Western Michigan student body, all 26,000 of them, to watch the Broncos practice and dance while doing so.
"We want them to get a new perspective of a new era of Bronco football, of what it's going to be like at a game day. We're creating an entertainment value. It'll be different than just watching a game, it'll be interactive. We have a DJ now," Fleck said. "It's a way for our student body to be a part of our football program and a way for our football program to be a part of our student body."
Western Michigan drew an average of 14,579 fans to its six home games in 2012, a figure that ranked eighth in the MAC and 111th nationally. In his attempt to turn around a program that finished 4-8 last season, Fleck thinks fixing the attendance problem will help cure problem on the field.
A lot of schools in our conference, if you win people show up, if you don't, no one comes. I do not want that to happen," he explained. "I want to make it so it's what you do in Kalamazoo no matter what, win or lose, you show up to the football game."
Like any marketing executive, Fleck knows students of today are the potential donors and season-ticket buyers of tomorrow, but those future dollars are much more difficult to earn if students aren't engaged in the football program while on campus. And what better way to play to your audience than with a DJ?
Our student body is everything when you talk about a football program," Fleck said. "I think you're only as strong as your student body support, and then everybody kind of hops in from there. I want to change the culture of Western Michigan, how it's been."