CUSA Report is leaning harder into the membership model we had previously teased. This is a free post. When you decide this is cool and the kind of thing you want more of, go over to the Membership tab and buy a subscription.
One of the more popular pages on this site is the Directory, where we list various team sites that cover the team, gather fans, or some combination thereof. For CUSA-level teams, the experience of fandom has always been of finding like-minded people across vast distances. Whereas an SEC team enjoys an entire television channel and something like a cultural signifier, having the local newspaper at your game is not necessarily a given. Newspapers are a dying business and it does not make much sense to send the lone college football person out to a game with 15K when they can pull numbers by writing BAMA and moving on.
Agent49 aka Ross Smith of well, agent49.net had started a CUSA Discord server and it reminded me of the various attempts to gather a community of league-related people. I talked to various site owners or People of the Internet and tried to get a sense of what it is like to publish or follow CUSA things. Right now there is a mix of the old and new. There are forums (old) and twitter-only fan pages, to Patreon podcasts to just regular WordPress stuff. The big programs have the same, to be sure, and this site can be said to be a poor man’s version of say, SDS.
There is CSNBBS board, where there are still people doing message-board type activities like game threads, predictions, rankings, having arguments, and some discussion.
It is not as lively as the hey-day of forums past, but there is conversation to be had. The team-specific sites are still lively. BlazerTalk, and the ODU forum still get tons of clicks. The independent sites like RowdyTalk and GoMeanGreen have regulars and the latter in particular is in heavy rotation among the casuals just for news.
Everyone wants news, but mostly people want a community. If you care enough about your favorite football team, you want to talk with someone who cares just as much. This is especially true when the average person nearby has never heard of your program.
That is what started Harris Miers on his internet journey in 1995. He runs GMG, one of the largest, and longest-running sites in the league.
There were a couple of forums where recruiting information was being shared from the Dallas Morning News and other papers. I was spending a lot of time posting. I believe [the guy who ran it] was working on his PhD or had other things he needed to focus on and he asked me to take over the administration of the board. I figured I spent enough time on there that I might as well get more involved in the site itself. The internet was sort of a new phenomenon at that time and really attracted more of the hardcore fans since newspapers were still king.
Rivals was scooping up any and everything it could then, and including Harry’s site. That was before the first dot-com crash.
Then the dot com bubble burst in 2001 and they basically went out of business and were sold. We experienced a lot of technical crashes during that period of time and decided to move to an independent platform. I had purchased the domain name GoMeanGreen.com.
The business model for recruiting sites has not changed much. Matthew Brune of Mean Green 247 has a similar story.
So basically they wanted someone to start up a 247 site for UNT and they contacted me while I was covering the team at the school paper and I’ve been with them over the past two years.
UTSA has two recruiting sites active. Both were started after some independent sites like rowdyreport.com and cokerchronicles.com (RIP) 1. The biggest forum after various sites popped up in the wake of the enthusiasm for the newest program in the nation. Many petered out and died. The remaining independent is RowdyTalk.
As an old forum user myself I can still jump in and feel comfortable but I do not see too many under-30 people excited to jump in some forum software.
The Newer Stuff
Agent49’s Discord is just about the bleeding edge. I mean I have not seen anyone do a CUSA clubhouse. Outside of that it is the twitter stuff and podcasts. Every program has something like an infrequent podcast now giving some variation on the intro “Hey its me (and me!) and yeah we are going to talk about that crazy game yesterday” coming from random fans to plugged-in boosters, to journalists.
CUSA programs are pretty lenient about what constitutes media and are willing to allow blogs and podcasts to join. This is generally beneficial as it allows for some replacement of the work of the beat writers that would gather this information although the lack of a full-time gig means it is not as high quality and has more of a fan-tinge than an independent outlet would provide.
You can include this site, The Roost, The Towel Rack, Alamo Audible , GTPDD, and any number of other sites that do something similar. There is something like a community build around each of these. Even this site once tried its hand at a forum but the idea of a forum for the entire league does not quite mesh, as I’ve mentioned before.
These days, I spend more of my time on twitter than anyplace else. There are a couple of super secret Slacks around — I know one for UNT, for example — and everyone has a text thread they maintain to talk about the game.
One CUSA favorite is LaTechReport.com — well, mostly the twitter account. Why?
I think social media changed the way most people consume information. People don’t really seek out info like they used to have to do. You have to deliver it to them. My website doesn’t get a fraction of the impressions I get from my twitter account so I’ve slacked some on the site to focus more on twitter.– LTR
He, like most of us it seems, has adjusted to the technology.
I consume pretty much all of my sports news from twitter, podcasts, and what one insider posts on a premium message board. There’s so much info out there and so little time so I try to be as efficient as possible. That means podcasts while driving and walking. I’ve also created some pretty good filters on tweetdeck to capture almost all the news I need so I don’t have to scroll through irrelevant tweets. If a CUSA-related story isn’t shared with a link on twitter, I’m not going to see it or share it. To be honest, the unofficial CUSA-specific accounts produce some good content at times but aren’t consistent, and I totally understand. We don’t get paid for this, and real life takes precedence. That seems to be the biggest challenge
That’s a theme with some CUSA twitter people. HerdZone on twitter:
Honestly, I just get C-USA news via twitter. Rarely ever check message boards and things like that. I’m actually a co-host on the Moonshine Throwdown podcast. I’ve listened to a couple other pods on occasion as well. Just a personal choice haha I’ve never been that big into looking elsewhere
It Is About Money
I personally dislike the Oral History crutch of a template for writing but there is a genre of that kind of thing for each of the sites I have mentioned on here. The Daily Dragon was a really fun (kind of like GTPDD) site for a bit then kind of flamed out 2 because of the aforementioned grind of running a site. Charmillionaire on twitter:
Overall I think the online footprint is the best it’s ever been in CUSA. The tv deal we have is a killer and it hurts us with in-game online banter from the causal observer. MAC product mighty not be as good too to bottom but they own the midweek slot online.
The SEC is big because they have money to be on TV and they have money to be on TV because they are big and they are big because …
You get my meaning. The fame and fortune of these programs is reinforced by the rewards (money and exposure) they get for being famous and fortunate. That is not to say that they do not deserve it because they did in fact, have gigantic fanbases and lots of support throughout their history. These programs rightly (from their perspective) build large barriers to entry for other programs (wrongly, in the G5 view).
We have written before about the trouble this league is in. It is a collection of castoffs from states with bigger, more famous programs all carrying a similar chip on their shoulders. The half-nation geographic footprint does not encourage a sense of shared community from which to build some common ground the way the Big Ten (midwest) or SEC (South) tries to do.
That only a handful of programs can or will support a recruiting site — a good marker of the fervor of fandom — gives an indication of the overall temperature. The same reinforcement that powers SEC fandom does the same for the apathy in this league.
CUSA is small because they have no money/exposure from TV which means no one wants to watch TV, which means small TV contract, which means no money/exposure which means no one …
The good news is that the internet reduces the cost of publishing, broadcasting, and connecting with other people. If there was ever a time to have a nation-wide conference it is now, when those geographic barriers are not as big of a deal. Still, most interaction is local and it is nice to have the spontaneous interactions with league fans and league alumni to build a connection.
Eventually, forums will look like the NT CSNBBS one where there is one man posting to himself.
Where will you find your community? SB Nation?
The Big Guys or It Is Still About The Money
For a good minute in the early 2010s SBNation was the dream destination for anyone with a blogger.com sports blog. The idea was that the clicks would get you the love, and then VoxMedia would come along and scoop you up. On your way to fame and fortune. The reality is that SBN was never going to pay anyone but the biggest blogs any money and only a small handful of those people moved on to be regular paid writers at the mother ship. There were some success stories but a lot more grinding for clicks for pennies (if you were lucky).
I’ll note here that I briefly wrote on UD and my criticism of the overall scope is partly what led to me leaving quickly. I understood they wanted it to be like Mid-Major Madness. I just thought by covering “G5” was doing a lot of the same work that the P5s were being criticized for — putting the non AQ conferences in a junk drawer and saying they are all the same. If it is hard to get say, ODU people to care about UTEP, it is even harder to get either of those teams to care about San Diego State.
I cannot complain about people writing part time managing an inconsistent posting schedule with varying quality. After all, if at the extreme 4 all you have is your love for the program and no talent or skill powering your 750-word blog post? Well we are left with passionate incoherent garbage to read.
Again, there are talented people out in the CUSA blogging streets that are writing some smart things, some funny things, and some informative things. They are just not being incentivized to do it regularly. The Bill-Simmons-like schtick that has powered two-decades of blogging has not panned out well for people.
Sports are just entertainment and entertainment is in constant change. No one goes to a nickelodeon (the theater not the channel!) anymore. No one watches MTV for the music videos anymore. Sports are not as popular with young people as they were in decades past. Attendance is down across all sports and everyone is trying to explain it away. Its TikTok’s fault! Its Apple’s fault! Its TV’s fault!
I suspect it could be as easy as putting more sports on channels everyone has: ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox. You know, where more people can see them?
CUSA is not powerful enough to sway an audience large enough to change much of anything. It will follow the bigger trends just a little later than anyone else. Now, it is on ESPN+, later it will be on something else. The league’s fans will want news and information and entertainment (infotainment) and they will have to get it from whatever is left of the media industry.
A truism is that if you want quality you have to pay for it. Pay for the Athletic. Pay up for the local paper. Pay Matty for his Rice coverage. Spring for a Patreon. Buy a membership here. It is always about money. The “free” stuff you get from say, UD, is subsidized by advertisements. They sell your information so the ads can be placed on the page and they can attempt to sell you a whatever.
There are more than enough people with disposable income support a couple of full-time writers across 14 programs. 5
Beyond that join one of the forums or chat groups or Discords and help build the community that already exits. You can follow me on twitter at @cusareport 😉
I’ve mentioned this previously, but when I moved (for a job) from DFW to San Antonio, I figured it would be fun to cover the nascent program. I was right.↩
pun very much intended↩
Eric Henry is a good guy with a reputation for being a grinder, for example. ↩
Please note that I am not talking about anyone in particular here. I mean extreme to be generic↩