UAF Athletics Full Steam Ahead with Nanook Pride

By Rebecca Coleman

Sun Star Reporter

“The question should be ‘why aren’t you going [to the game]’ vs. ‘are you going’,” said senior Matt Anderson, President of the Nanook Pride Club.  “I’ve noticed that the student body doesn’t really support athletics, except hockey.”

Anderson is trying to fix that.  “Our main goal is to get students to the games,” he said.  “More population equals more advertising, which equals more money for the university.”

As an incentive program to get more attendance at home sporting events, Anderson is spearheading Nanook Pride.  With this program, students get points for going to games. Once they reach certain benchmarks, they get UAF merchandise. The program is free to join, although students do pay an $8-per-credit hour athletic fee that covers their attendance of events.

“To not go to games is wasting money,” Anderson said.

It was originally thought that Nanook Pride would be funded by a $10,000 donation from Fairbanks Youth Sports.  The economic downturn led to them being unable to provide that funding.  Nanook Pride is going forward anyway.  “Chancellor Rogers wants us to do it, funding or not,” Anderson said.  “We have no choice but to make it work.  It will work.”

Forrest Karr, the UAF Athletic Director, isn’t worried.  “We’ll get someone to fund it because it’s a great cause and good for the students,” he said.  He compared the situation to the starting of the UAF Hall of Fame.  They moved forward with the idea even though they didn’t have anyone to fund it.  “The first year, we had to put plaques in existing cases we already had.  People saw that we were doing it and came forward with the money.  Now we have a great display case.  I believe someone will want to sponsor [the Nanook Pride Club] and have their name associated with such a positive thing.”

At the beginning of each game, students can find Anderson and fill out a slip of paper.  The games they go to are awarded certain point values.  Hockey games are each worth one point, volleyball and basketball games are each worth two, and everything else – rifle, swimming, cross-country, and skiing – are each worth three.  There are a total of 120 available points: 19 through hockey, 80 through volleyball and basketball, and 21 through all other sports.

Upcoming games/point opportunities include: volleyball – UAF vs Western Washinton on Sept. 23, and UAF vs Simon Fraser on Sept. 25; and hockey – blue /gold game on Sept. 25, and UAF vs Windsor on Sept. 30.

“It is possible, but unlikely, that any particular student can attend every home event,” Anderson said.  There are already people that have gone to every event of the year.  “So far, athletes are in the lead,” he said, “but I expect that to not be the case” throughout the rest of the year.  This is because athletes can’t get points for being at a game in which they are playing, and they also will spend considerable time out of town.

The prizes start with a T-shirt once a student has acquired five points.  After that, prizes include water bottles, sweatshirts, beanies, and gym bags.  For the top 20 grand prize winners at the end of the year, prizes will be awarded in raffle fashion.  These prizes include autographed sports paraphernalia, 50,000 Alaska Airlines miles (which were donated), and Anderson is working on getting a waiver for a parking pass.

The idea for Nanook Pride was born when Forrest Karr spent a week in Ann Arbor, Mich. in the summer of 2006 for a Sport Management Institute Executive Education Program.  With this program, attendees were given a semester to come up with a research paper that they would present in Austin, TX in January 2007.  The idea for a student club designed to increase attendance at sporting events came from Notre Dame.  Karr thought it was a good idea.

In the spring of 2010, Karr taught a Sport Marketing class.  Throughout the semester, his students took the idea of the Nanook Pride Club and developed it to the point that it could actually be used on campus.  The class was split into three groups: information technology, marketing, and prizes.  Anderson was in the marketing group.

The name, Nanook Pride Club, was created by the students.  “When someone said it, people liked it and kept coming back to it,” Karr said.

“’Nanook’ immediately makes you think of athletics,” Anderson said.  “And having ‘Pride’ in the name implied having pride in athletics, the games, and Alaska as a team.”

Anderson saw a similar club when he spent a semester at North Carolina State in the fall of 2009. When the Nanook Pride Club was made an official club, Anderson signed on as president, so he will be attending every home game.

Anderson has high hopes for this new program.  “Already, I’ve heard students say, ‘I’m going to go to every rifle meet now!’” he said.  In the first three days of implementation, over 100 students signed up for Nanook Pride.  He expects about a few hundred more throughout the rest of the year.  “I think this could be the next big thing at UAF, like the Tradition Stone or Springfest.”

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