CAL STATE FULLERTON NOTEBOOK : Zucker’s Game Plan for Titans Includes Sticking Around Awhile
Larry Zucker does not list carpentry among his many talents, but he might be the one who finally replaces that revolving door in the Titan Athletic Foundation office with a more permanent fixture.
The school has seen seven full-time and three interim TAF directors come and go since 1980, none lasting more than two years. But Zucker, who helped establish the CIF Southern Section’s corporate sponsorship program in the 1980s, expects to be around awhile.
“I wouldn’t have taken this position if I wasn’t planning on being here for more than two years,” said Zucker, who spent the past 2 1/2 years at Cal State Bakersfield. “I would think five years would be the minimum.”
Here’s where you notice the first major difference between Zucker and past TAF directors. Zucker’s vision goes beyond the next handshake or solicitation or spring fund-raising campaign. He is interested in long-term goals and solutions to problems, not quick fixes.
The other major difference--Zucker’s background and area of expertise--will become evident over time. It will show at athletic events, where fans will have a wider variety of concessions to choose from and a broader range of halftime shows and game-day promotions.
It will show in the community, where stepped-up efforts will be made to attract people to athletic events and build a better image of Fullerton athletics.
Zucker, 32, has a marketing background, and that’s something the TAF has never had. While he will serve as TAF executive director, his title at Fullerton is associate athletic director for marketing and development.
Past TAF directors concentrated solely on raising money, but under new Athletic Director Bill Shumard, the scope of the position has changed.
Zucker’s job: To attract fans to Titan athletic events and make sure their experience is so good they’ll want to return. Preferably with a friend or two.
Phase I: Zucker’s first priority is to attract fans to Titan games, a task that ranks with world peace in degree of difficulty. Without the benefit of nationally ranked football and basketball teams, Zucker will take a more grass-roots approach.
In less than a month on the job, Zucker has already put several plans in motion. Among them:
--Every employee at the university has received a voucher in his or her monthly paycheck, which can be redeemed for four free tickets to an athletic event.
--Questionnaires have been sent to 500 Southern Section high schools to determine how many of the coaches are Fullerton alumni. Zucker hopes to invite coaches to Titan events corresponding with their sport--softball coaches to a softball game, soccer coaches to a soccer game, etc.
--Questionnaires have been sent to local church groups, youth clubs and scout groups to determine what sporting events they might be interested in attending. Discounted group rates will be offered to Fullerton games.
--Alumni will be eligible for complimentary and discount tickets.
The new Titan Sports Complex, scheduled to open in February, should help create interest. But filling seats is only half the battle. Keeping them filled is the other half. And that brings us to . . .
Phase II: Many of the sponsorship and promotional ideas that worked for Zucker at Bakersfield will be implemented at Fullerton. Foremost on that list is game-day concessions.
At Bakersfield games, fans could buy Straw Hat pizza, TCBY yogurt, Marie Calendar’s pie, Subway sandwiches and a variety of Frito Lay and Pepsi products.
Concession contracts have been secured for this year, but Zucker hopes to garner some new corporate sponsors for next year. For a fee, they would be allowed to sell products at games and would receive other perks, such as radio and game program advertising and signs at athletic venues.
Among Zucker’s promotional ideas:
--He’s negotiating with the Southland Corporation to sponsor a “7-Eleven Special Moment.” If the score of a Fullerton game is ever visitor 7, Titans 11, and Fullerton wins, fans will receive vouchers for a free extra-large soft drink at a 7-Eleven.
--He wants to get the entire audience involved with basketball halftime shows. Last season, a few selected fans could shoot baskets for airline tickets. Zucker wants to expand such an idea so that if someone, for instance, makes a 35-foot shot, every ticket stub would be worth a free sandwich or car wash, etc.
--He has made a proposal to Vons markets to help feed the homeless. If approved, the school would give dollar-off coupons to fans for every can of food, accompanied by a Vons voucher they brought to games.
And don’t be surprised if Zucker tries some nutty promotions, such as the Money Cage, where a fan would have a minute to snatch $1,000 worth of bills in an enclosed air machine. That was big in Bakersfield.
The Fullerton wrestling team finished 18th among 42 teams at last weekend’s Las Vegas Invitational. The Titans were led by Lyndon Campbell, who won five matches and lost two in the 134-pound division. Campbell, seeded ninth in his class, won his first three matches before losing to top-seeded Tom Brands of Iowa, 25-10, in the championship quarterfinals. Sheldon Kim won three matches at 126 pounds, and Laszlo Molnar won two matches at 167. . . . The Titan women’s basketball team has won 14 consecutive games at home. . . . Guard Joe Small leads the Big West Conference in scoring with a 24-point average in three games. He also leads the conference in free-throw percentage (12 for 12). Point guard Aaron Sunderland ranks second in assists with an 8.6 average. . . . Jason Moler hit .421 in seven games and Jack Jordan hit .395 in 12 games to pace the Fullerton baseball team during a 12-game fall season. Tony Banks and Frank Herman each led the team in runs batted in with eight.