PLNU’s sports website is more inclusive of students, while the overall vision of the athletic department has remained.
Danny Barnts, director of athletic communications since 2010, summed up this goal as “the student-athlete experience.”
“We want students to have pride in their university and pride in their student athletes,” Barnts said.
An important facet of promoting this experience, according to Ethan Hamilton – athletic director for six years -is the constant updating and contemporary look and feel of the website.
“We were still using the institutional website as our own athletic site,” Hamilton said.
“We were given permission by the university to use a third party site, which allows us to control so much more of the context, structure and look of it.”
Before September 10, 2013, the website had been in somewhat of a construction- like phase, as seen on web.archive.org—a website that archives multiple sites over-time. PLNU athletics refocused this year on the student body and the community with a message of promoting the school. Whereas the original website was more of an “informative piece” according to Hamilton.
Now it boasts wide ranges of different social media platforms like Facebook, an Instagram and Twitter feed, YouTube and other web mediums to promote more student interaction with sports on campus.
Kendall Boshart, a social media liaison and marketing intern-as well as previous student athlete-for the website at plnusealions.com, says the website has improved significantly since her first year at PLNU.
“I think that the website has made tremendous progress over the three years I’ve been here,” Boshart said via email. “Additions like links to social media, better pictures and more concise articles all contribute to a cleaner more informative site that just wasn’t around my freshman year. A lot of it has to do with assistant director of athletics communications Danny Barnts (my boss) and his passion to connect students with student athletes.”
One student-athlete, Daniel ten Bosch, believes the website has come a long ways, but could always use some modifications to include more students on campus.
“I do think the website does a good job when it comes to writing articles for games and keeping statistics updated,” said Bosch via email. “It’s an easy website to get around, but I’m not sure any person at the school really knows the site exists unless they are an athlete. The only criticism I’ve ever had of it is in its lack of pictures from athletic events.
I think pictures play a large role in the post-story of a game. Perhaps even video of game winning goals or buzzer beater shots would be an awesome addition.”
Hamilton said the athletic department is working on this issue as he cited the new message is one of promotion over strictly information.
“Are we marketing ourselves first and foremost to the internal community for students and faculty?” Hamilton said. “In terms of the school vision, I feel like we haven’t capitalized on opportunities with the student body, and that’s probably a charge with this year – which is where Brian [Thornton] comes in too – but even beyond that with our local community, which is going to take time.”
This marks Brian Thornton’s first year as senior associate athletic director. He is responsible for marketing and branding PLNU’s athletes. Thornton has quite a repertoire-
including work with professional athletes like Larry Fitzgerald at Relevant Sports-to go along with an accomplished staff in PLNU’s athletic department.
“The sky’s the limit, the way I see it here,” Thornton said. “From a pure sports perspective, we want people to know who we are, we want to draw the best athletes here and we want to have a great fan experience. Our core focus through all of that is for our student athletes to have a great experience.”
As the school has been transitioning from NAIA to D-2, the competition has been heightened not only for athletes, but also for the athletic department from a marketing perspective. While the expectations increase, most of it stems from intrinsic expectations.
“Some of it is self-imposed, and some of it is mandated by the NCAA,” Thornton said.
“There are a lot of new regulations and things we have to do to comply with being members of the NCAA as well. Most of those things are not what the average fan would ever notice, but it’s stuff that has to do with our athletes and how we run the program.”
Ethan Hamilton is responsible for 14 intercollegiate teams under PLNU’s athletic program. Despite added pressure of increased competition, Hamilton’s vision for the school remains the same as the sports department looks to increase their presence not only at the institution, but throughout the Point Loma area as well.
“We’re at a pretty exciting point now, where we’re at a time where we can focus on some of the fun stuff,” Hamilton said. “We have coaches that are competent in their fields, that are committed to developing young men and women.”