NASHVILLE --- It has been one week since the NCAA made the decision to cancel the upcoming championships due to public health concerns.
In a show of unity to show support for our student-athletes, programs and fans that are being affected by the current state of affairs, we are participating in the NCAA's UnitedAsOne Campaign.
"It’s definitely a tough time for everyone involved," said head men's baskebtall coach Brian Penny Collins. "Our student athletes are built for times like this... adversity builds character and this is an opportunity for everyone to grow. Our thoughts and prayers are with those that are affected and the people on the frontline who continually fight to slow down this aggressive virus."
"It’s a drastic change from what we’re used to," said junior Flying Tiger R'Lazon Brumfield. "Things were just heating up on the track and this unexpected turn of events really caught us all off guard. Our coaches have been on our heels about our online class. There’s wins and loses about the situation but we’ll make due. To some, the school was their home so now some teammates are gonna live with either other teammates or friends until this all blows over. My priority during this time is to stay healthy, finish these online classes and enjoy this time off. I think we all should take advantage of this moment and look for the good. Enjoy your break and hope to see you in the fall."
Institutions around the country as well as conference offices are posting #UnitedAsOne on social media platforms as a part of the campaign.
The #UnitedAsOne campaign, created and led by NCAA member schools, started to form less than 24 hours after the remaining NCAA winter and spring championships were canceled due to the evolving global health threat surrounding COVID-19.
Unity, at an unprecedented time, became a rallying cry among the membership of more than 1,100 schools and nearly 500,000 student-athletes across three divisions. It started small. A group of about 50 digital and social media creatives within different athletics departments began direct messaging each other on Twitter on Friday.
“What can we do?”
“What should we do?”
Quickly, the consensus became to find a way to come together, to show unity and support within college athletics during a trying time for everyone in the country. That evolved into the #UnitedAsOne campaign, which officially launched at 4:16 p.m. Eastern time Thursday, exactly a week after the announcement of the NCAA canceling the remaining 2019-20 winter and spring championships.
“Moments like this, I feel like we should be bringing our teams together,” said Brian Wagner, Michigan’s digital strategy and creative lead, who was part of the initial group that came up with the campaign. “All of our programs, all of our student-athletes, our coaching staffs, we’re all in the same boat here. This is certainly something to show that we’re all in this together.”
To show this, the social media accounts of schools across the country started posting a unified graphic Thursday. The graphic reads “United As One” on one side — the “O” being the NCAA’s logo — and is personalized with the school’s logo on the other side.
Sam LaBelle, creative content producer at Texas, designed the graphic. Marc Jordan, assistant director of social and digital strategy at Texas, was part of the original group on Twitter. Jordan helped finalize the messaging and then circulate the graphic template to conferences and athletics departments across the country.
“We just stuck with #UnitedAsOne to sort of showcase that each school has a different fan base, each school has a different background and different traditions, but, ultimately, we’re all going to miss sports, and we all need to kind of band together to get through this,” Jordan said, “and know that there are brighter days ahead.
“I think that showcasing the NCAA and all of its member institutions in a unified front will really help with that and show we’re together in this.”
In a social media role often driven by quantitative numbers, like engagements and impressions, Wagner said he hopes this #UnitedAsOne campaign’s impact is more qualitative.
“I really just hope it provides positive engagement and lifts some spirits and lets people know and be in comfort that we’re working together, all of us schools, conferences, to get through this in a safe, responsible manner,” he said, “and we’ll be back stronger than ever.”
This past week, Wagner added, has been a sobering reminder of what’s truly important. And it’s not always sports. Lately, his mind has frequently returned to Michigan men’s basketball head coach Juwan Howard’s statement on Twitter after the Big Ten Tournament, set to be held in Indianapolis, was canceled last week. Howard’s Tweet led with, “Some things are bigger than basketball.”
The next day, Wagner launched a #BiggerThan campaign for Michigan’s social media accounts. Soon after, the #UnitedAsOne campaign began forming. A similar underlying theme carried over between the two: that unity, in the face of adversity, is what’s important right now.
“I’m just happy that everyone is united around this cause and around this opportunity to show that we are arm in arm, ready to see what happens next,” Jordan said. “Everyone’s united and supporting each other and putting rivalries aside, putting their feelings for lost seasons aside and really thinking about the big picture and how we can all support each other.”