By Frank MacDonald
To Follow the Falcons
On any given day, more than 500 people want to know what's new with Seattle Pacific University athletics. And yet they don't pick up the phone or the sports page. They just sit there and click.
Welcome to the futureworld of sports information, The Falcons Online. The increasingly popular sports web site has nearly tripled its number of hits (visitors from the Internet) since September. On a busy day, the number of hits hover around 1,000, with the overwhelming majority -- between 80 and 90 percent -- coming from off campus. No matter if you live in North Seattle or New Zealand, with just a couple of clicks on the web, you can access the fate of the Falcons several hours before the morning paper is dropped on the doorstep.
A year ago, Rhudy Camper couldn't tell you anything about athletics at SPU. Now, despite living some 2,500 miles away from Queen Anne Hill, Camper essentially has become the teams' "town-crier." Camper, the president of College Sports Online, designed and continues to maintain the web site.
On more than a hundred nights between August and June, Camper's office light in Forest, Virginia, will stay bright until the wee hours of the morning as he awaits fresh e-mail from the SPU Sports Information Office. And in a matter of minutes, Camper sends the news blazing across the Internet for consumption by strangers, friends and even foes.
Inquiries about various teams have come from as far away as Japan, France, Brazil and, yes, New Zealand. Some have become fans while others wish to become players.
"I've gotten a ton of e-mail," says new Track and field Coach Jack Hoyt. "That's become my No. 1 form of recruiting." He estimates that 70 percent of all contact with prospective athletes begins on the Internet. Hoyt said one such e-mail has, after a great deal of further correspondence and evaluation, culminated in a verbal commitment from what he describes as a "blue-chip athlete."
The expanded use of technology has effectively shrunk the world. John Crow, an SPU alumnus and businessman in Phoenix, Arizona, can finally feed his appetite for information. "Before, being in Arizona, I was unable to get any news," says Crow, who played on Les Habegger's NCAA tournament teams of the mid-'60s. "Now with releases being e-mailed and with the web site, I'm not only getting the scores but much more information, and I can check it right at the office every morning."
Parents sometimes can't wait until the next day. Leilani Kamahoahoa, who would often call home following her volleyball matches, is now off the hook. Leilani's father, Bryan Kamahoahoa in Oregon City, Oregon, consults his computer late each game night. "Compared to before, the web site makes it really easy to find out how the team and your kids are doing," says Bryan.
If you follow men's basketball, there's no waiting whatsoever. The Falcons Online features a link to KKOL radio, which broadcasts the majority of games not only on the airwaves, but over the Internet, essentially making it possible to hear Falcon games live from anywhere in the world.
Camper, whose clients include several other Division II schools and conferences, first visited the Seattle Pacific campus in June. As the new site took shape over the summer, he became more and more knowledgeable about his most far-flung account.
"I love the writing, the creativity, and your teams all seem to do so well," says Camper, who now has a habit of staying on the job until well past midnight, Eastern Standard Time, to handle game-night stories. "Lots of times, especially when I know it's a big game, I get pretty excited to see the news. What I bring to the party is attention to detail and updates as prompt as possible. We're all working toward putting the best foot forward for the University."
Everyone would rather root for the home team, hollering and clapping until their hands hurt down at Brougham Pavilion. But if you can't do it the old-fashioned way, feel free to sit, click and catch the Falcons via The Falcons Online (bookmark www.spu.edu/falconsonline).