March 22 2013
Special Awards Salute: Pat Coleman of D3sports.com recognized with 2013 Jake Wade Award
Note: This is the 10th article in the CoSIDA Special Awards feature series which will highlight all 2013 Special Award recipients. All recipients will be honored at the CoSIDA Convention (June 12-15)
in conjunction with the NACDA and Affiliates Convention at Orlando's Marriott World Center.
See the full list of recipients and features schedule.
by Larry Happl
Central Communications Director and Sports Information Director
In NCAA Division III, arguably the most recognizable name for athletics communications professionals is not that of a coach, administrator or athlete. It’s Pat Coleman, this year’s CoSIDA Jake Wade Award recipient.
The Jake Wade Award
is presented annually by the national CoSIDA organization to an individual who has made an outstanding contribution in the media to the field of intercollegiate athletics. Jake Wade was a widely acclaimed sports journalist and national magazine contributor for the Charlotte Observer
who later served as sports information director at the University of North Carolina from 1946-62.
Most recent Jake Wade Award winners include Malcolm Moran (2013, former USA Today, New York Times and Chicago Tribune award-winning sports reporter and current college journalism professional); Lee Corso (ABC/ESPN Sports); Pam Ward (ESPN); and CBS Sports' Tim Brando and Billy Packer.
For the Division III membership, Coleman’s D3sports.com
family of websites is as ubiquitous as that four-letter sports media behemoth out of Bristol, Conn. And each fall Coleman is Chris Fowler, Lee Corso and Kirk Herbstreit rolled into one.
The biggest difference, of course, is that while many are paid handsomely for their work in the national media, Coleman largely does his work in his free time - sometimes more than 60 hours a
week - after he returns home from his 40-hour-a-week day job. And, much like the student-athletes he covers, the financial compensation he receives wouldn’t be enough to jeopardize his amateur status, if that were a concern.
Yet the sites combined for 8.2 million visits and 35.8 million page views in 2012. More than 50 percent of the traffic is generated by D3football.com
“What began as a hobby for Pat has become the go-to source for almost every Division III SID,”
says Blair Cash of George Fox (Ore.).
Behind Coleman's success--beyond raising sleep deprivation to an art form - is his intense passion for Division III, developed while the Minnesota native was a student at Catholic University (D.C.), where he changed his major from music education to Spanish, with an eye on a career in foreign service.
“I don’t know how I became a D3 guy, but I am a D3 guy, through and through,” Coleman says. “I consider it the highest form of amateur athletics on the planet. That’s special, and should be celebrated.”
After graduation, Coleman found himself designing websites and in 1997 noticed that a site he followed - then called Division III Basketball Online - hadn’t been updated in a while. He called a colleague who was the site’s developer, Centennial Conference commissioner Steve Ulrich, and “about five minutes later” took over the site himself. He did not imagine the consequences of that conversation.
“I figured I’d spend a couple hours a night, two to three nights a week updating it,” he says. “I soon found out there’s this massive community out there that’s really interested in that information and a lot of SIDs willing to help. It very quickly turned into an every-night job.”
D3football.com, now his most popular site, was added in 1999. More recently, sites run by others were developed for baseball, soccer and hockey.
Coleman stresses the enterprise couldn’t succeed without the hundreds of SIDs who post scores and stories to the site.
“It is very much a collective, like AP,” Coleman says. “SIDs have the ability to post directly, without a middle man, and provide national buzz for their schools. And we have the ability to take the most compelling content out of that and give it more exposure.
“I’m indebted to the SIDs. They provide the engine behind this.”
The appreciation is mutual.
“Division III sports can be divided into what came before Pat's D3sports.com and what's come afterwards,” says Michael Warwick, SID at SUNY-Geneseo. “And for an SID working at a Division III school, and fans, friends and family members who follow Division III schools, the difference between the two is as dramatic as the one between pre-Beatles music and post-Beatles music.”
Veteran Guilford College (N.C.) SID Dave Walters agrees.
“Before Pat, we had to hope for the unlikely ‘Faces in the Crowd’ reference or a rare ESPN moment to get Division III into the national media,” he says. “Thanks to his passion, vision and expertise, folks around the country can appreciate the efforts and accomplishments of those students who play exclusively for the love of the game.”
Coleman also has some part-time contributors, with an inner circle of about four. He hesitates to call them employees because there were years that they didn’t get paid. In addition to writing, Coleman travels at his own expense to provide webcasts of Division III football and basketball games, and journeys to the championship games each year.
He can go toe-to-toe with Joe Lunardi in making bracket forecasts. His ability to accurately predict the makeup of the NCAA football playoff field is uncanny. He’s appeared on ESPNews after the NCAA’s selection announcement to provide bracket analysis, and his insights are sought after by media members across the country. Meanwhile, his sites’ top-25 polls and All-America teams are becoming standards.
But his site provides more than promotion.
“A nice thing that has come out of this is it has become a community,” Coleman says. “People in Division III realize, we’re all in this together.”
Now living back in Minnesota, he pays his bills with his full-time job as social media manager at Carlson Wagonlit Travel. Previously he worked for USA Today
and USA Today Sports Weekly
, served as copy desk chief at NBCSports.com and was deputy managing editor for Verizon Headlines. But even while raising a family, he doesn’t envision giving up his full-time hobby anytime soon.
“I don’t really foresee that happening, as long as the next big thing in technology is not something we can’t do,” he says.
Division III SIDs are grateful.
“His dedication and passion is unparalleled in regards to promoting small college athletics on a national platform,” says Gustavus Adolphus College’s Tim Kennedy. “He has worked extremely hard to provide accurate and thorough information on all programs in Division III, often taking vacation time to drive to another part of the country to watch a team or a player first hand, so his articles and rankings can be informed and professional.
"By sheer determination and dedication he has built his reputation to the point where he is looked at by ESPN, Sports Illustrated
, and USA Today
as a legitimate expert on the small-college scene in the United States," added Kennedy. "I salute his passion, and his commitment to the joy of small college athletics.”