The America East Conference has seen several great successes in recent years, from UMBC men’s basketball’s upset over Virginia to postseason success in men’s and women’s lacrosse. The league has also made important strides in mental health advocacy as well as diversity and inclusion.
FOS Editor Ian Thomas sat down with Amy Huchthausen, Commissioner of the America East Conference, to talk about the league’s success in recent years, capturing the big moments, and the league’s off the field initiatives.
Edited highlights appear below:
On the impact of recent athletic success for the league’s brand exposure (1:16)
Huchthausen: “It’s really hard for a conference who’s not in the power five to get the eyeballs and attention from national media or fans. So when you have those signature wins, like a UMBC beating Virginia, those are just great opportunities certainly for the student-athletes to revel in success and take everything in. But the associated branding and exposure that the institution and the conference gets, you just can’t replace that…That’s why we’re so focused on trying to create our own content and do things in our region of the country that hopefully will spread nationally to grow the brand…Anytime we can not have to remind people who we are and people get familiar with our schools or our snapshots or our coaches, I think, um, you know, that’s, that’s the goal of everyone in terms of brand reach, brand exposure. I think we’re making great strides in that regard, but certainly the wins on the field, on the court, you can’t substitute that.”
On the league’s digital and social strategy (2:29)
Huchthausen: “I’ve been here eight years, which on the one hand is a long time, on the other hand is not very long at all. But the advances in technology and social and digital media, even in five years has been pretty astounding and will continue to grow pretty rapidly. What we’ve talked about since we adjusted the focus of our communications team to really be a content team is really that [we want to] be ready for the big moment, be ready to capitalize on a UMBC beating Virginia, having two lacrosse teams in men’s and women’s be ranked number one for almost the entire year. So that when those moments happen, we’re ready. We have the assets lined up, we have then the inventory that we can promote our schools and student-athletes.”
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On the league’s diversity and inclusion initiative Spread Respect (3:41)
Huchthausen: “I’m really proud of our league getting behind this. It started in the LGBTQ+ space and this year expanded through a partnership with Rise, the Ross Initiative, and Sports for Equality to start focusing on other areas of diversity and race issues, something that’s so important to our student-athletes. As a conference trying to listen to our student-athletes, it’s sometimes difficult. You’ve got different campuses with different interests, but there’s certainly a lot of things that bind our league together and a commitment to diversity and inclusion is one of them. So to be one of the few conferences that can confidently say that we’ve been dedicating resources and time and energy to this space to help our student-athletes for so many years is something we’re really proud of.”
On leagues and teams starting their own mental health and/or diversity initiatives (7:03)
Huchthausen: “Start with a part-time person. Maybe identify someone across campus that might be able to help support you in athletics. It doesn’t cost a lot to do a social media campaign around it so that your student-athletes know and see the visibility of your support. Those are the things that we’ve just not run away from or held back from. Let’s figure out what we can do with our resources and try to move the needle a little bit. Our league, like I said, has embraced it and not been afraid to do something, even if we know there is still a long ways to go.”