BY MIKE BALDWIN Staff Writer •
Published: May 1, 2011
/articleid/3563812/1/pictures/1407298"> Sarah Rainey, Kappa Alpha Theta Junior from Edmond and Nick Coffey, Beta Theta Pi president and Oklahoma City sophomore, talk with University of Oklahoma (OU) head college basketball coach Lon Kruger at a lunch with fraternity and sorority members on Thursday, April 28, 2011, in Norman, Okla. Photo by Steve Sisney, The Oklahoman ORG XMIT: KOD
“He’s breathing new life into the program. I think students will support him. It’s sad they didn’t do that for the last coach, but I think that will change next season.”
Kruger has been busy. One day he ate lunch at OU’s Couch Cafeteria, visiting with students. He met with three fraternities that won the President’s Trophy, an award that goes to organizations that exhibit excellence in academics, campus activities, volunteerism and multicultural participation.
“He’s doing an outstanding job trying to establish a personal relationship with students,” said Michael Elliott, president of Sigma Phi Epsilon. “Having the opportunity to meld with players and coaches will be very effective. He’s shown he’s serious about establishing relationships.”
OU officials have tried different strategies to get students involved. They offered nearly a full $140 refund to students if their student season ticket was used for every home game and a 50 percent refund if they attended at least a dozen games.
School officials gave away prizes like iPads or iPods. Students sometimes were given free pizza or hot dogs.
“The tangible things need to be a bonus,” Kruger said. “The connection is more important, the feeling of really wanting to be there to support our team and help us win games. We just want them to have a good time, get into it, cheer like crazy, enjoy it.”
Students have been a priority, but Kruger is reaching out to the entire fan base. On Monday night, he will host a meet-and-greet with OU boosters.
In the past three weeks, Kruger has made several public appearances, including:
• Throwing out the first pitch at an OU baseball game.
• Participating in the coin toss for the spring football game.
• Attending an international student barbecue.
• Throwing out the first pitch at a softball game.
“That’s what this whole thing is about, a partnership,” Kruger said. “We need to get students in there. We’ll hit former players really hard and get them back to events and reunions. We want everyone to feel ownership of the program.”