WINONA LAKE – In many cases, you won’t even know he’s up to his ears in busy work. He doesn’t often let on about his workload, his responsibilities, or the fact that he’s darn good at what he does overlay his extremely welcoming and comforting approach. But you’ve likely seen what he does, and come back to it again and again.
His office is covered in tiny notes, written in about a three-point font size smashed into even smaller idea patterns. Twitter thoughts, photo angles he hasn’t tried yet, slogans for shirts and social media rallying cries. And the website, oh the website, his ideas tend to have a slightly larger font with more bullet points. The work of Josh Neuhart as sports information director at Grace College isn’t as anonymous as his myriad of tiny notes, but he’d like you to think it was.
“One thing that I have learned about a lot of Chad’s (Briscoe, Grace College athletic director) leadership, he always stresses we are here to serve other people,” Neuhart said in taking a moment from his busy day outside his office at the Manahan Orthopaedic Capital Center on the campus of Grace College. “People don’t always know what we’re doing, where the pictures come from, where the stories come from, how the website is updated. They just want to see them. And if they don’t see them, they’ll tell my boss they want to see them.
“I’ve never really worried about my name on a byline, or my name on a photo. That’s OK. Chad’s always stressed service, and I believe in that. If people don’t notice us doing what we do, that’s a good thing.”
Neuhart and his mighty staff of himself – but to be fair also includes student aides and the higher end of the triangle in athletic secretary Kelly Sharp and Briscoe – have built themselves quite a marketing machine in Winona Lake. Neuhart has overseen the complete overhaul of Grace’s athletic website to become gclancers.com, which in just four months of existence was voted the top NAIA college athletics website in the country.
The partnership with SIDEARM Sports, which Neuhart noted helped streamline some of the most recognizable college athletic sites in the country such as the University of North Carolina and the University of Texas, had a lot to do with it. But to make it personable to the Grace community was on Neuhart, Briscoe and their visions. Diving through the site is done through drop bars, easing the navigation process, which eliminates additional clicks that many other sites mandate. The site also benefits from oversized photos of athletics in action, nearly every college signing – there’s a tab for that – all the on-campus statistical links as well as several national connectors, and very easy access to all of the department’s social media usages, which is another of Neuhart’s tiny Post-It Notes.
“We didn’t design the website to win awards,” Neuhart said. “When Chad (Briscoe) and I designed it, we did it from the ground up. We wanted it to have a different look and feel from any in the college landscape.
“The primary reason was to focus on recruits and bring them into Grace and show them what’s unique about us. Rather than just show scores and news like every other site does, ours goes beyond that. It showcases distinctives of Grace. But to get awards for it, I was a little surprised.”
The website award, which was given at the NAIA SIDA convention in June, was one of eight total awards the sports information department gathered at the ceremony. It’s work in the NCCAA Basketball Championships, personal features and info graphics all were cited among the quality put out by Grace’s SID, all going to the greater good. Grace’s media guides also were honored, with women’s soccer, basketball and volleyball all taking top-10 nods.
Small colleges don’t share the same luxuries that major universities do, so the Yeoman’s work must be done. Many don’t know that aside from the actual office and computer work, Neuhart also does his fair share of onsite photography at Grace contests, home and away, as well as compile statistics for all 15 of its varsity sports. He’s often working at the scorer’s table for basketball and volleyball games, in the pressbox for soccer, teaching the undergraduate understudies the ropes of the job, writing full comprehensive game reports for the website/media on a daily basis, and shaking hands and holding babies along the way (Neuhart is expecting his third child later this year). And he also teaches a sports and media class on top of it all.
“The general success Grace has had in recent years certainly has helped us generate new and fresh ideas,” Neuhart said. “Pictures from successful moments, video opportunities, students wanting to offer ideas and thoughts, those all play into what we’ve been able to build. Our job is about promoting the Grace brand, and we’ve had a lot to talk about and show in the past couple of years.”