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Thursday, October 9, 2008

MU Heisman campaign slides forward

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— In the tradition of the Ryan Leaf leaf, Joey Harrington's Times Square billboard and the DeAngelo Williams mobile, Missouri has found a unique way to remind Heisman Trophy voters to keep an eye out for Chase Daniel.

The Mizzou football slide viewer, a View-master-style toy that's sure to bring back childhood memories, packed with pictures of Daniel in action, has been showing up in mail boxes of voters and media members around the country.

"I didn't want to do just a mouse pad or a coffee mug, other standard items or more basic items. I didn't want to do anything that people could just toss aside," Missouri sports information director Chad Moller said by phone Wednesday. "We wanted to create a little splash and do it in a classy manner."

Moller credited Missouri men's basketball SID Dave Reiter for the idea. He tossed it during a brainstorming session during the summer. It wasn't an immediate winner, but the idea stuck with Moller.

"I'd never seen anyone promote using one of those," Moller said. "I wasn't even sure they even made them anymore."

Moller found a company in Beaver Creek, Ore., called Image3D, that made what he was looking for and ordered 2,500.

"You can argue that we really didn't need to do anything for Chase with him being a finalist last year and coming in on everybody's short list," Moller said. "But we've never been in this place before, so we decided, let's embrace it and have some fun with it."

Promoting Heisman Trophy contenders is almost as much a part of the awards history and tradition as the big bronze statue itself.

Decades ago, that meant getting a player a prime spot in the preseason magazines and sending out posters or fliers touting his accomplishments.

More recently, it's become all about the Internet. Aside from www.ChasetheHeisman.com, football fans can follow the seasons of the two players Texas Tech is pushing for Heisman consideration - quarterback Graham Harrell and receiver Michael Crabtree - at www.passorcatch200.com.

But every now and then a school comes up with something that truly stands out.

In 1997, Washington State coach Mike Price came up with a very simple idea to promote Leaf, his star quarterback.

Athletic director Rod Commons, who retired last year, had two secretaries fill up a big box with leaves that were falling off the many trees on the Pullman campus that autumn.

"We addressed envelopes with our mailing list, and the girls stuck the leaf in there and mailed it out," he said.

That was it. No explanation, just a leaf in an envelope with the university's return address.

"It got instant publicity," Commons said. "People started talking about what this leaf was and where it came from."

And it cost a lot less than, say, putting a picture of a player on a 10-story billboard in the heart of New York City. That's what Oregon did in 2001 to promote its quarterback, Harrington. It helps to have Nike founder Phil Knight as an alum and athletic booster to your school.

Despite, or maybe with the help of, the 'Joey Heisman' campaign, Harrington finished fourth in the balloting.

Leaf finished third in 1997, so Washington State definitely got more bang for its Heisman buck.

Moller said he had $50,000 in his promotional budget this season. The slide viewer project's initial cost was $25,000, he said. He plans to send out more slides (they cost about $1) of Daniel and other players such as Jeremy Maclin and Chase Coffman.

Moller said the response he's received on the slide viewer has been all positive, especially among those with young children.

"I wish they could vote," he said.

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