SBJ/June 4 - 10, 2001/No Topic Name

Meeker attributes success to luck; others credit his open mind

NACMA/Host Communications Marketer of the Year: NAIA/Other Non-NCAA Schools


Steve L. Meeker
Black Hills State University
Title: Director of institutional advancement
Age: 39
Education: Bachelor’s of science in mass communications, Black Hills State University, 1984
Black Hills State University sponsors: Rushmore Bank & Trust, Wells Fargo, Cedar House Restaurant, Black Hills Pioneer, Pope & Talbot

Steve Meeker pins his success solely on good fortune.

And perhaps his best fortune came with two students who made a layup, a free throw, a three-point shot and a half-court shot in 25 seconds to win their tuition.

It was part of the Ballroom Blitz Tuition Shootout, a basketball halftime promotion Meeker, the director of institutional advancement at Black Hills State University, put together to bring attention to the school. After the two students beat the odds on consecutive nights, the national media from USA Today to Fox Sports Radio featured the small Spearfish, S.D., school across the country.

The Ballroom Blitz Tuition Shootout has created attention for Meeker as well. This year, he is the NACMA/Host Communications Marketer of the Year for the NAIA and other non-NCAA four- and two-year schools partly because of the promotion. But his winning the award goes well beyond the Ballroom Blitz. It also symbolizes Meeker's efforts during the past 12 years to use promotions and sponsorships found at larger schools to create a financial base for the school's foundations.

When Meeker took on the job in 1990, the school's athletic scholarship foundation was just $50,000 a year. Today, the foundation has a budget of more than $200,000.

And while the humble man attributes the success to good fortune, others attribute it to Meeker.

"He's brought in a very progressive and open mind to funding for athletics and foundations," said Dave Little, athletic director at Black Hills State University. "Some of his biggest successes have been because he has gone into the corporate marketing world with [the idea of] donations as an investment as opposed to philanthropy."

That's one of the keys to the growth in the foundation's budget. Meeker decided that even a school in a city with only 10,000 people could have some of the revenue sources usually reserved for major programs.

He went about signing corporate sponsors for the athletic department, giving them wall and floor signage at the school's basketball games for $3,000 to $5,000.

One of the people he approached was Jack Lynass, president of Rushmore Bank & Trust in Spearfish. Lynass said he wasn't interested in signs. So, Meeker pitched Lynass on sponsoring the Ballroom Blitz, with Lynass and the bank's vice president grabbing rebounds during the promotion.

"Steve makes you think you're getting value even if you're not," Lynass said.

But Lynass said his bank did see a return on its $2,000 investment.

"I couldn't leave the bank for 15 minutes without someone talking to me about it," he said. "You can't put a dollar value on that."

Again, Meeker attributes the success of his programs to good fortune, and not just the tuition shoot-out.

And, as luck would have it, Meeker noted there isn't much else to do in the winter besides attending a basketball game at the university.

Black Hills State joined the Dakota Athletic Conference two years ago. Athletic department officials from both the DAC-10 and the SDIC, its former conference, ask Meeker for advice. It also helps that Meeker is a graduate of the school and believes in what he is doing.

"They know that my heart is behind this," he said. "There is no other school I would rather be making money for."

Alan Byrd writes for the Orlando Business Journal.

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