Published: Fri Apr 23, 2004Tennessee Tech University Sports Information Director Rob Schabert blew onto campus like a brisk wind from his native Minnesota 21 years ago, and Tennessee Tech has never been the same. Schabert is credited with invigorating TTU’s Sports Information operation, boosting it to a level equal only to pro sports and making it the envy of the Ohio Valley Conference.
For those reasons and more, Schabert has been named this year's recipient of TTU’s Outstanding Professional Award. He'll be honored during the final Luncheon Forum of the academic year, set for 11:30 a.m., Monday, May 3, in the Roaden University Center OVC Room.
"Anyone who has seen Rob work has to marvel at his energy and enthusiasm, his professional ethics and standards, and the sheer volume of his accomplishments," said TTU Career Services Associate Director Don Foster, who nominated Schabert for the award. "I feel Rob could have earned this honor numerous times during his career, but he has never deserved the award more than now. I cannot imagine anyone here right now working harder or doing more for the institution than Rob."
In the past year, Schabert has become a one-person shop, thanks to attrition and budget cuts. He lost his assistant director to reduced state funding, and when the marketing/development officer position went vacant, too, TTU’s Athletic Department lost its special events planning staff. With the help of a handful of student workers and volunteers, Schabert is not only keeping the communications operation afloat, but has created a brand-new line of game promotions.
"During this past OVC basketball season, we more than doubled our attendance numbers at the Tech games," said interim Athletic Director Frank Harrell. "An integral part in the rise in attendance was the professional, fun atmosphere Rob provided with promotional opportunities at every time-out. We gave Rob a microphone and some freedom to make the games more fun."
As a result, said Harrell, "We created a 'buzz' around basketball, and the games became the place to be this winter in our area. Rob's enthusiasm was a huge part of that success."
A former member of the Minnesota Twins' public relations staff, Schabert came to campus as the lone voice of Golden Eagle athletics, and he's since spent nearly half his life molding the operation into the professional media source it is today. Here are a few examples of his efforts over the years:
* Every team worth its salt has a "media guide," a comprehensive publication containing news, player/coach bios, stats and information about the university. Schabert produces a media guide for every team, every year; he's won dozens of national awards for his writing and layouts, including "Best in the Nation" from USA Volleyball in six of the past 11 years.
* Schabert created the official Golden Eagle web site from scratch. It's updated multiple times a day (and night). Its design is among the best in the nation, including pro sports. Along with the web site, he also created a daily news e-mail outlet; fans who subscribe receive breaking news by e-mail.
* Schabert promotes TTU’s scholar-athletes through the Director's Honor Roll and President's Award programs, both of which he established at the university — the first in 1987, the second in 1994. These two award programs are opportunities to promote the university's high academic standards, an opportunity he never misses.
"Over the years, I've come to believe that Rob is probably as competitive as the athletes he covers for the media," said Laura Clemons, TTU’s publications director in Public Affairs. "Having worked with professional sports, he knows what a quality PR shop is supposed to produce: great press, flashy publications, plenty of visibility. He came to Tennessee Tech 21 years ago to find 15 teams and no true Sports Information operation. He's spent every day since then making sure Golden Eagle sports never suffers from a lack of good PR.
"Rob is able to accomplish all that for three reasons: his innate intelligence and talent, that competitive drive ... and the fact that he feels compelled to work insane hours," said Clemons. "Simply covering as many sporting events as he does would wreak havoc on anyone's schedule, but Rob isn't content with that; he literally works seven days a week."
"It would be difficult to find a single person on this campus with a greater commitment toward his job or the university than Rob Schabert," said Foster. "Ask the security personnel who lock up Eblen Center at midnight and find him working on stories and updating the web. Ask the walkers on Sunday mornings who see him stopping by on his way to church to send a fax or add a last-minute item to the web site.
"Ask the media or members of the distribution lists who get numerous e-mail messages and press releases every day as Rob attempts to gain positive publicity for the university. Stop by his house nearly any evening, and you'll find him working on game notes or media guides on his aging laptop. Said simply, Rob is dedicated to doing his absolute best for Tennessee Tech, regardless of how much time or energy it requires."Established in 1993, the awards program was created to recognize outstanding professional staff, accompanying existing awards programs for faculty and clerical and support staff. Last year's winner was Kevin Liska, director of the BusinessMedia Center.