Communication is the key to any successful relationship, even — and especially — in periods of stress.
When the Indianapolis Colts decided that they were returning to Anderson University for training camp in 2010, Colts president Bill Polian was made to vow publicly that the team would indeed be coming to Anderson.
The NFL lockout of 2011 put doubt in more than a few minds about that statement. After all the labor stoppage saw teams like the New York Jets cancel their plans to go out of town for their summer workouts. [Photo on left: An estimated crowd of 9,000 fans attended the first night practice of the 2011 Indianapolis Colts training camp Wednesday in Anderson.]
All that worry, however, never reached officials at Anderson University.
“When some of the other teams and schools cancelled their camps, I thought it was very early (for them to do that),” AU president Dr. James Edwards said. “The Colts were saying to us ‘we know when the end date is; we can’t be here beyond the 18th, ’cause you guys have to do what you have to do.’ Our problem was when to kick in and when to start making what we would consider to be a huge investment of time and resources. The Colts were going to help us with that after a certain date, but for us to do what we did last year really takes a lot of lead-time preparation and nobody knew how that was going to come out.”
“They did a great job of communicating with our folks all the way along the line,” Anderson University head football coach Jeff Judge said. “There was communication with them in April and May and June and July. They did a great job of keeping us up to date in terms of what their thought processes were, when they were going to come in and what their needs were. I think everybody felt pretty confident that a deal would get signed; it was just that nobody knew when that date would be.”
On the long checklist of things to arrange for the school was getting volunteers to be everything from security guards to parking attendants to concessions vendors. Last season there were 200 volunteers working for AU at Colts camp. This summer, that number is nearly the same.
Last year’s training camp was the first Anderson had hosted since the summer of 1998. While that went smoothly, this year’s edition of Colts training camp is already showing signs of being more finely tuned off the field after just the first week.
“We had the dress rehearsal (last year), we really did,” Edwards said. “I’m amazed at these volunteers. They love to be here. Some of them actually work for us 40 hours a week. It’s been a great week.”
“Last year was a great learning experience for us and them,” Judge said. “They’ve made modifications to their schedule in the way they handle themselves on our campus and what our campus has to offer.”
One of the things Anderson University has learned is that its athletic facilities can accommodate the crowds that have filled Macholtz Stadium.
“It’s a little more than homecoming. We do this once. If we host the opening night against Taylor, we’ve had crowds close to this because Taylor brings 2,000 people,” Edwards said.
“It’s helped us understand the ramifications of being able to handle 9,000 people in one day. It’s like ‘We can handle that,’” Judge said. “I’m not sure we ever had to handle that before.”
On the football side of thing, hosting the Colts is something that Judge and the Ravens football program hope to reap the benefits from for years to come.
“From a recruiting perspective, it’s great to have these guys here. Because there’s a lot of people that wouldn’t be on our football field or our practice area that are getting a chance to see it. They realize what kind of great facilities we have. Our facilities have changed from a Division III facility to one that can host an NFL team,” Judge said. “I think that has helped us in the recruiting process. It helps our name get out there. It’s nice to see it in the newspaper every day and on the local television stations all the time.”
The example of the success of the first week of Colts training camp from Anderson University’s perspective can be found in the people attending practice each day.
“It’s been a very positive group of people. They’re very excited to be back along the fences and up in the stands. I think they understand what happens over here now. They’re really knowledgeable in how they can get with a player, find somebody they want to talk to or get a signature,” Edwards said. “It’s been a very positive time for the first week. I feel pretty good about the way everything has worked. This is so sweet for the city of Anderson and for us to have this kind of positive experience. Everybody is having a good time.”
—Quintin Harlan is a reporter for The Herald Bulletin. Photo credit: John P. Cleary. Story republished with permission.
Anderson University is a private Christian university of 2,600 undergraduate and graduate students in central Indiana. Anderson continues to be recognized as a top Christian college: in 2010, U.S. News and World Report ranked Anderson University among the best colleges and universities in the Midwest for the seventh consecutive year. Established in 1917 by the Church of God, Anderson University offers more than 65 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in business, education, music, nursing and theology.