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Athletics: Monday launch begins new era for UL online

Monday launch begins new era for UL online

Dan McDonald
dmcdonald@theadvertiser.com

The new ragincajuns.com went live at 6:41 p.m. Monday evening.
At 8 p.m., the champagne sat unopened and the cake was uncut in the office of UL event management coordinator and webmaster John Dugas.

"We're still finding little things we want to fix or work on," Dugas said. "We haven't stopped to celebrate yet."

Dugas and the several other UL staffers and volunteers involved had reason to celebrate Monday's launch of the athletic department's re-tooled Web site. Just getting the site up and running was enough reason, since the UL site had been either dead or on life support since September.
"We've been getting all the questions about how it could take so long," Dugas said. "But we didn't want to rush it. We wanted to take the time to do it right. Because it's been that long, there could be a million things on there and if one thing is wrong, it's magnified. That's what we're trying to avoid."

The site includes several features that weren't possible during ragincajuns.com's earlier existence. It includes a large multimedia segment that will include video streaming of live UL athletic contests, extensive photo galleries, live statistics for several Cajun sports and eventually radio play-by-play through audio streaming.

"Because of the technology we have available, we can do so much more," Dugas said. "We have an e-mail sign-in where people can get immediate e-mails for particular sports anytime something is updated there. We can have hundreds of pictures up for view 15 minutes after a game. We've got changing headers so that when someone goes to a page and then back to the same page later, it'll look different.

"We're going to do some stream sharing for road games, especially conference games since a lot of conference schools use XOS. That'll give fans the chance to watch some road games on the site."

The site is a joint effort of the UL staff and XOS Technologies, a firm chosen by UL for its Web presence because of its success in other collegiate ventures and its versatility in other areas.

"We compared a couple of companies," Dugas said, "and we went with XOS because they're specifically designed for university athletic departments. They also offer a ticketing package, and we're looking at that for the future. Hopefully in a little over a year, we'll be doing our ticketing there."

Less than one hour after its launch, many of the thousands of available pages had more than 100 views, numbers that UL expects to increase exponentially once fans discover the site and its new features.

Already up are two auction items that fans can bid to purchase through the site, a throwback baseball jersey which the Cajuns will use in its April 17 home game against Southeastern La. and a basketball autographed by the players and staff of the UL women's basketball squad that advanced to last month's NCAA Tournament.

In fact, the jersey already had a $100 bid before 8 p.m.

A total of 41 fans had voted on a poll asking what was their favorite new feature on the site. The capability of live statistics from UL football, basketball, baseball, softball and other sports was the early front-runner.

The UL athletic site was hosted for years by C. H. Fenstermaker and Associates at no cost to the university until September.

"What they did for us is just amazing," Dugas said. "They kept us alive with a Web presence for a lot of years. But we were starting to generate so much traffic that it bogged down their whole operation."

Bare-bones information on the program has been carried on UL's Athletic Network site since September (www.athleticnetwork.net), but available information was limited and extremely basic.

"Having the Athletic Network site saved us this whole athletic year," Dugas said.

Dugas said that he and other UL staffers started looking at sites in mid-September, picking out ideas, features and graphics. One goal was to show some of the personality of the Acadiana area and the Cajun culture, without going overboard.

"I grew up here and spent my childhood going to games here," Dugas said. "But we also had some people doing this that weren't from here. It gave us a good mix of input. We wanted to showcase our uniqueness and not go overboard and look like country bumpkins.

"We are the Ragin' Cajuns, and we want to be unique, but we didn't want to be Bobby Boucher in The Waterboy."

Most of the features on the site will be free. A premium package is being developed for a $7.95 per month charge that will include all of the video streaming and other benefits. In the future, plans are for a lesser-priced package that includes all audio streaming of games.

"We'll always have a lot of video up for free," Dugas said. "We purchased some video equipment to do a lot of our own events. It won't be just live games, either ... we'll have events like Fan Days, press conferences and other events up there."
Posted April 10, 2007


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