This was fun.
First and foremost, I want to thank the nearly 600 of you that took the time and filled out this year's "Pulse of the Fanbase" survey. This is one of my favorite articles to write and it's always interesting to see how the fanbase's opinions on various topics can change in just a few short months. There were also a ton of hilarious "Write-In" responses from the crowd that I'll detail at the bottom of the article somewhere. To the guy that refused to answer the "Preferred alternate Wake football uniform" question because he's "Not a fashion critic. Get real," I applaud you for staying true to yourself. Alright, enough small talk. Let's get to the results.
A total of 570 of you filled out the survey this year, with 42% of all respondents labeling themselves as Alumni of 10+ years. Another 24% we're younger alumni (0-9 years since graduation), and 25% were labeled friends and fans of Wake Forest. Also 4 people completed the survey that weren't alums, fans, parents, or students, but simply enjoy checking boxes and answering multiple choice questions. We appreciate you 4 just as much as everybody else on here.
Here are the results of each of the other 9 questions and a few thoughts on how the fanbase ended up voting.
Question #1: I’m more invested and engaged in Wake Forest sports now than I was two years ago:
Unsurprisingly, the results were weighted toward the more positive end of the spectrum in the first question of the survey. As I noted in an article last June, the 2016-17 athletic year was arguably the best in school history, featuring standout years from Wake Baseball, Men's Soccer, Men's Tennis, and more. Since that article was written, Wake Men's Soccer won 2 more ACC titles, Women's Soccer and Field Hockey earned NCAA bids, Football won the Belk Bowl in Charlotte, and Men's Tennis won an Indoor National Championship. With the good vibes rolling, fans seem to be staying more engaged year round.
Question #2: The program I’m most excited about in the next year is...
Wake Football dominated this question with 61% of the fanbase listing Dave Clawson's program as the one their most hyped for. If Men's Basketball was slightly more competitive this year, one would think that the 2018 recruiting class alone would've been able to make this a closer race at the top. 15% still listed Danny Manning's program as the team their most excited about next year, while just 9% listed the reigning ACC Champs in Men's Soccer.
Question #3: Favorite 'Deac in the Pros' right now?
For the first time in probably a long time, someone not named Chris Paul or Tim Duncan is the Pro Deac at the top of this list. Enter John Collins. Given the fact he was wearing Black & Gold less than 12 months ago, led Wake back to the NCAA tourney, and is having a terrific rookie season, I can't say I'm really surprised. The long gap of Wake players in the NBA draft meant that whoever broke the drought was always going to be seen as a hero of sorts. The fact that John's game is a non-stop highlight reel and he's a stand up guy in the community only further establishes that fan appreciation. Welcome to the #1 spot, Mr. Collins!
Collins finished with 38% of the votes. Other names not listed, but had write-ins were Ish Smith (10), Bill Haas (9), and Tommy Bohanon (8).
Question #4: Which best describes your following of Wake Forest recruiting?
I'll admit I probably spend far too much time every month following Wake Forest recruiting and writing/tweeting/podcasting about it for my own good. The great news is it looks like a decent amount of you actually love this stuff just as much as I do! Or at least that's what you're telling me so I don't feel like I'm wasting my time.
26% of respondents labeled themselves as "Avid Followers" of Wake recruiting and another 41% said their active interest fades in and out depending on the time of year. Recruiting is a very seasonal topic so the fact that this response finished with the largest tally didn't surprise me in the slightest. The spring/summer months are full of recruiting updates for basketball and the fall leading up to December is now particularly active for football. Recruiting is one of those topics you can kind of zone in and out at will and get caught up with a few articles when necessary. And for those that love to dive deep into it 365 days a year, we'll have that content available for you here on BSD as well.
Question #5: In terms of Wake Forest Athletics, rank these four options in order of what you want more of (1=Most want, 4=Least want):
Out of all the questions, this was the one I honestly had no clue which way it was going to go. I've heard of all these suggestions at one point or another, and the balance of the answer really speaks to just how beneficial all these initiatives would be.
All four options got at least 20% of the "Most Want" selections, with the top pick being more "Behind the Scenes" content at 32%. I personally think "All-Access" type content is set to explode in college sports in the next few years given the popularity of shows like QB1: Beyond the Lights and Overtime's social media takeover. Fans across the country are looking for additional ways to follow star players/recruits from their schools and stay engaged with programs' brands. You also are seeing more schools like UGA use this type of content as a recruiting tool on social media, investing thousands of dollars in new videos each and every week that further generates buzz around the program. It's a unique way to gain a competitive advantage in a world where social media continues to expand in influence.
Wake has clearly upped its game in the last couple of months in this department, posting a number of hype videos around this year's #theAwakening. Given the fanbase's positive response to these clips and the amazing new facilities that can be shown off to potential recruits, I wouldn't expect these videos to slow down anytime soon.
Question #6: Which one of these accomplishments comes first for Wake Athletics?
For this question, I wanted to pick 4 options that were all unique in accomplishment but fairly equal in overall difficulty based on the programs' statuses.
Danny Manning will have his most experienced/talented team in his head coaching career next year to work with, Dave Clawson continues to take huge steps in the right direction, Wake Men's soccer has been a Top 3 program since Bobby Muuss arrived, and any program is always one offseason away from having an All-American type talent on the roster (Ex: John Collins).
In the end, the fanbase went with the option that has undoubtedly been the closest to becoming a reality in recent years: A National Championship in soccer.
It'd be interesting to how votes would've changed if "Top 5 pick" switched to "Top 10 pick" given the fact Wake has had a few players taken just outside of that mark in recent MLB, NFL, and NBA drafts (Craig, Johnson, Collins). I could see some fans talking themselves into someone like Jaylen Hoard there as a 5* with massive upside. Food for thought.
Question #7: Apart from a winning team, the one thing the new Joel Coliseum (after the renovations) must have is ______?
There were 570 responses to this question and I looked through each and every one of them to try and understand what Deacon fans are looking for when the Joel gets a new look. The two main themes that stood out were:
- Fewer seats (And ones that aren't teal in the upper deck)
- A revamped student section along the side of the court
The request for fewer seats is going to be fulfilled based on all the early rumblings that have come out. As you're well aware, Wake Forest has the smallest enrollment in the ACC yet plays in the 5th biggest arena in the conference at 14,665 seats. While disappointing seasons certainly haven't helped, it'd be tough for a lot of schools (Even with 10x the student body) to sell nearly 15k tickets 15+ times a year. Oregon went to the Final Four last year and didn't break 10,000 fans a game. Texas A&M has 50,000 students, had two extra home games, and STILL didn't sell as many total tickets as Wake did last year.
Reducing the number of seats makes the arena feel more packed, which helps in recruiting and the atmosphere in general on gamedays. We're probably a year or two away from hearing the official announcement, but my guess is the Joel ends up with around 10,500 seats, and yes, those gross teal chairs will be repainted as well.
As for the student section, I'm a big fan of moving it along the side of the court like many of you. Having students take up the first 5 rows behind the media in a compact, "standing-only" section is an idea I've heard tossed around by a lot of fans over the years. You could still have a separate section for students behind the basket as well, but potentially make the sideline seats slightly more desirable.
The New Era: A Plan to Revive the Wake Forest Basketball Student Section https://t.co/FwnGKyrdHU— Volley So Dear (@BloggerSoDear) March 22, 2017
If done correctly, a points system that rewards those who attend Wake sporting events could give top student fans priority seating on the sidelines and help in attendance across the board. A student on the bubble of going to an early non-conference game might end up pulling the trigger on attending if they know it could help them get premier seats for the Duke game. There's still a lot of brainstorming to be done on this topic, but at least the fanbase seems to agree we should be considering new options.
Question #8: Pick your preferred Wake Forest alternate football uniform in 2018:
Will a gold jersey eventually work its way back into the Wake Football uni rotation? That's what the fans are hoping for. 36% of respondents listed a gold jersey with the updated Nike design as their preferred alternate uniform in 2018. I have no inside knowledge on this, but I don't think it's out of the question for a new alternate to become a reality given the fact the Black w/ Gold Sleeves jersey fell out of favor in 2017 (It didn't appear once in 13 games).
I'm personally a huge proponent of bringing back the "Flying WF" logo in some capacity given it's unique look from everything else Wake teams typically wear. I've noticed in the past year the bookstore has begun to sell more merchandise with this logo on it, maybe signaling the athletic department is thinking about a little revival. Put that design on a matte black helmet with our all-black jerseys and I think you have a real winner.
Bonus: One of the best responses on the question, however, was one of the write-ins from an anonymous Deac. They suggested a helmet with the silhouette of the "Running Deacon" statue on a matte background, and I think it's pure genius. 1) It's a reference to where the players walk into the stadium on gamedays 2) It's completely different from anything else we've ever tried and 3) And it's simple and can be versatile in any virtually color. Love it.
Question #9: Place the rest of the ACC schools into these 5 categories:
If you ever want to start a fight with a fellow Deac, just say you're a Louisville fan and that'll probably do the trick. A whopping 56% of you put UL in the "The Actual Worst" category on this question, more than any other school. Only 13 out of 570 of said you "Kinda liked them" or they are "Tolerable". The next most hated school had 59 votes in these categories. Between #WakeyLeaks, Pitino's scandals, and the fact the school has zero ACC history, I can understand why the fanbase doesn't care for UL that much. But damn, we've had rivalries with Duke, UNC, and State for over a 100 years and the Cardinals still came out on top as the "Most Hated" by a wide margin. That's hard to do.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, Wake fans have a really favorable view of UVA, with 1⁄3 of you saying you actually liked the Cavaliers (More than double the next preferred option). BC, Pitt, and Georgia Tech rounded out the rest of the "Harmless Tier", while Duke and UNC joined the foes from Kentucky as most disliked. Everyone else was in the middle somewhere with varying degrees of favorability across the board. You can see the weighted averages of the responses in the table above (1.0 being the most liked, 5.0 being the most disliked).
And last but not least, here were some of my favorite write-in responses from the survey to end this article on a high note. I'm considering making next year entirely write-in/short essay just to see what sort of wild content you all come up with. Stay tuned.
Best Write In Responses for the question 'Apart from a winning team, the one thing the new Joel Coliseum (After the renovations) must have is ______?'
"Emotional support animals"
"HOT WATER IN THE BATHROOMS"
"A fish tank"
"Insert blanket statement about more alcohol here"
And the winner.... "Chick.FIl.A"
It's about time we officially take this Chickfila thing to the next level anyway.
Thanks for reading everyone and see you next year!
You can follow Ned on Twitter @DeacFan3 for Wake Forest sports stats and recruiting news.