Photo by Marisa Padilla
Freshmen dominate the Riptide leaderboard and look to change the face of Pepperdine sports
Student attendance at games has been a pressing issue for Pepperdine Athletics since time immemorial, but have they finally found the answer to their problems in the Riptide program?
Riptide was historically a group that students had to pay to be a part of, but its revamp in 2012 saw it evolve into a student rewards program where students can earn prizes through a point system that lives online.
Pepperdine’s athletic success is considerable for a school of its size; Pepperdine is a Division I school in the NCAA and remains nationally competitive with some of the top athletes and coaches in the country. Yet for many years, the school has struggled with garnering home game support for its teams, a frustration shared by top administrators and fans alike.
The efforts by the marketing department of Pepperdine Athletics have not been in vain. Many new initiatives, which focus on grassroots marketing tactics, have seen marked increases in student participation — for example, Rally Crew, Wave Zone and now Riptide.
Riptide’s strategy is ambitous in its scope and reach; it implements a competitive aspect with increased awareness through social media and harmless bribery. Simply by creating an online profile students can earn points by attending athletic events or posting about them on social media, such as Twitter and Facebook. Attractive prizes include Pepperdine lanyards, Riptide T-Shirts, Chick-fil-A coupons and bragging rights.
Riptide’s succes also led it to be featured by Sports Business Now as “the solution to the problem [of increasing student attendance at Olympic sports].” According to the same article, 2012 statistics reported a 29 to 66 percent increase in attendance yielded by Riptide Reward giveaways.
That’s not to say that Riptide has not garnered its critics as well. Some students have complained that not all of their points have shown up in the system, despite attempts to contact the administration with the problem. A common critique of the Riptide program has been a dissatisfaction about where student dollars are going. But since Pepperdine’s budgetary problems have not yet reached the level of a governmental shutdown, most still seem amenable to let that one go.
What’s more surprising is that four of the top six on the Riptide leaderboard are close friends and from the same dorm, Ann Peppers Hall. They are all men, too.
“The best thing about going to the games is meeting like-minded people … I’ve met a lot of friends going to the games, and that’s pretty cool,” said No. 3 on the leaderboard Hunter Grusd.
Freshmen Kirkland Fehrman, Hunter Grusd and Amir Patel are No. 1, No. 3 and No. 6 on the Riptide leaderboard, respectively. Within the top six, the points range from 36,500 to 72,750, with Fehrman in a 17,750 point lead over the closest contender.
All three freshmen were encouraged to participate with Riptide by their RA for House Cup points but have since been encouraged to greater heights by the friendly rivalry within their group of friends. None of them have traded in any of their points but prefer holding out for the personal satisfaction of having bragging rights with their friends.
Games that they enjoy going to are women’s soccer and volleyball. Fehrman, Grusd and Patel are also looking forward to the start of basketball season.
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As published in the Oct. 3, 2013 issue of the Pepperdine Graphic.