As a 10th grader at Southern Lab School in Baton Rouge, La., Alvin Hollins tried out for the football team. Without prior experience with an organized team, he looked to finally get involved with a team that he could call his own.
His football career ended up being shorter than Terrell Owens’ stint with the Baltimore Ravens.
“I tried out, but just didn’t stick with it,” said the Florida A&M University sports information director. “I went to about three or four practices and that was it for me.”
Refusing to give up his love for sports, Hollins turned to journalism in high school, while still keeping stats for the team. These elements have proven to be a solid base for the true career Hollins would take on.
He joined the athletic department at FAMU as the sports information director in August of 1979. After working at Southern University in its athletic department, Hollins became aware of a job opening at FAMU.
“I applied for the position and was hired by [former FAMU athletic director] Hansel Tookes,” Hollins said. “He gave me the opportunity, and I’ve pretty much been here ever since.”
Hollins’ task as SID is to provide publicity for all of FAMU’s 18 sports. News releases, press conferences and photos are just a few of the many requests that the media bring to Hollins in order to completely cover the teams. He also provides the media with access to the administration, coaches and athletes.
“It takes a lot of long hours, late nights and weekends to do the job, but being at FAMU, everyone has pride, so we take pride in what we do all the time,” Hollins said.
One of the most difficult jobs Hollins has is getting information out on the often less popular sports.
“Everyone is always interested in football, volleyball and basketball,” Hollins explained. “We’ve tried to be balanced with all the sports because we know parents and alumni care, not just the media. But if the media knows about it, they’ll come. So that’s been our goal. “
Taking advantage of the technological advances of today, Hollins has been busy working with the Rattlers’ official athletic website, www.thefamurattlers.com, to help further the exposure of the school.
“Everything is quicker now,” Hollins said. “But people expect it faster. Our fans are sophisticated, and we do our best to match expectations.”
Although the site, which only started last December, is fairly new, Hollins said he has received positive feedback about it. Fans have voiced their opinions and have been pleased with its direction.
“We know people are interested when they say they would like to see football pics on the page,” Hollins said.
If publicity seems to be the main focus of his job, the selling of FAMU is also a major aspect of it. The men’s basketball team had a special occasion that called for such actions last season when 3-point ace Terrence Woods, the two-time 3-point champion, was not invited to the national 3-point contest. Behind a campaign spearheaded by Hollins and the basketball coaching staff, Woods was selected to participate and won the competition.
“It was a joint effort between our office and [head coach Mike] Gillespie,” Hollins explained. “We emailed a lot of people, like ESPN, CBS Sportsline and several basketball writers. Our main thing was how can you deny him in the contest if he’s leading the nation two years in a row? And when he won, we were very happy to see that.”
“There was so much going on for the team, but I just kept telling Coach I wanted to be in it,” said Woods about the contest. “Hollins and Coach told me they would keep doing what they could and push as hard as they could.”
Woods believes Hollins would act the same in any similar situation.
“He would definitely make the same push for any other athlete,” Woods said.
Coach Gillespie stressed that Hollins has done an unbelievable job both for Woods and the entire athletic program.
“Him and [assistant sports information director] Ronnie Johnson did an outstanding job,” Gillespie said. “He’s been a wonderful SID and we are extremely grateful for his work behind the scenes.”
While Hollins has a mental library of countless success stories similar to Woods’, not every one turned out for the better. The decision to put the Rattlers’ move to Division I-A on hold and remain in Division I-AA left a bitter taste.
“There was a lot of excitement in the beginning because we were heading into uncharted waters,” Hollins remembered. “But the decision to stay put a damper on things. It hurt us in a lot of ways, especially recruiting.”
Hollins feels that the move could have been successful in three years if the school was sold better.
“The administration is starting to do a better job by knocking on doors,” Hollins said. “We’re really looking to work out more deals in the next few years with TV. Any TV coverage is good because it can make more fans aware of the games and how fun they can be.”
The job of being sports information director has its perks. Hollins described the relationships he’s built between he and the coaches and athletes as one of the great benefits of the position.
“I’ve had the chance to meet players who’ve gone pro,” Hollins said. “I get inside of sports and get to be a part of it. You’re not going to find any other job with a front row seat at every big game.”
Contact Lemont Calloway at firstname.lastname@example.org