By Jeremy Stafford - email@example.com
The excitement is humming at Shenandoah University.
SU's football team has a clean slate -- last year's 1-9 debacle has been whitewashed from the Hornets' memory like old, crusty paint.
It's a new team, a new year.
And in celebration of the season's arrival, Shenandoah Athletic Director Wayne Edwards will put on a daring, exhilarating show at Shentel Stadium on Saturday evening.
Get to the stadium early, Edwards insists, or you may miss the soiree's feature event.
At 6:52 p.m. -- game-time is slated for 7 -- Tres Waugh and Bobby Page will spill from the Winchester sky, float softly into the stadium, land gently onto the Sprint Field turf.
Waugh and Page, a team of skydivers from 3rd Dimension Productions, of Suffolk, will fall 5,500 feet in about three minutes and 45 seconds, assuming winds don't swirl any faster than 5 mph.
One skydiver will carry the game ball, the other will carry a ceremonial ball. Each diver will also grasp a flag: one for the Unites States, one for Shenandoah University.
"This should be a lot of fun," Edwards said. "I'm looking forward to it."
Nick Nerangis will perform the coin toss prior to the game.
Nerangis is a managing partner for the Alamo Drafthouse Cinemas in Winchester, which is sponsoring Saturday's football game against Catholic University.
And because the local theater is sponsoring the game, costumed characters -- Austin Powers and Darth Vader, to name a couple -- will prance through the Shentel Stadium bleachers as a peripheral entertainment.
Saturday's amusements are only a sliver of an example of what Edwards has done to promote Shenandoah athletics since he became AD in January.
Edwards has found more than 100 sponsors for SU athletics, including such nationally recognized brands as Subaru and McDonald's. He's sold out the school's radio advertising; he's sold out its scoreboard advertising.
Every one of Shenandoah's home football games this season will have a sponsor.
"I've been hustling this past summer with [SU men's basketball coach] Rob Harris on the streets since June, just trying to generate excitement," Edwards said.
Nerangis is also involved with several local McDonald's, so Edwards has hung posters touting Shenandoah athletics in many of the fast-food eateries.
All the advertising has certainly been a step forward for the small D-III school. Which is to be expected; Edwards has been associated with athletic programs from all over the D-I spectrum -- he was an associate AD at Yale, and served more recently as the AD at Towson.
But don't think the big-name schools have spoiled him: "I'm as excited about this as I've been about anything I've been involved with," Edwards said.
In fact, the effort Edwards has put forth in recent months is more like an invigorating evening stroll when compared to the hectic, fevered sprints he hustled through at Towson.
In Baltimore, Edwards competed with Johns Hopkins University, Goucher College, the University of Maryland Baltimore County, and others for public attention. There were also the Orioles and Ravens to compete with, and the Naval Academy was only a short drive away.
In Winchester, there is only Shenandoah.
"I like what Dr. Edwards is doing," SU linebacker John Redmond said. "He's doing great things, he's trying to excite not only the university, but the city of Winchester."
Edwards said the added publicity might not translate immediately to wins, but a greater community interest will eventually lead to a stronger funding of newer, statelier facilities.
In turn, Shenandoah will attract a broader range of athlete, and a broader range of fan.
"If I don't have a product worth selling, I don't want to be a part of it," Edwards said. "I think we have something worth selling.
"We want to create an environment that is really special; we want people to think that Shenandoah is the epitome of what D-III sports should be about."