Today is a sad day at Hurrdat as we have to say goodbye to the monthly print magazine component of Hail Varsity. To keep a meaningful brand like Hail Varsity going means making heart-wrenching decisions. Despite all our investments and the teams’ continued efforts, after seven years, we, like many in the print industry, had to face facts. We could not build enough subscriber and advertiser support to continue the monthly print component of Hail Varsity.
However, the Hail Varsity brand will live on, covering the Huskers. We will evolve and tell Husker stories in the places and ways Husker fans want to consume Husker content today.
The history of Hail Varsity is that it was founded in 2012. In 2013, when I first saw an issue, I loved what the founder had developed. The Hurrdat business relationship with the Hail Varsity brand started when the founder and team trusted Hurrdat to build a new website and consult in various ways starting in 2014. In 2016 we made our first investment into Hail Varsity and, within a year, acquired the rest of the company.
Over the past seven years, we have done everything we could dream up to build the Hail Varsity brand awareness to grow the subscriber base and increase advertiser support to keep the print issues going. A short recap of efforts:
We took over the Railyard in Lincoln and put the brand in front of thousands of Husker fans every game day. After building the most successful year for any business in the Railyard, Covid hit and squashed all momentum built at this venue.
We bought a media production company that allowed us to go from one podcast to dozens of podcasts covering the Huskers and reaching millions of sports fans monthly.
We built the first restaurant with an in-house podcast and radio studio bearing the Hail Varsity brand name, allowing fans to connect with Husker Greats regularly.
We expanded our sports media holdings to include preps, other NCAA properties, and pros coverage to bookend the Husker coverage.
We expanded our radio footprint, increasing the hours per day we were on the air from two to five and expanding the reach from just Lincoln to Omaha, Lincoln, and the Tri-Cities area.
However, these efforts did not increase the subscriber base or ad support enough to afford the printing and other costs associated with producing a multi-page monthly magazine. As much as I love the print component of Hail Varsity, I could no longer responsibly justify producing a monthly magazine and letting it serve as a loss leader for the other parts of the Hurrdat organization.
Looking toward the future, we are committed to bringing you coverage of Husker sports and other in-depth sports coverage across Nebraska. Hail Varsity and other Hurrdat brands will provide some very exciting products and a team dedicated to the future direction of our sports properties.
Hurrdat Sports was formed in 2022 as a part of Hurrdat Media to be a single place for all our Nebraska sports brands to live and work together to tell sports stories across the State of Nebraska. Hail Varsity, NebPreps, Mavs All Access, Bluejay Breakdown, and NebPros will continue to operate under the Hurrdat Sports umbrella as they have been since last year.
Hurrdat Sports has not only built successful relationships with every sports organization it has ever interacted with but also developed a successful business model helping sports organizations grow their online presence, recruit talent, sell tickets, and develop packages advertisers are excited about. Here are a few examples of how Hurrdat Sports has helped local sports organizations this year:
We helped the Pinnacle Bank Championship increase attendance by 64% year over year.
We helped the Omaha Supernovas sell 80% of their season ticket deposits within 48 hours of their official announcement.
We created content used by coaches in recruiting talent that universities didn’t have the resources to create.
Hurrdat Sports properties, including Hail Varsity, and the talent behind it are on pace to create more than 400 million impressions on social media, have more than 15 million podcast downloads, and more than 2 million video views this year. These are numbers I never could’ve dreamed of, and while I’m sad at the loss of a print product, my spirits are buoyed that we have the channels to continue to share important sports news with fans across Nebraska and beyond.
In the last year, our restaurant, Hail Varsity Club, has hosted more than Husker watch parties, productions, and fans. We’ve hosted UNO Mavericks, Creighton Bluejays, Omaha Storm Chasers, Union Omaha, multiple high schools, and professional and collegiate athletes nationwide. Because we are a home for all Nebraska sports, and based on the success of Hurrdat Sports, the restaurant’s name no longer feels as inclusive or representative as it should be.
On August 21, 2023, Hail Varsity Club will host one final event under the current brand name. On August 22nd, we will close to start rebranding and restaurant improvement efforts. On August 28, 2023, we will reopen as Hurrdat Sports Bar and Grill. The restaurant will continue to offer programming that includes live radio, podcasting, music, autograph signings, and appearances from special guests across the Hurrdat Media Network.
Sadly, We are saying goodbye to some valued teammates today, but I’m happy to say that we found ways to continue utilizing the talents of nearly 70% of the Hail Varsity team who will create content for Hail Varsity and Hurrdat Sports. John and Eric will continue to shoot photos for Hail Varsity and expand the sports they cover. Mike S. and Jacob will continue to cover preps, recruits, basketball, and more. Mike B. will write two weekly Hail Varsity emails, one infusing his unique history with the program over the last forty years and one with his thoughts on the most recent Husker news.
While we must say goodbye to our monthly magazine, I do not believe print is dead. We are committed to not only continuing to tell all the sports stories we can cover across the state of Nebraska, but we are also committed to producing future special edition print products that our fans have supported.
Husker Nation and sports in Nebraska are as strong and valued as they ever have been. I am proud of our team, our efforts, and that I get to be a part of the Nebraska sports media community. I look forward to the future success of Hail Varsity, Hurrdat Sports, and the rest of the Hurrdat organization. Thank you to everyone who has supported us over the years and who will be alongside us as we move forward. GBR.