Athletic director's monthly newsletter 2: Gearing-up to improve fan experience

Mr. Jim Knowlton, the Air Force Academy's 11th athletic director, introduces himself to the cadet wing from the staff tower of Mitchell Hall March 30, 2015. Knowlton replaced Dr. Hans Mueh, who retired in January 2015. (U.S. Air Force photo/Jason Gutierrez)

Mr. Jim Knowlton, the Air Force Academy's 11th athletic director, introduces himself to the cadet wing from the staff tower of Mitchell Hall March 30, 2015. Knowlton replaced Dr. Hans Mueh, who retired in January 2015. (U.S. Air Force photo/Jason Gutierrez)

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- What an exciting time of the year. Classes have started and our teams have been competing.

We kicked off the start of the academic year with an ice cream social with all 1,000 of our intercollegiate athletes. Lt. Gen. Michelle D. Johnson, the Academy superintendent, shared some inspirational words with our teams and we introduced our head coaches and several key athletic department staff members. It was important to let our cadet-athletes know how our athletic village supports them every day and where they can go to get the support they need. We shared a meal and ice cream together and it was a big success. I'm very enthused to see our teams in action.

I'm very excited to share with you our Falcon Fuel program. Our team worked with teammates from across the campus to provide cadets with fuel stations to keep them powered throughout their day. We have 4,000 elite athletes here and this program is designed for every one of them. We have these fuel stations outside all our weight rooms and cadets can get protein bars, fruit, chocolate milk, protein drinks, and etc., before, during and after workouts. It was a total team effort and we were able to use existing funds from the Cadet Dining Hall and the Mountain West Conference student-assistance fund for the project.

With football season starting, fans and supporters have an opportunity to engage our program like never before. We have reached an agreement with Altitude Sports and Entertainment to do a 30-minute coaches show. The 15-week program will air mostly on Thursday nights at 5:30 p.m. with multiple re-air dates as well. Check our website for the latest details on air times. In addition, we have increased our social media presence and fans can stay connected with all our programs like never before.  We launched the redesign of our new website Aug. 18 and are excited about all its new features. The site is easier to navigate and has buttons for video-on-demand and live video. You can download all our sports schedules to your outlook or other calendar programs to keep up on the latest action. In addition, check out the live video and see the updates we've made with our video streaming. We are using professional announcers and multiple cameras for all the streams. We think you'll enjoy these upgrades.

One of video you'll want to check out on the website is about our new football uniforms. One of our athletic partners has upgraded our package and we are wearing the best the company makes. Their continued support is vital for us moving forward.

Parent's Weekend was a huge success for us. It was great to welcome the parents to the Academy. We opened our newly remodeled Blue-Silver Club in Falcon Stadium. We received lots of positive feedback and invite you to visit our website to see a video about the renovations and how you can become a part of the club. We have also increased our wireless signals at the stadium which we hope will give fans the opportunity to enjoy their devices during the games. In addition, we hosted our cadet-athletes parents and introduced our Falcons for Life program. The parents were excited to hear about ways they can support our programs. Lastly, we hosted 1,100 at our cadet-athlete parents tailgate the next day.

How our fans feel is very important. We are striving to connect to our fans like never before and have recently started our Fan Engagement Committee which is made up of passionate fans that we are meeting with to share ideas and get feedback. Our first meeting was very productive and we'll continue them throughout the year. If you're interested, contact our marketing office at 333-2626 for more information on how to get involved.

The San Jose State game was particularly exciting for us. We hosted several reunion classes and kicked off a football alumni weekend with a golf tournament followed by a dinner and special on-field recognition during the game. One highlight was having the legendary Fisher DeBerry return to the Academy and be a vital part of the weekend. Coach was part of everything that took place with our alumni and is as excited as ever about the future of Air Force athletics and we are excited to have him back in the fold.

Our programs are off to a great start to the season. The football team is 2-1 overall and sits atop the conference with a 1-0 record. We were so proud of their effort last week at No. 4 Michigan State and received so much positive feedback from the great folks in East Lansing and from the Spartan athletic administration about how well our young men represented the Academy. The Michigan State game was televised national by ABC with a full national telecast, meaning it was available in 112 million homes or 97 percent of the nation.

The volleyball team had a great trip to the Pentagon for a volleyball tournament they hosted. They opened the week with a victory at Navy, followed by a 3-1 record in the tournament. The team swept Harvard and beat Pac-12 member California. The team came from down 0-2 vs. the Bears to win in five. Akokwe Clement was named the conference's player of the week for her performance in the tournament.

The cross country team had a great showing in its first meet of the season at the Colorado State Invitational. Senior Hannah Everson was named the conference's runner of the week, as well as the USTFCCA national runner of the week, a first for an academy track and field athlete.

We rounded out a first for our department with four conference players of the week, as D.J. Johnson and Weston Steelhammer were named offensive and defensive players of the week, respectively, in Air Force's victory over San Jose State. We were the only conference team to win in week two of the season.

Men's soccer posted one of the most exciting wins of the early season and in program history with a thrilling 1-0 win over service academy rival Army West Point. The Falcons scored in overtime in front of a school-record crowd of 3,683. I was thrilled to see so many cadet-athletes from others teams supporting each other at this and other events so far this year.

The women's soccer team also posted a huge win in the early part of this season, beating Denver, 2-0, to mark the program's first win over the Pioneers since 1999. It was particularly exciting to see the victory, as it was part of the Colorado Cup competition between all the Division I programs in the state.

I hope you continue to find these letters informative and helpful. We look forward to meeting and working with everyone in our community and need your vital support to help us get better. We want to ensure the Academy continues to represent our community and produces leaders of character for our nation.

Thank You and Go Falcons!