Champion grad guiding YSU marketing
Chris Sumner surveys the scene out on the court, along with the others at the Beeghly Center.
The 2006 Champion High School graduate looks on and tries to line up a couple of competitors. It’s much different than 10 college-age men vying for possession of a basketball.
Two young children rush down the floor, trying to gather enlarged, replica versions of lettuce, cheese and tomatoes and put them on the cloth versions of a hamburger bun. It’s a relay race going the 94-feet of the floor.
Prizes are distributed as he tries to get as much in during a scheduled time out on the floor of a Youngstown State basketball game.
There were about 2,000 people in attendance that night in the arena that seats more than 6,000.
Sumner, a University of Akron graduate, worked for the Mahoning Valley Scrappers for eight seasons prior to taking over as YSU’s Assistant Athletic Director for Marketing and Event Management in June 2017.
“What I’m trying to do is bring a lot of minor-league aspects to here with my background being in minor-league baseball,” he said. “Trying to make it more than just the game. It’s a bit different at the college level. People come out for wins and losses. The product we put on this floor, it’s something to be really excited about. It’s a nice nucleus here. A lot of these kids have played together for the last couple of years. Looking for a lot big things not only this year, but in the future.
“I love our coaching staff and the things we’ve been doing here so far. I look forward to a great basketball program.”
The preparation starts way before the season as he has conversations with the coaching staff. Sumner works with both the men’s and women’s basketball programs.
His list of duties is long: Free food, T-shirts and trying to get student to come to the games — putting up fliers in the dorms around campus.
Sumner is busy on social media, trying to get the word out about promotions.
“He’s a young, up-and-coming guy. He’s got great vision,” said YSU men’s basketball coach Jerrod Calhoun.
All summer Sumner is selling sponsorships, signs, program and radio advertisements. Then he gets into football season and men’s and women’s basketball. He manages the promotional items and the in-game promotions — just trying to get people to attend games.
It’s not just the students. He’s trying to attract all the younger crowds to come to the Beeghly Center.
Sumner, 32, along with the men’s basketball team, have a reading club program enacted. The YSU men’s team is working with the Warren City Schools.
“Trying to get our face out there and try to create that fan base at an early age,” Sumner said. “Hopefully, they continue to come back as fans.”
The YSU men’s team takes four to five players up to Warren to read books to children. The father of YSU sophomore guard Darius Quisenberry writes children’s books. The Penguins are reading those books to the children in Warren.
“We’re going to honor them at a game, get them T-shirts,” Calhoun said. “That’s an opportunity to grow on both sides. That’s what life is about.”
Life has been good to Sumner, who was a junior on the 2005 Champion baseball team that made the state semifinals.
“It’s something I always look back at,” he said. “When you’re in that moment, everybody says you better cherish these times because they go by fast. You don’t realize that until you look back 10, 15 years ago. It was a heck of a run.”