Marketing and Promotions

From a Zag fan at Freeman, WA, to Gonzaga team manager to bartender at Jack and Dan's, Aaron Hill has slowly climbed the ladder and now heads up marketing and promotions at his alma mater.

Born and Raised:

I was born in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, and lived in Post Falls through kindergarten. I moved to the Spokane Valley the summer before first grade, and have been here ever since. I attended Freeman High School and considered playing basketball at a community college or a small four year school, but I realized that the NBA probably was not in my future. So, I decided to focus on school and get a job to help pay my way.

Choosing Gonzaga was real easy for me. My dad's work had season tickets, and I had been attending Gonzaga basketball games for a long time. I remember watching Hank Gathers and Bo Kimble play here, as well Doug Christie and Steve Nash. We went to a lot of baseball games too. Darrin Blood was from Post Falls and I remember following him when I was real young, so I always wanted to come and watch him pitch when he was at GU. We also came down to watch John Olerud and local prospect Kevin Stocker when they came to play against the Zags.

Also, choosing a private school was real important to me. I only applied to private colleges because I thought that having a private education would help distinguish me in the job search after college. I also wanted to stay close to home because spending time with my family and being able to go home for holidays were both valuable to me. So, I decided to go to Gonzaga for a variety of reasons, but mostly because I knew that it was a great academic school, it was close to home, and I had been a Zag fan for a long time.

Tenure as Team Manager:

When I decided to go to Gonzaga, I knew that I would have to get a job to help pay for school. My dad worked in the sporting goods industry, and he knew the basketball coaches pretty well. He told me to give Coach Monson a call and see if I could help out for a work-study job. I figured that it would be a great job, because at the time I really thought that I wanted to be a college basketball coach. Coach Monson was great and he offered me the manager job for the upcoming season because their old manager (Drew Daniels) was graduating. So I actually started working for the basketball program at their summer camps in the summer of 1997 before school started. I had that job all four years of college and helped organize the camps in the summer.

As far as highlights of those years go, I would say the whole time was pretty magical. I have some great memories from my years with the team and remain close with many of the former players. One of the highlights for me was traveling and seeing other cities. I've been to 35 of the 50 states and most of those came through traveling with the basketball team. We won a ton of games and advanced to the post-season every year I was here. My first year was the NIT and we made the 2nd round before losing at Hawaii. The next year was the Elite Eight, and then we went to back to back Sweet Sixteen's. It was a lot of fun and something that I will never forget. The only real lowlights were going through the ups and downs of a season. I went to all the practices and when the team wasn't playing well, it could get pretty intense. Also, the academic load of traveling and missing class and having hours of practice and games would sometimes wear you down. Until you go through the schedule of an athlete, you really don't realize how grueling it is. I found out in a hurry just how tough it is to be a Division I athlete. Luckily, I didn't have to practice and play, so at least I wasn't physically drained like the fellas were, but it's still tough. Also, the last game of the year is always tough. When you get so close to the guys on the team and are there to share every moment with them, losing the last game and realizing that they are graduating is tough. Fortunately, we always ended the year in the post season feeling that the team had done pretty good, but it was always tough to say goodbye to the seniors.

On being one of the guys:

Right from the start the team was real nice to me and accepted me as one of the guys, which I was worried about going in. Kevin Williams was a graduate assistant my first year and he kind of took me under his wing and watched out for me. I was pretty naïve coming into college, and I am lucky that those guys watched out for me. We had a great group of people when I was here. The coaches treated me well and the players viewed me as a team member. They always included me in team functions. I even did the off-season conditioning with them and was a weight lifting partner when they needed a fill in. After my freshman year, I roomed with Ryan Floyd and Mike Nilson. It was a lot of fun. We had another roommate, Ben Grubner, who was real a real laid back guy and Mike's brother Marc also lived with us. The next year Big Ed (Eric Edelstein) moved in. We had a blast. Our house kind of became the team hang-out and there was always entertainment with Big Ed around. It was almost like a fraternity environment. The thing that I will remember the most about my college years is how close the team was. We always hung out together. I still remain in contact with a lot of those guys and am real close with some of them.

The nickname Hobus:

One thing about the Men's Basketball program is that they are big on giving people nicknames. It was almost like a game – everybody had a nickname of some sort. Early in the year my freshman year the team was hanging out and we got going on sports talk and trivia. Big Ed is a sports trivia master, and we were all kind of going back and forth on sports and asking questions as we went. Then we started talking about John Stockton. Since I grew up in the area, I was a huge John Stockton fan. I had been going to his camps since I was real young. We got going on his career accomplishments and on his records and then on his camps. Someone asked why his camps were held in Post Falls before they were held at Gonzaga, and I said it was because Hugh Hobus was the coach there and he had played with John at GU. Everyone laughed because I kind of blirted it out of nowhere and the name Hugh Hobus is pretty unique. Well, the nickname stuck and the team started calling me Hobus at practice the next day. The coaches caught on and it snowballed. Now, there are probably more people that call me Hobus than call me Aaron. That's okay though, at least I knew that I was excepted when I got a nickname.

Major:

I was a business major at Gonzaga and concentrated in Economics. I also minored in Sports Management and History. I really didn't know what I wanted to do when I came to college other than possibly coach college basketball, so I figured that a business major was pretty marketable after college. Maybe it would help me find a job easier than being a Political Science or History major, which I also considered. I love History and so I took enough classes to get a minor in it. My sophomore year Gonzaga developed the Sports Management degree, so I figured that I would get a minor in that because by that time I had decided that I wanted to pursue a career in athletics. I knew that I loved sports and that if I had a job in sports I would go to work everyday and enjoy what I do.

Following Graduation:

In the spring of my senior year, I hadn't found a job yet and really didn't know what I was going to do the next year. I was doing my homework in Coach Grier's office one weekend when Coach Hertz came in. He asked me what I was doing next year and I told him that I hadn't decided on anything yet - I was thinking about going to grad school and just finishing all my school while I was still in the mode. He told me that he might have a job for me, and I was thinking that he knew someone who had an opening. It seems like Coach Hertz knows everyone. Well, Coach Hertz offered for me to be a graduate assistant baseball coach and I was shocked – like I just won the lottery or something. I have always been a huge baseball fan and played growing up and through high school (though not real well). I couldn't wait to sign on. I met with him and the other baseball coaches later that week and began as a graduate assistant as soon as school was out in May. I coached the Spokane Blue Devils American Legion team with Coach Hertz that summer and got my feet wet for fall ball. It was honestly one of the most rewarding experiences in my life. I had an absolute blast. We had a pretty good year and lost the league championship to Pepperdine on the last weekend of the season. The baseball coaching staff was great – I learned so much about baseball and had a lot of fun with Coach Hertz, Coach Machtolf, Coach Sheehan, and Coach Asan. They are great guys.

I decided that I didn't want to be a coach full time and go through the recruiting and the time away from family in the long run. So, I finished my master's and took a job with the Spokane Indians working in the front office. I was primarily in charge of group ticket sales, but, much like Gonzaga, I got the opportunity to experience many different functions of the athletics industry. That job lasted for eight months until I took the job here at Gonzaga as the Director of Marketing and Promotions.

Jack & Dan's:

I have been very fortunate in life in that I have always been surrounded by great people. Jack & Dan's is no different. Jack and JC are two real quality people to work for and I am fortunate that they provided me with the opportunity to work there for two years. I am proud to say that I have walked the tile and worn the apron at Jack & Dan's. The other bartenders there were a real fun group and I ended up living in a house with four of them. It has been a lot of fun and pure entertainment. Jack & Dan's is the best part time job I have ever had because you can work nights and still hold down a day job. I worked there while I was the Graduate Assistant Baseball Coach, through the summer and fall while I was finishing my Master's degree, and then I stayed on for weekends while I worked for the Spokane Indians. Not only is it extra money in the pocket, it is also a fun place to work. The people that you meet in the Tav and living the life of a bartender is pretty entertaining. Other than pouring beer and the actual work part of making sandwiches, cleaning up the bar, et cetera, the job is really about being social. People come to a bar to interact with other people. Being a bartender was great in that you met all kinds of different people from the community and learn about different elements of their industries. When I worked my first shift there, I'll never forget Jack talking to me about the job – he said being a bartender will complete your formal education – and he was right. I think that everyone should at some time work in the service industry because you end up picking up a lot of informal knowledge that you don't get in school. Also, you meet so many people from the community. The incidental networking that goes on and the contacts that you develop through Jack & Dan's is unbelievable. I have often said that if I ever moved to another city and was looking for a job, the first thing I would do is try and tend bar because you end up meeting people and socializing.

Title:

My official title is Director of Marketing and Promotions. I really couldn't believe that I was offered this job. It was like a dream come true. I honestly told myself not to get too excited or upset one way or the other depending on what happened – but I know I would have been crushed if I didn't get the job and I was about as ecstatic as I have ever been when Mike Hogan offered me the job. I knew that I wanted to get into athletic administration and my dream location was Gonzaga. Before the job opened, though, I thought that I would most likely have to leave Spokane and start my career elsewhere. However, the job opened at Gonzaga in mid-April and I was lucky enough to be selected. I am extremely proud to be a Zag again and am very fortunate that Mike Roth and Mike Hogan believe enough in me to allow this special opportunity.

Duties and Goals:

What I do on a day to day basis is work on the marketing end of the athletic department. A common analogy in the sports world for marketing is that it entails all five sense of an event. It is what you see, hear, smell, feel, and taste when at an event. Though I am really not involved with the taste end, I work on the signs and advertisements that you see at our games as well as the on-field entertainment during stoppages in play, including public address announcements and the music that you hear. Combined, we are trying to create a positive feeling when you are at a Gonzaga Athletics event. Our players and coaches work very hard to provide a quality product on the field for our fans to cheer for, and my job is essentially to make sure that the other elements of the game that fans will notice work to complement our athletic teams' efforts. I also work on some of the promotional tools that will help to build interest in our programs and drive attendance at games such as posters, schedule cards, magnets et cetera. Ultimately, I will work on a lot of the details work and insure that we have sponsors, that we are meeting their needs as a sponsor, and that we are developing new relationships with sponsors as well as try to help promote each sport so that it is a better environment for our teams. More fans helps them win games and better facilities helps them win games. Our whole athletic department is focused on providing the best possible environment for our student-athletes to compete in and help them establish something that is a source of pride for our students, faculty, alums and fans.

My short term goal is to make sure that I maintain the success that has been established in marketing and promotions by Mike Hogan. I hope to build off of the success and start to create a real interest in all of the sports that Gonzaga offers. Marketing is by no means re-inventing the wheel. I hope to take the wheel that is running pretty well right now, keep it running, and then make it run better. We have a great deal going at Gonzaga right now with all of our sports competing at a very high level, and I hope to build off of this momentum and help provide a better environment for our teams. My long-term goal is to help build these programs and help to improve our facilities so that Gonzaga can maintain the athletic success that we currently enjoy.


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