If your program had a way to raise $150,000 while spending only $25,000 and expending a minimal amount of effort, would you purse it? Most, if not all, programs would hop on that chance like a hungry dog on a hot piece of pizza.
Oklahoma State has found that avenue, and all it takes is going a little Xtreme. Oklahoma State director of football operations Mack Butler outlined the camp at the DFO Summit back in May.
Back in 2010, Oklahoma State launched Cowboy Xtreme Camp, sort of a fantasy camp multiplied to the sixth power for the orange-est of Cowboy fans. Held on the first two days of fall camp, the Pokes invite 100 fans behind closed doors and let them become a part of the program for those 48 glorious hours. They eat with the team. They sit in on team meetings. They stand on the sidelines during practice. And they get to dress like the team, which may be the best perk of all. Butler said that a chance to dress like the coaches was nearly worth the price of admission to many campers.
For any enterprising Oklahoma fans thinking of undergoing some covert ops, you can go ahead and stop right there. The list of attendees is heavily vetted. Most are already donors and/or season ticket holders, but all are friends of the program that bleed orange and black. If the program doesn’t already know your name when the application comes through, you’re probably not getting in.
The program asks fans to keep what they learn in house. Posting on social media is prohibited, and campers comply because, first, they’re ardent Oklahoma State fans that resist doing anything to hurt the program they love and, second, they just paid a pretty penny to get inside the program, so why give their experience away for free?
There’s no understating how valuable this camp is for those fortunate enough to get in. One poster on the Oklahoma State fan message board OrangePower.com described his experience as “a heaping ton of awesome. Worth every penny.” Others described it as a bucket list item. To be clear, no one’s putting on any pads here. Some brave fans may run a go route, but that’s it as far as actual football activity. The rest is strictly observation but, still, for those two days each camper is as much a Cowboy as Mike Gundy and Glenn Spencer.
Cowboy Xtreme Camp isn’t cheap, and that’s by design. The cost started at $1,000 a camper, then rose to $1,250 and now stands at $1,500. Despite boosting an already steep price by 50 percent over the past four years, Butler says they still have a waiting list to get in. The proceeds go to the program’s LLC, which funds Oklahoma State’s six summer camps. Even at a price of a nice television, the guess here is that many of the 100 campers are repeat customers.
To be clear, this type of event isn’t for everybody. Inviting 100 outsiders inside your walls isn’t an idea many head coaches can get behind, and the head coach must be on board for this to have any shot at working. A school with a brand new coaching staff, for instance, should table the idea for at least a year or two. The simple timing of the camp, on the first critical two days of fall practice, may be a non-starter for many.
On the other hand, though, if you have a staff that’s been together for awhile, this is an idea you should absolutely explore. The first two days of camp are well before any game-planning takes place, so the only actual football that campers see is basic fundamentals and install.
This is an idea that can be altered for programs of all shapes and sizes. Maybe small college programs and high schools could invite 50 fans in for $500 a pop. Even at those reduced prices, that’s still $25,000 of revenue. Assuming Butler’s figures are correct (and why wouldn’t they be?), Oklahoma State’s Cowboy Xtreme Camp nets $5 of revenue for every dollar they spend. And it’s all raised in two days without anyone having to leave the football offices.
All it takes is going just a little bit Xtreme.