On the court on Thursday, Georgetown will host Penn State in the fifth edition of the Gavitt Tipoff Games. Off the court, Capital One Arena will welcome back marketing guru Chris Grosse who spent four years with the Hoyas before moving on to Happy Valley after the 2017-18 season.
Grosse spent four years working very hard behind the scenes and if you didn’t know him by name as a Hoya fan, you most certainly knew and enjoyed his ideas that came to life on gamedays!
We had a chance to catch up with the always busy Grosse on the eve of the Hoyas – Nittany Lions showdown that might ultimately decide the fate of this yearly Big East – Big Ten challenge.
So, it’s been two years now, what have you been up to at Penn State? What’s your role, where are you on football and basketball gamedays. Obviously, it’s a different deal having big time football.
So, this is my 2nd season at Penn State and I have really enjoyed my time here since coming over from the Hilltop. State College is a bit different from DC, as you can imagine. I don’t miss the DC traffic. I do miss the food scene. What I wouldn’t give to have a District Taco within driving distance…
I have the same title as I did at Georgetown, Assistant Athletics Director of Marketing, but the role is different. I oversee the marketing department. We are a staff of 8 full-timers and we, along with our excellent undergrad interns, support all 31 teams here. The marketing staff does a great job promoting their sports to the Penn State Fanbase. Last season, Penn State had more programs finish in the Top-10 average attendance in their sport than any other school in the country, so I came into a great situation with great people.
Football is an all-hands-on-deck situation, as you can imagine. We look at is as throwing a party for 100,000 people 7 times a season. A lot goes into the planning and execution. For football gamedays, I am roaming around the stadium, helping out the staff where I can. The staff have been operating at a high level and putting on an amazing show long before I got there, so I just try to help out where I can and not get in the way.
Can we go down memory lane of some of your favorite promotions/ideas while you were with the Hoyas? Do you have a favorite on the court basketball memory?
I had a blast during my time at Georgetown, I loved it there. The athletic department staff was great, the fanbase was passionate, and the students were excellent. We had some fun, for sure. I just really enjoyed working with the external team to try to do some different things to make a splash in the big media market. There are obviously a ton entertainment options in the city, but I felt like we were able to do some creative things to carve out some space and grab some attention. If I had to look back at my Mount Rushmore of favorite promotions while on the Hilltop, I would probably go with Hail to Kale, Cargo Shorts Retirement Party, Actual Reality and Millennial Day. We just had such a great time putting those events together, working with the external team on building out those promotions, and then seeing the fan and media’s reaction to them, it was really rewarding.
If I were to pick a favorite on court memory, it would probably be that weekend in the winter of 2014-15 when the Hoyas beat Butler at the buzzer (Isaac Copeland from the corner), and then went on to crush Villanova, the #4 team in the country at the time, at home three days apart. For both of those games, I remember the atmosphere being electric, and I was just so excited to be a part of that.
What are you most proud of in terms of basketball gameday ideas from your time at Georgetown?
One of the aspects of the Georgetown job that I loved the most was working with the students and more specifically, Hoya Blue. It was awesome to work with such a passionate group of students and create a fun, engaging atmosphere at the arena. They reminded me a lot of how I was as a student at former/future Big East conference-foe, UConn. I enjoyed working with that group to develop some fun game themes like “We Are Jortstown” and “Fashion Faux Paus Night” and some unique giveaways like the Baby-Jack Shirt and Jack-Pack Fanny Packs.
Also, working with Jack the Bulldog was a blast. He was social media gold. From the skateboarding, to the power-wheels, to all the giveaway items we made featuring him, he is a true show-stopper (shout out to McKenzie Stough, his former handler, on all the work she did with Jack to get him ready for the big show!).
Do you keep an eye on what Georgetown has been doing since you’ve left? Anyone you are in contact with? Any favorite Hoyas on the court?
Yes, for sure. I will always cheer on the Hoyas (except for Thursday). The four years I spent on the Hilltop was really a career-defining time for me, and I am thankful for the opportunity that I was given there. It will always be a special place for my family and I (both my kids were born in Georgetown Hospital). I still keep in touch with a bunch of people there and wish nothing but the best for them.
Is there any unfinished project that you would have liked to have seen out with the Blue & Gray or would you rather keep those ideas to yourself?
I think for the most part, I left it all on the court when I departed. That said, one of the giveaways I was hoping to do but didn’t get a chance to was the Dikembe Mutombo Rejection Button. It would have been shaped like the Staples® Easy Button, but when you pushed it, it would have had Dikembe’s voice saying “No, no, no!” It would have been great to have around the office, and just in everyday life.
Anything new with Kale? Have there been any breakthroughs with the hot dog is a sandwich debate?
Here’s a secret: I hate Kale. It’s a vile weed. Can’t stand the stuff. It’s sad too because I feel like Kale will follow me around for the rest of my professional career, though I still think one of the highlights of my time at Georgetown was when Michelle Obama mentioned the promotion in a speech. Still standing strong on team Hot Dog = Sandwich. Moving out of the city and into the country has not changed my perspective on that. I mean, it’s a piece of meat, sandwiched between bread. Not sure why this is so hard to understand, Mex?