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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Optimism still on rise for Schiano, Bucs

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Published:   |   Updated: March 18, 2013 at 08:02 PM
TAMPA -

For the 2012 Buccaneers, this offseason is all about the art of the sale.

After going 17-31 during the three-year tenure of Raheem Morris, the Bucs have hit the ground hawking with new head coach Greg Schiano.

Tampa Bay has ramped up its marketing efforts with billboards, TV advertising and social media tools that promote new slogans like "Defend the Bay'' and "New Day Rising.''

In late June, the organization announced all fans attending the regular-season opener against Carolina will receive 50 percent off concessions, except alcohol, in both general admission and club levels, and free parking in select lots.

"I think our fan base is optimistic about the changes, on and off the field,'' said Bucs VP of Business Administration Brian Ford. "What's not to get excited about?''

While Tampa Bay's marketing department pitches ticket sales, Schiano spends much of his time selling players on a new commitment toward accountability.

That momentum stalled a bit this week when cornerback Eric Wright was arrested on a felony DUI charge in Los Angeles.

Now Schiano, who has preached character since the day he was hired by the Glazers, must decide whether Wright is still a Buccaneer man.

"I liked Raheem, but I don't think he had the experience needed for the job,'' said Melissa Moore of Temple Terrace. "Schiano is a class act and I think the community's view about the team is improving.''

A lot of things seem to be breaking right for the Bucs in the five months since Schiano's hiring.

Tampa Bay was atypically active in free agency and an aggressive draft brought in two first-round picks in safety Mark Barron and running back Doug Martin.

"The fan base is there,'' Ford said. "We see it in the events that we do. We're trying to give them something to believe in.''

The NFL added to the good vibrations by softening its stance on the blackout rule, improving the chances Buccaneer home games will be televised locally this fall.

Still, there are doubters.

"I continue to have some uneasiness about the team,'' said 37-year-old Brandon resident Michael Weber. "Let's play some games. I see all the billboards and the Bucs are doing a good job getting the word out on Facebook and Twitter, but my jury is still out on Schiano – he could be Tony Dungy or he could be Ray Perkins.''

In March, a few weeks after Tampa Bay signed Wright, guard Carl Nicks and wide receiver Vincent Jackson as high-priced free agents, Bucs co-chairman Joel Glazer said ticket sales were brisk.

Three months later, Ford said that wave is still cresting.

"What's encouraging is we are maintaining the base through our renewal process,'' said Ford. "We're trying to grow, but first you've got to maintain what you have. We used to have a customer service department … now we have a member relations department. We're trying to figure out where our fans come from and what's important to them.''

The Bucs are relying on enhanced market research to make the game-day experience at Raymond James Stadium more satisfying for their customers.

And with training camp less than three weeks away, the club is preparing new initiatives to expand its fan base.

"So many people in this community look up to the Bucs,'' said Tampa's Lizz Harmon, "but it's tough to maintain momentum when you have so many blackouts. I like what I see of Schiano. He's articulate and enthusiastic. I think we're lucky to get him.''

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