ICC: ‘Last Chance U’ has generated positive attention, inquiries and cash

INDEPENDENCE — Despite concerns from college officials about the overwhelming use of profane language, “Last Chance U” has created a tremendous amount of positive energy at Independence Community College in the past week, ICC staff members told trustees on Thursday.

“Last Chance U,” an eight-episode television series that is streamed through Netflix, focuses its most recent season on the Independence Community College football team’s 2017 campaign. The program gives special attention to eight ICC players, most of whom will start the 2018 football season at NCAA Division I or II programs, and ICC head coach Jason Brown. The eight-episode show was released July 20 amid ample hoopla and hype.

On Thursday, ICC staff members informed college trustees of the positive vibes that have been created since the show’s release. Brittany Thornton, ICC admissions and recruitment director, said the recruitment offices have experienced a tremendous volume of inquires since Friday. “We’re getting calls everyday,” she said. “We’re now getting calls from schools wanting us to provide a recruitment information. And, these are from the high schools that normally have never contacted us or expressed an interest in ICC.”

Thornton also said registration for dormitory living has increased in the past week, as have enrollment request from students who have previously been contacted by ICC recruiters but not enrolled in classes.

“They are telling us, ‘We saw the TV show. Now, we feel like we need to sign up for classes’,” Thornton said.

The vibes surrounding ICC’s camera time on the “Last Chance U” also has generated a boost to the local economy, said Tammie Geldenhuys, ICC athletic director. Her own telephone has rung many times in the past week from people who want to travel to Independence in hopes of touring Shluthis Stadium or seeing the ICC team in action during a practice.

“We’ve had instances of people wanting to travel through the midwest and making Independence a destination because of ‘Last Chance U’,” said Geldenhuys. “We even know of cases firsthand of people stopping at Shluthis Stadium and inquiring if the stadium was the home to the ICC Pirates.”

Geldenhuys said she was working with the Independence Chamber of Commerce to create game-day destination packages for potential spectators to ICC games.

The “Last Chance U” hoopla also has spilled over into the ICC Bookstore, where online apparel sales generated more than $5,000 in receipts since the “Last Chance U” show was released last Friday. For the sake of comparison, online apparel sales in all of 2017 generated about $5,000.

Additionally, social media traffic — via the college’s official Twitter and Facebook pages — has exploded over the span of one week, said Brad Henderson, who is in charge of public relations for ICC.

Even with the positive effect that “Last Chance U” has had on the college in the past week, the show itself has raised lots of eyebrows . . . and forced many fingers in viewers’ ears. That’s because the show’s primary focus is on ICC head coach Jason Brown, whose use of profane language toward players and staff members has became the prime topic of “Last Chance U” conversations and reviews. College trustees on Thursday said local residents had complained about Brown’s insistent use of profane language but understood the underlying storyline about ICC players finding success at ICC.

“A lot of people can’t get past the language,” said trustee Cynthia Sherwood. “It’s not like everyone is thrilled with the show. But, anyone who is younger than 40, it seems that the language doesn’t even faze them.”

Trustee chairman Val DeFever said she, too, had concerns about the use of profanities in “Last Chance U.” However, she said the show did highlight the college’s efforts to get players to larger universities after the 2017 season. That’s why 21 players from the 2017 ICC football season transferred to four-year colleges or universities — which set the bar for transfers among any community college football program in the nation.

Trustee Mike Wood joked that “Last Chance U” should make an alternative episode that removes the profanities and replaces it with “an airline version” of the show. He said removing the swearing words and replacing them with slang words might appease those who are offended by the intense use of profanity in “Last Chance U.”

Prior to the trustees’ conversation about the release of “Last Chance U,” the trustees heard comments from Drew Main of rural Cherryvale. Main was a student and football player in the mid-1980s and brought his perspective about the program to Thursday’s meeting.

Main also has a son, Chance Main, who is on the ICC football roster.

Main said the 2017 football season generated excitement in the region and also brought new awareness of the athletic opportunities at ICC. Main also said that he had initial concerns about head coach Jason Brown’s desire to recruit blue-chip football players from inner-city environments.

“The kids who came in last year were, I think, a concern,” said Main. “There are people who believe that Independence shouldn’t bring in players who are going to cause problems. However, after watching Coach Brown last year, he is controlling and managing the situations well. He is doing things — like providing them structure.”

Netflix will bring its cameras to Independence for another season of “Last Chance U” during the 2018 ICC football season.

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