DU Whiteboard Growing Beyond Its Frame
Student-run operation looks to build upon its success
DU Whiteboard is accustomed to growth. In little more than two years of existence, the messages written on a whiteboard the hockey student section have done more than provide a cheap laugh, they’ve added an identity. The simplicity of DU Whiteboard lends to its success and is a primary reason why founder Dustin Weilbach believes it can extend beyond just a quick wit, thick-chiseled black marker and 24” x 36” whiteboard. DU Whiteboard is due for expansion.
Since its inception, DU Whiteboard has had success. Its community of contributors has grown from four to five people to four to five rows of people. In fewer than two seasons, DU Whiteboard has gained more than 700 Twitter followers (@DU_Whiteboard), a website (duwhiteboard.com) and established partnerships with local businesses. The success is beyond what Weilbach expected after first writing a message on a whiteboard in March 2015, but now it’s just a checkpoint in a greater long-term goal.
Without providing details, Weilbach, 28, outlined DU Whiteboard’s goals to drive student involvement at more DU athletics events, not only at hockey games. DU Whiteboard wants to be more than funny – they want to create something special.
"For DU Whiteboard to be interesting to people in the future, there's got to be a reason to get behind it,” Weilbach said. “I think there is a level of importance continuing certain things that we’ve done, but it doesn’t mean we can’t change it a little bit.”
Weilbach is a soon-to-be DU graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Sociology. He’s been coming to Pioneer hockey games since Magness Arena was built in 1999, but it wasn’t until the first round of the 2015 NCHC Playoffs when he started bringing a whiteboard. Weilbach was originally encouraged by friends to bring a poster to games, but he decided a whiteboard would be more effective. His thought was the poster would only be funny once, but the whiteboard had longevity. Weilbach loved the reaction the whiteboard drew from the opposition. In January 2016, then-freshmen Dylan Smith and another friend approached Weilbach. He wanted to be involved
“That next night, I went and bought a huge whiteboard and brought it to the game and I said, ‘Okay if we're going to make this a thing, you guys are going to create a Twitter and all of these different avenues so that it becomes huge,’” Weilbach said. “Two hours before the game, they created the Twitter handle and it started there.”
Shortly after creating the Twitter handle, Weilbach and Smith went to a local café to craft a constitution of guidelines to ensure that DU Whiteboard would survive through Weilbach’s graduation and any shift in leadership thereafter. This upcoming season, Smith, Duke Mahr and Annabel Husak will take charge.
“People go to games and see funny things and think ‘Oh, it kind of just happens,’” Weilbach said. “In some cases it does, but there is a lot of leg work that goes on behind the scenes and we've had meetings where we sat down and wrote an ethos of how we were going to conduct ourselves and set a standard for when we rotate out and graduate.”
Some messages that appeared on the DU Whiteboard during its early days wouldn’t stand under the current guidelines. The constitution maintains that the whiteboard must not interfere with the family experience or negatively impact a student-athlete’s standing. In many cases, Weilbach will reshape a suggestion for the whiteboard to comply with the constitution. Still, DU Whiteboard will toe the line – such as when they posted the actual phone number for an assistant coach on a rival team or when, ahead of a game against Colorado College, Weilbach and his crew created yearbook-style superlatives for the Tigers including categories like, “Most Likely to Ask for Troy Terry’s Autograph.”
Both humor and structure has allowed DU Whiteboard to shine when the opportunity arises. In 2017, DU Whiteboard’s humor took center stage. After brainstorming ideas on a 15 hour ride from Denver to Chicago for the National Championship, Weilbach and his friends crafted messages such as “Holy water doesn’t work when frozen” and “Can Rudy even skate?” for the Pioneers’ matchup against Notre Dame. Weilbach knew there was an opportunity to appear on ESPN, but wasn’t aware he’d receive a call from a generous DU hockey alum who offered DU Whiteboard a glass seat for the Frozen Four. It was another chance to grow – this time on the national stage.
Now they’re ready for their next step and, as much as DU Whiteboard likes to dig up others’ dirt, it won’t yet reveal what’s going on in its own backyard. All that’s clear is they’ve outgrown their 24” x 36” frame. It’s time for something bigger.
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