Here is the second part of an interview about the state of Georgia State sports with athletics director Cheryl Levick.
I interviewed Levick for about an hour in the conference room of her office.
For those who haven’t met her, Levick is very organized. She used a wipeboard to help with some of her answers so that I could clearly understand some of her points. She’s also very thoughtful, often thinking about her answers before she speaks.
A piece of news that I had heard bits and pieces of, but was able to piece together until Tuesday, is that R. Charles Loudermilk has donated $1 million toward the construction of a new weightlifting facility. There is no site plan or anything yet decided for that gift.
Some questions and answers have been paraphrased. In some cases, similar topics were asked during different portions of the interview. Those topics have been grouped together.
Q: What are the top five projects, your goals?
A: My charge every year, there are four goals and everything spins off that:
No. 1, educate and graduate student-athletes.
No. 2, win championships.
No. 3, commit no major violations, and
No. 4, give back to the community.
From those four goals we have built a five-year strategic plan. From that plan we’ve got goals in every category: how do we win championships every year? How do we commit no major violations? How do we reach out and give back?
Under championships do we have the right coaches? Do we have the right recruits? Do we have the right facilities?
After you go through all of those, you decide if you have the right facilities. Last year was important because we finalized that strategic plan. Now we are taking those goals and putting them into a timeline, which we are doing right now.
At this point, just yesterday, we finished a two-hour meeting on fund-raising goals to match what we can do with facilities. How fast can we raise and how fast can we build? Clearly, a priority for us is to get sand volleyball ready to roll because of gender-equity and Title IX requirements.
But right after that we need to look at what we can do with basketball, what we can do with the Sports Arena to get it more updated and get more people in here and to sell Ron Hunter and his program like we want to and to sell Sharon and her program like we want to. So sand volleyball and the Sports Arena are two very important projects for us that fit within the goals we have established in our strategic plan.
Q: You mentioned building a downtown baseball stadium, is that an indication that you would like to move Panthersville closer to campus?
A: I would love to get every sport on campus if I could afford it.
Q: I assume you have studied how much that would cost?
A: We are working on how much that would cost because you have to find land down here to build the facilities so that you can determine the cost.
Q: What is the fundraising goal that you need to accomplish what is in your five-year strategic plan?
A: We are still working on the cost analysis for that. That’s part of what we are doing right now. We have a master facility plan and we have rough estimates on what each of those might cost. If indeed we are trying to move out of Panthersville down here, we need land. We are trying to look at if there are viable land options we can afford.
Q: What is the rough estimate?
A: If we build sand volleyball, redo the Sports Arena, move baseball downtown, move softball downtown, move soccer downtown, we are looking at a minimum of $80 million dollars without the cost of land. That’s an estimate.
We have a master plan for every sport.
We’ve done the cost analysis for renovating the Sports Arena. It’s cheaper to stay here and renovate the existing facility than try to move out.
The master plan has been approved. The next step is the funding model and then prioritizing. But if we have a big donor that comes up and says, “Cheryl, I want to build a baseball stadium downtown and I want to know how much it costs and I want to know a design for it,” we’ve got it.
Q: Do you have a rough estimate on the renovation of the Arena?
A: Yes, it’s about $37 million if we do luxury suites, ticket plaza, hall of fame, concourse, store, the works. Top of the line.
Q: Is the organization of the athletics association, is it being reconsidered?
A: Last year, as we took a look at the football program, we also took a look at our three governing committees for athletics. We reorganized them and made sure each knew their responsibilities.
We have the GSUAA, we have the faculty senate subcommittee on athletics and we have the PAC, which is fund-raising.
Before last year, the GSUAA and the PAC were combined. Now the the GSUAA is a 16-member group and chaired by President Becker. The faculty group is chaired by a faculty member and it looks at graduation rates, student-athlete welfare, compliance, drug-testing program, it monitors all the internal workings.
The PAC, the chair of this is a fan. He’s a donor but also a fan.
Last year, we spent a significant amount of time looking at each of the responsibilities and the bylaws and seeing what the functions should be. We completely rewrote the bylaws and they were approved by the board, reduced the size of the board to a 16-person working committee (from 32 to 35) and changed the chair from an outside alum chairing it to the president chairing it.
The committees are all great sizes. We divided it up among the three and really liked it. Before, sometimes the GSUAA was looking at grades and not raising money. Now, governance, big issues – do we want to go FBS, they would talk about it here, do we want to move out of Panthersville, they talk about it here (in the GSUAA).
The faculty group, they look at everything for the students. Are we doing the right things for tutorial services? NCAA compliance, do we have right checks and balances?
This group, the PAC, we want to have four major events, we want a kickoff luncheon for football, we want a breakfast for basketball, we want to have a big golf tournament, we want to raise x thousands of dollars, we want to have four thousand boosters by year whatever.
It works. We worked all last year to get the responsibilities aligned accordingly.
Q: Turning to basketball, what’s the next step for that program?
A: We have two new dynamic, exciting coaches. I can’t wait for them to have a full complement of their recruits and see how great they can be. Always want to make sure I have the best coaches I can find. We have two great coaches, want to make sure they have great recruits. While they are doing that, we are working on facility improvements. WE want to increase the fanbase for both those sports. We want to have this house packed and rocking.
Q: Last question, what’s been the most unique experience you’ve had with a fan since you got here?
A: Georgia State fans are very loyal and very appreciative. I’ll go back to an experience I have whenever I’m at a football game. I like to walk around and talk to people. Without fail, I’ll have an alum stop me. They always have their brand-new Georgia State T-shirt. They are often older, they will touch me on the shoulder and say, “Thank you for bringing football to Georgia State. We have waited for decades to have our own team, now we have one. It’s so great to sit in the stands and cheer for my alma mater.”
That reinforces, every time this happens, how important sport is in the total experience of university life. It just makes me proud that I’m able to contribute a little part in the history of Georgia State.
– Doug Roberson, AJC. Follow me on twitter @ajcgsu