We ran a Q&A with athletic director Dan Radakovich last week, linked here. There were a few things he talked about that I didn’t include for space reasons that I didn’t include that I thought were interesting, including answers to questions that were abbreviated or omitted entirely, including positives/negatives of the year, the impact of the new ESPN contract, the scheduling of games at Philips and Gwinnett arenas, football ticket sales and the issue of paying scholarship athletes stipends.
I’ll post half Tuesday and the rest Wednesday, along with some comments.
Q: What was the biggest positive development and biggest disappointment of the year?
A: The biggest positive development has been that philanthropy, as it relates to the building of buildings, continues to be very strong. A year ago, while we were hoping that we would be able to build an indoor practice facility, it was the generosity of John and Mary Brock that allowed it to really get on the fast track. And now, at the end of July, our football team will have an indoor facilty and a new practice environment that’s phenomenal.
The tennis facility that we are in really deep design issues right now has moved to this point beaue of the generosity of Trish and Ken Beyers, who stepped up and made the lead gift for that particular facility. Because of the McCamish family and their forethought a couple of year ago, we’re now re-doing the coliseum and making a basketball facility that we think will be very fan-friendly and relevant and continue to have our basketball programs, from a facility standpoint, relevant for the next 25 years.
So those are all really, really positive things.
From the disappointing category, I think that in some ways, there was no way to go but down. In the ‘09-’10 (academic year), we had the best athletic year we ever had as it relates to wins and losses. So this year we kind of moved back a little bit in some of our sports, but that’s going to happen.
The other teams have coaches that they pay and student-athletes that are on scholarships. We hope that’s just a one-year aberration and we can get back to doing some of the things that we’re accustomed to and our fan base is accustomed to and our student-athletes are accustomed to.
My two cents: While I jumped in late this year, I’d agree. No one team had a phenomenal year and, in the big picture, being able to break ground on a new basketball arena and an indoor football facility (as well as start the process for a tennis complex) are pretty big.
As for the disappointment, I thought he might mention having to end Paul Hewitt’s term at Tech, but, again, his answer was bigger picture. Unrelated, while I’ve often heard the “the other guys get paid to make plays, too” line from professional athletes and coaches, I’ve never heard it at the college level. Not a judgment, just an observation.
Q: The baseball team had a strong regular season, particularly with such a young team, but had a disappointing postseason again. How do you assess the season?
A: I think that we did have a great year. This may have been one of Danny (Hall)’s best coaching jobs that he’s ever done considering the large number of first-year players that contributed to our team. I think as we look forward, there’s a lot of reason for optimism.
There are teams out there that are still playing that are dominated by people who are at a more upper-class level. There’s no substitute for experience. … I know each one of those players wanted to win very badly as did our coaching staff.
It hasn’t happened to the degree that we would have liked. We know that it can happen. We’ve been to Omaha, we’ve won ACC championships, so it’s not a question of knowledge or understanding of the game or those types of things. We have to find that little difference.
I know that Danny and his staff are going to continue to work with our players and make sure that they can achieve that because they certainly want it and we do as well.
My two cents: About as strong an endorsement of Hall as you could imagine. I think, overall, Hall does deserve a lot of credit for the season in total given how young (17 freshmen) the team was. Obviously, losing at home in an NCAA regional for the third year in a row leaves a bad last impression. But the team overachieved in the regular season, tying a school record for ACC wins. Still, in a follow-up answer, he noted that he’d meet with Hall as usual after the season to talk about how the team can improve.
Q: I’d say the golf team is the strongest in campus. What do you think?
A: I’d have to ask the strength coach. (Laughs) I think I know what you mean. Certainly, Bruce (Heppler) and his assistant Christian Newton have done a phenomenal job of pulling together a preeminent group of student-athletes. They do incredibly well in the classroom, they do great on the golf course. Third straight ACC championship, that says it all. And this is a very difficult league as it relates to golf.
I think getting through the stroke play (portion of the NCAA championships, where Tech was in second place before the match-play segment of the tournament, where it lost in the first round) in a good postion says a lot. Match play is a totally different animal and I think I’ll be interested in talking with Bruce as we sit down and have that same kind of meeting (as he had with Hall) – What are the things that he sees as a coach now that the match play is something that is moving forward, how do we take the time in either the fall season or early in the spring season to prepare to be competitive in a match-play circumstance?
[Match play] is not normal. Normal is you go out and you play you play your ball, you count ‘em up at the end and see which four guys had the best score and count them.
This is a little different. We need to be able to strategize as to how best we can maximize our capabilties as it relates to continuing to be really competitive in golf.
My two cents: This was an interesting answer to me. I expected Radakovich to rave about how great the golf team is, which he did. Tech finished the year ranked No. 2 in the country. The team certainly makes the school and the athletic association look good.
However, the Jackets had as good a shot as anybody in the country to win, but fell short in their bid to win their first NCAA title. I’d say it’s like being a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament and losing in the regional finals.
It’d be easy to give the team a pass, particularly since it’s non-revenue, but Radakovich wasn’t satisfied and wants better. As I noted in the blog Monday, there are already plans to convert the practice facility from a range to a nine-hole par-3 course, part of the rationale being to give players more opportunities to compete and get better at match play.
Q: Will the extra money coming from the new ESPN contract be earmarked for anything?
A: We didn’t allocate, ‘Here’s this extra, whatever it ends up being, $2.5, $3 million a year and here’s what we’re going to do with it.’ It’s really, how does it fit in? Those moneys are going to continue to come in over time, so how are those going to affect us longer term? We’re not going to take a portion of it, at least we haven’t at this point in time, said, ‘We’re going to take a portion of it and do X.’ It’s just going to become part of our revenue base moving forward.
My two cents: Without knowing much about Tech’s financial plan, it makes sense to me. You could say it would be wise to put it towards debt service on all the projects — the debt is about $170 million — but, as my friend Matt Christian likes to say, ‘You gotta spend money to make money.’ (Matt, you’ll be interested to know, is a pastor. Yes, his last name is Christian. Self-fulfilling prophecy, I guess.)
Perhaps it’s wiser to help produce a better football and men’s basketball team to increase revenues.
Further, the debt has been refinanced at a pretty decent rate. Moreover, there have been budget cutbacks in recent years. I’d think it’d be hard to tell your marketing people to sell more tickets or your swimming coach to bring in faster swimmers (hypothetically speaking) when you’ve reduced their budget and, when you get more revenue, you don’t give it back to them.
This is apropos of nothing, but I think “moneys” is a funny word. I guess you know you’ve got a lot of it when you refer to it in the plural. (This wasn’t really two cents. More like a nickel.)
Q: Do you know how you’ll divde up men’s basketball games between Philips and Gwinnett arenas?
A: We do know that. It’s our plan right now and we’ll be corresponding with our season-ticket holders shortly but we will have 10 games at Philips Arena – the eight ACC games plus the game against Alabama plus the ACC-Big Ten Challenge game against Northwestern. Those 10 games will be part of the season ticket that will be sold at Philips Arena. The other games, the other four or five games that are played, the non-confence games will be at Gwinnett, and we’ll sell those on a per-game basis.
My two cents: I imagine it might have been tempting to include all the games in a season-ticket package and essentially force buyers to pay for the non-conference games in Gwinnett even if they knew they were unlikely to attend them, based on the distance, the quality of the opponent and, perhaps, the quality of Tech’s team. From a customer-service and perhaps even a sales standpoint, I’d say it was wise to pass on that option.
There is going to be some rough sledding this winter. I think the best Tech can hope for is that this team fights hard, pulls off an upset or two and shows promise for when McCamish Pavilion opens in 2012. Also, for what it’s worth, all of the women’s games will be at Gwinnett.