Ask the AD -- January Edition



    Jan. 30, 2008

    This is the latest installment of our monthly feature called, "Ask the AD." If you have questions for Saluki Director of Athletics Mario Moccia, feel free to submit them by e-mail.

    E-Mail a question to Mario Moccia

    After reviewing the drawings and plans for both the arena and football stadium, it certainly seems that the football stadium is receiving far more funding and planning than the arena. What is the University's reasoning behind a much larger investment in football over basketball?
    I spoke with Rob Cleavinger with JE Dunn Construction, the company the architects are using as the cost estimator on our project. At the present time, $25.3M is being allocated for the new football stadium, while $30M is being allocated for the arena renovation.

    What sold Coach Lennon on taking over as the new head coach for Saluki Football?
    I think a lot of factors went into making this decision. If you stay at one place for a long enough time, people in this business might not think you would ever leave. With our job the way it is, the success we are having and the facilities that are forthcoming, those were great "selling points" for our program. In addition, we pay a more than competitive salary, have shown that there is upward potential from this job and have an administration that is behind the program. Our very passionate fan base was another compelling reason. I think these are most but certainly not all of the reasons.

    Why is a stadium being built with only 12,000 permanent seats?
    For all the winning we have done over the past five years, the largest crowd in the Jerry Kill era was 13,700. A large amount of those tickets were of the $3 variety. I am all for affordable pricing, but we have to pay salaries (that are escalating constantly) for our coaches and valued staff members. We would like to bring football ticket prices closer to the cost of going to a movie. When we have sold tickets at our regular rate, such as for playoff games, the size of the stadium is not a factor.

    Keep in mind that we will have a capacity of 15,000 (12,000 fixed seats and 3,000 lawn seating) in the new stadium. Even if we matched the high of the Coach Kill era, there would still be 1,300 tickets to sell. Our goal is to have sell-outs. Having a sold-out stadium would be a great visual, tougher on opponents, increase the value of the tickets, etc.

    The architects have assured me that since the stadium is modular, increasing the seating by adding a section of an upper deck would not be too expensive and easy to do -- very similar to what the University of Central Florida has done. I'd like to show that we can consistently have 15,000 at a football game before we spend more money on a larger stadium.

    In planning the new football stadium are you including future expansion in case fan support would increase?
    See the question above, and the answer is yes. If our program had a huge boom in attendance, or we went to the football bowl subdivision or any other factor that would dramatically spike attendance, we could easily add more seating.

    What are you doing to increase enthusiasm among the student body for football?
    Well, we have seen the Dawg Pound numbers go from 400 to over 1,600 this year, and I think that our putting a full time graduate student on student marketing has helped. We have also forged a partnership with a graduate-level marketing class on campus thanks to Dr. Susan Nasco, as well as hired several students to intern in the marketing department. Hopefully, being more student-centric will assist us in finding out what attracts and retains students to our sporting events.

    The music to "Go You Salukis" sounds strikingly similar to Alabama's fight song. Why are we playing another school's fight song?
    OK, I had to do some research on this. I spoke to Andrew Tucker, our current band director who referred this to Mike Hanes, the Director of Band Emeritus for the Marching Salukis. He stated that this song was added into pregame for football and played at basketball games in the 1960s by HIS predecessor Don Cannedy. It is, in fact, a Dixieland version of "Yeah Alabama" and there are no assigned words to it other than through the first strain which features the new title of "Go You Salukis." Seems like if this has been played for the last 40 years, perhaps in some small way we can claim this as tradition, and I am going to leave it at that. Thanks for asking to date the most creative question on "Ask the AD." Tom Weber, our director of media services and moderator of this column should send you something for sure!

    A few collegiate programs have occasionally worn all black uniforms or jerseys at times to provide an extra spark for the team and the fans. My question is, would you ever consider doing something similar for the Saluki Basketball or Football program?
    Interestingly enough, just less than two weeks ago we got an email from the MVC reminding us that we can't wear all black uniforms at home since the home team must wear white. I don't think that this rule exists in football, and with the new Under Armour contract coming, perhaps you will see a Saluki black uniform from time to time. I would defer to Dale Lennon on this, as well as the folks at Under Armour.

    Will the new football stadium have all chair seats? Will the new stadium also have general admission seating like The Mac?
    The new stadium will not have all chair seats, but the exact number hasn't been decided. We are a ways away from finalizing that. I know at least the lawn seating will be general admission, and we will have a student section as well, which I am sure will be GA, but once again we haven't gotten that far in the planning stages.

    There is much speculation that the addition of more chair seats to the Arena could significantly downsize its capacity to 8,000 or even less. What's your best guess at this point?
    From our discussions, my guess would be north of 8,500 but we haven't come close to a final number. It is true that the addition of chair-back seats would reduce the size of the capacity, but bringing the building up to the modern day code (tread depth of seats, height between rows, etc...) as well as bringing the arena up to ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) code are two of the biggest reasons why the arena could lose capacity. Our existing arena is horribly out of code in numerous areas and is in no way close to the ADA code, which calls for a minimum of 1.5 percent of total capacity to have wheel-chair accessible seating as well as companion seating.

    When we announce attendance at a sporting event are we referring to tickets sold or seats occupied? I ask because occasionally season ticket holders who don't seem to have their cards scanned doubt the announced total.
    We refer to the actual number of people in the building which includes a standard worker number made up of the following (teams, refs, staff, band, spirit squads, ushers, ticket takers, police, etc...). Some schools announce just the number of tickets sold which is one way of doing it, but you don't truly get to know who is coming to which game that way. Also, if a coach's contract has bonuses on attendance, you want to know how many people are actually in the building, as that effects concessions and merchandising sales. We had a long discussion on the phenomenon of "folks not getting scanned," and our people have doubled their efforts in making sure all patrons are scanned. If anyone knows of this going on, please e-mail myself (mmoccia@siu.edu) and Jason King (jwking@siu.edu), so we can find out which gate and re-educate our workers.

    Why do you want to change the way fans enjoy the game by building a smaller U-shaped stadium? Why can't you just go back to the drawings in the 2006 football program?
    It's not just myself who wants the enclosed stadium. Jerry Kill, and now Dale Lennon, like the idea of an enclosed stadium, which will bring fans closer to the action, circle the entire stadium and bring a "big time" sold out feel to a stadium, even if only 13,000+ fans are in attendance. I have gotten this question more than once and am a bit perplexed by it, as all the major stadiums in the nation are enclosed or have a "horseshoe" design. I am aware this will create endzone seating, but that might be where the group seating goes or any discounted seating. The u-shaped stadium was envisioned after our 2006 playoff loss at Montana, where even though there were 20,000 people in the stadium, we had a hard time hearing and felt "surrounded" the entire game.

    I know a guy who was an First-Team All-American ex-football player from UCLA. He was telling me that he and his wife have a "lifetime" free pass into any sporting event at UCLA -- part of UCLA saying thanks to it ex-student athletes. Can we do something like this?
    The senior associate AD (#2 guy) at UCLA used to work for me at Mizzou, Ross Bjork. I asked him this question, and he told me that they give free admission for all former student-athletes for all sports except men's basketball. They have to sign up through the Bruin Varsity Club to get access to the free admission. He told me the reason that they include football is that playing in a 90,000 venue, the Rose Bowl, affords them to do certain things that other Universities can't. I'd be in favor of looking at asking former student-athletes to pay for football and men's basketball games and comping the remaining sports. We obviously need more revenue than UCLA with our budget of $10M compared to their's at $58M.

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