March 30, 2011
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.
How much effect has the drop in attendance at men's basketball games over the past three years had on the athletic budget?
Any loss in revenue is troublesome for our departmental budget. Men's basketball revenue (season and single game tickets) for the 2008-09 basketball season was $1,160,831. Revenue declined to $1,023,673 for the 2010-11 season. A decrease of this amount is harmful to our overall departmental goals, and with looming reductions in student fee and state of Illinois support, an extra emphasis must be placed on revenue generation.
The IHSA announced that U of I won't be able to host the state football finals every other year due to the expanding Big Ten and their new scheduling format. Would SIU be interested in trying to get the tournament every other year?
SIU as a campus and an athletic department is very interested in attempting to secure these games. We have been in contact with Marty Hickman, the Executive Director of the IHSA, and they are considering us as a possible site. Obviously, geography works against us a little bit, but with the brand new stadium and press box, as well as freeway and train access, I would hope that we would have a good shot at becoming a finalist. Representatives of the IHSA will visit in the third week of April to review our facilities.
Is there a chance we could host the Rams' training camp? I know last year our construction made it difficult, but now that it's done, will that discussion pick up again?
I hesitate to hazard a guess, but after our discussions with the Rams, I think we have a 50/50 shot. They have a desire to move their camp away from St. Louis to eliminate distractions and to build a team atmosphere. We have tremendous new facilities and are reasonably close to their home base, so it appears to be an excellent fit. If it were to happen, this would be a huge shot in the arm for Carbondale from a revenue standpoint and a tremendous opportunity for exposure for the entire University in the St. Louis market and beyond. We have been very aggressive in our discussions with the Rams, and our Chancellor, Dr. Rita Cheng, strongly supports bringing them to Carbondale and SIU. I anticipate a decision being made in the next month. One issue to keep in mind is the current labor situation in the NFL and how it might impact training camp.
As AD, what can you do to increase awareness of basketball games and encourage students to attend? There used to be a time where losing at home was unheard of, and that was surely directly correlated with our ferocious crowd.
Student support is critical to making SIU Arena a difficult place for opponents to find success. We utilize a graduate assistant who works directly with the Dawg Pound and other student groups to generate better overall awareness. These individuals have all been graduates of our business school, and Dr. Susan Nasco from our Business School has helped us secure the best individuals for this important position. We have also ramped up our social media network on Facebook (we lead all Valley schools with nearly 10,000 fans), Twitter and other sources, because that's where today's students are getting most of their information. Direct contact with the Dawg Pound includes giveaway items such as t-shirts and rally towels throughout the season, courtesy of 710 Bookstore and Saluki Sports Properties. Success is a critical factor in sports attendance, but we also continue to look for new and innovative ways to get our students in the Arena. We must continue to hammer home that their ID is their ticket to all athletic contests.
Why was the Super Sectional not held at the SIU Arena? SIU in the past hosted the Carbondale Christmas Tournament. Why are Sectionals not held at the Arena as well?
The construction and renovation of SIU Arena forced the Super Sectional to an alternate location last year, but we have indicated our strong interest in hosting it in the future and have been told there's a very good chance of it returning to SIU Arena. This is another point that we will discuss with the IHSA in April, and we certainly would like this event back in our building.
In reading the posted transcript of your presser with Chris Lowery, I noticed one thing missing in the discussion -- the effectiveness of the Salukis' strength and conditioning program. Have you evaluated this area, and if so, what did you find?
Yes, I discussed this area with Coach Lowery. We will have another meeting to make sure our plan is in place well before the new recruiting class arrives. In the past, the physical strength of the team was due to dedicated, hard-working upperclassmen, who had been lifting and conditioning for four and five years. We had a physical advantage over our competition. This is another reason why retention and continuity is paramount to the success of our program.
I have heard that some people are not renewing their season tickets for next year. What is the process for us to move closer to the court?
We have not sent out renewals yet but always anticipate at least 5-10 percent turnover in our season-ticket base. With our lack of on-court success, there is a possibility that this percentage could increase. When renewals are mailed out and the deadline has passed, we will know exactly what is available, but I would encourage you to list on your renewal form your desire to move to a specific section or lower row in your same section. In addition, you can always call our development office at 618-453-5625 and ask for an upgrade directly. They can walk you through the process and let you know what might be available.
Much has been said about the review of the men's basketball program, but after going winless in the MVC, what was the outcome of the women's review?
Coach Tiber and I discussed a wide range of issues in our season-ending review including the fact the rebuilding job was more than either of us anticipated going into this year. The major theme was the steps we must take to rebuild the program. When Missy was hired, we were fortunate that Stephany Neptune transferred to SIU from Tusculum College and Katie Wagner came out for the team after her softball career ended. This year, we had to rely on almost an entirely new batch of players. We discussed recruiting and what we can do to continue to bring in talented student-athletes to her program. Due to past retention issues, we must make sure our APR score remains compliant with NCAA regulations. A big challenge is trying to keep 15 student-athletes on scholarship happy when, at most, your rotation is 10 players. We also discussed our strength and conditioning program, academics and the make-up of her staff. Even though we had a very tough year, I continue to believe that Coach Tiber will be successful at SIU and we will see significant improvement next season.