April 29, 2009
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.
What will happen to the Saluki mascot whose remains are buried at McAndrew Stadium?
We are in current discussions about this very topic. Our team is working with Phil Gatton, the head of our Physical Plant, to identify our options. My idea is to exhume the remains of King Tut, our original mascot, as well as the pyramid marker, and place it somewhere along the Saluki Walk route where the football players will travel from their locker room to the new stadium. I was thinking that it could become a tradition, similar to touching the Rock at Clemson University, as the players come onto the field. Also, when we are on TV, I thought this would be a great opening shot to convey who we are, the uniqueness of the Saluki mascot and the Egyptian influence on our campus and region.
The current location in the corner of McAndrew is so far removed from the vast majority of our fans and athletic staff, that they don't have access to it at all. The bottom line is that there are several hoops to jump through, but we will ultimately be placing it in a more prominent spot.
Last year, SIU did a Military Appreciation Day (Veterans Day) which I and my sons enjoyed immensely. Will you be doing one this year?
We will be conducting Military Appreciation Day on September 26 when we play North Dakota State in football this season. In addition we will continue to have one for men's basketball during the 2009-10 season.
Please give your opinion on the future of the SIU Men's Basketball program.
I think the future of the program is very bright. With our freshman class getting a full year of playing time under its belt, and some quality recruits coming in, I think we are poised for an upswing in the standings. With all the injuries and lack of roster depth, we still managed to finish 5th in the MVC. Our sights are set nothing short of the MVC title.
The non-conference slate will again be exciting as we will be playing UNLV, Western Kentucky and SLU, plus going to a tournament in Las Vegas. In addition, this will be the last season in the SIU Arena prior to its renovation, and that will help us attract recruits for years to come.
With the mid-majors getting the cold shoulder in the NCAA Tournament, what are the chances that top, young players leave their programs to get better exposure elsewhere?
It sure seems like this is possible, and we recently saw Seth Curry do this when he left Liberty to attend Duke University. All players will have to sit out one year, which is certainly a disincentive. In this day and age, unfortunately, I see more of this happening in the future.
I was just curious about the long-term plans to improve our baseball facilities? As you know, many of the MVC baseball facilities are being upgraded.
I wish I had concrete plans for baseball, as it has not received much attention in many, many years. With every dollar having to go to Saluki Way, we are not at the present time actively fundraising for our baseball facility. I have discussed the possibility of lights with a donor group and am waiting to hear if there is any movement on this. I would love to add lights, a new grandstand and press box, along with new bullpens and dugouts. If we could get someone to get the ball rolling, I would think some of our ex and current major leaguers might assist in the completion of funding this. It certainly isn't out of the question, but more on the back burner at the present time.
I noticed there were no logos on the helmets for the spring game. Does this mean there is a chance we could finally get the SIU bullet logo on the helmets? I think it would look so much better.
I spoke with Alvy Armstrong, our Director of Equipment Operations on this, and he answered that we have never had logos on the helmets for spring practice. The thought is that in the spring, all the players are fighting for their position or trying to "earn their stripes". When we start camp in August, you will see all the returning players with stripes on their helmets, while the new players will have no logos on their helmets, because they haven't been earned. Alvy and our Assistant AD for Marketing, Mark Gazdik, have been looking at some potential new looks for the helmet, but Coach Lennon would need to approve. Also, as a superstitious ex-athlete, with six-straight football playoff appearances and four league titles in that time, I am not sure myself if I want to make any changes, while we are on such a good run.