Ask the AD -- July Edition

    July 29, 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

    Are there plans to retire any more basketball jerseys? I can think of at least 10 worthy candidates, starting with Joe C. Meriweather and Mike Glenn.
    We certainly have some worthy candidates, but at the present time, we have no plans to retire additional jerseys. According to Fred Huff, our retired sports information director, there has never been a department policy on retiring jerseys. Some jerseys have been retired at the discretion of the director of athletics. For example, Gale Sayers retired Mark Hemphill's jersey in 1980, the year after Mark was paralyzed in a game.

    We need to have formal discussions with our Hall of Fame committee on this topic, as well as survey what other schools are doing, before arriving at a policy that makes sense for SIU. After this takes place, I would have a much greater comfort level before to proceed with possibly retiring additional numbers.

    We have a sizable alumni base, but we struggle in fundraising. What are the main impediments, not just for Athletics, but also for general capital improvements, academic programs, research and faculty endowments, etc?
    I can only speak from an Athletics point of view, but to me, the main impediment to major gifts fundraising is that we don't have a very strong culture of giving at SIU. We dealt with the same issue at two of my previous employers -- the University of New Mexico and Southwest Texas State (now Texas State). The University of Missouri was different. Alumni and fans expected to be solicited and to give back, and the alumni seemed to treat the University almost like one of their children. Fundraising was much easier. One of the reasons for this, in my opinion, is that the large concentrations of alumni in Kansas City and St. Louis could make the drive to Columbia within two hours, watch a game and be around campus. At SIU our biggest alumni hub is Chicago, which is almost cut off from Carbondale due to the five-hour plus drive. Visits to campus for games are much more infrequent, so building up that post-graduate affinity is much more difficult. We have tried to ratchet up our visits to Chicago, but that is a big hurdle for us. We are desperately trying to get our games on the radio, so there is at least some connection between the athletic program and our 35,000 alumni in the Chicago area. Another big issue is a degree of skepticism about anything really happening, in terms of construction. For example, one of our football alumns, Mike Ebstein, whose daughter Jenene is on our softball team, gave me a letter written in 1969 telling him that he would play in the new football stadium.

    There are other factors, like the economy, but in my opinion, these are the main issues we face and hurdles we need to overcome. We have a very compelling story to tell with the new facilities, and we'll keep checking off our prospects one by one.

    On the bright side, annual fundraising (which is related more to ticketing and parking benefits, rather than major gifts fundraising) continues to go well. In just two years, we have managed to almost double the Saluki Athletic Scholarship Fund from $580,000 to $1,130,000, which is phenomenal.

    For the upcoming Saluki Basketball trip to Canada during the Labor Day weekend, will these games be televised?
    No, they won't be televised. These kind of exhibition games are traditionally not broadcast, but with the interest we have in our basketball program, we are looking at any and all ways to get the information back to our fans in the best format available. Tom Weber, our director of media services, will be staffing the games and writing recaps and blogs. He is also exploring the possibility of video streaming the games, but that will depend on whether the facility has the proper infrastructure.

    During the time I attended SIU, they always had dogs at the home football games and sometimes at the basketball games. Their handlers wore sport coats and ties with the Saluki maroon color, and I think it added a lot to the school spirit and fan enthusiasm. Any thought to the school going back to owning their own mascot and bringing them to the games?
    We haven't discussed this. I have been appreciative of Don McGee and everyone who takes time out of their schedule to bring Saluki Dogs to football gameday. We will look to continue this practice, and I will have to ask the historians why the change from University ownership to private ownership took place.

    Thank you for the Military Appreciation Day that is scheduled during the upcoming football season. This is something I am very proud to see the University doing, since Southern Illinois has a long list of those currently serving and who have served in the past. Is there going to be such a day designated during the basketball season as well?
    Yes, there will. We will look to determine the game once our schedule is finalized. We will continue to do what we can to recognize our servicemen and women. One of the presentations I am most proud of is when we recognized our two former student-athletes, Patrick Clark (football) and Dana Pinkston (women's basketball), who were temporarily home from serving in Iraq, at a basketball game. The crowd gave them a prolonged standing ovation.

    Is there any possibility either XM or Sirius satellite radio will offer any games on their networks in the future?
    Road games are a possibility. Unfortunately, we can't do home games, because our region does not have the necessary telephone system network, known as ISDN. The Missouri Valley Conference office negotiates the league's exposure on satellite radio, and it is quite possible we will have some of our road games available in the future.

    What can women's basketball fans expect this coming season? Has the recruiting season been successful this year, and will there be a complete roster of players on the team?
    I think the outlook is positive. We will have a full roster of players. In speaking to Dana and our assistant coaches, they are making good progress in recruiting. Remember, our 2007 MVC Championship is still in the minds of a lot of recruits, as well as our stellar academic record over the past three years. We will have to wait to see how this year's team gels during workouts. We will make an added push to get our fans in the door to watch our new team this year.

    I saw the new seat layout for the remodeled arena. It shows five rows of seats where four rows of padded bleachers are now. How will this be accomplished? The rows will have to spread out to add another row. Won't that crowd the scorer's table?
    I spoke to John Eyler, one of our lead architects on the project, and he responded with the following, which I thought you would get a kick out of:

    "The attached SIU Carbondale 1.3.07 001.jpg shows the existing condition with a significant amount of space in between the Row 1 and the court. The attached SIU Court dims.pdf shows that we did add an additional tread to increase premium seating from 4 rows to 5. But we also considered the amount of patron circulation on the floor would be significantly reduced due to the emphasis on the new Main Concourse and entry. We have verified that these dimensions are in accordance with NCAA standards."

    As you can see, John is a pretty detailed guy, but in layman's terms, since a new entrance will be built to the arena, there will be much less traffic between the front row and the scorer's table. Compared to other arenas, we have room to spare, and we are always on the lookout for ways to increase premium seating.