Ask the AD -- October Edition

    Oct. 31, 2007

    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

    I read on SalukiTalk that once SIU Arena is remodeled, the donors who donate the most will have first priority on any seat in the arena. Even if you have sat in your seats for 30 years, you could lose your seat. The priority point system will only come into play when you are competing for seats with someone in the same donor level. Is this information accurate?
    The thought I have at the present time is relatively simple, and many schools have implemented it in new construction. In effect, there would be two classifications of individuals (which I will refer to as Box A and Box B). Everyone making a gift to the capital campaign (Saluki Way) in the amount of $25,000 or more (this is payable over a five-year period of time) is placed into Box A and is eligible for first seat selection status. All the folks making a gift of this magnitude are ranked by the point system, and they will select seats according to their rank. As a real life example, when the $75 million Mizzou Arena was built, there were 300 people making a gift of $25,000 or more, and they were ranked 1-300 and selected their seats in that order. The $25,000 figure appears to be the industry standard giving level, according to the University Foundation at both Mizzou and SIU.

    All remaining individuals would be placed into Box B and also ranked according to the point system. This is where donating to the SASF and the longevity of purchasing season tickets comes into play. In your question, the term "losing your seat" has some very "lightning rod" connotations. No individual, especially fans who have been there in the good and bad times, wants to change their seat. The reality, however, is that without donations, this renovation cannot take place, and the benefit for folks committing significant dollars to make it happen is seating, parking and naming opportunities. I can tell you first-hand that the prospect of all the "rich folks" eating up all the good seats never materialized at Mizzou. With the success of the Salukis for this many years, most of the folks who are "well-heeled" already have good tickets, so I don't anticipate this being a major issue here, either. I would encourage everyone with season tickets or anyone planning to buy season tickets to join the SASF now. Joining now will help you build up your points and be important when it comes time for seat selection in the retrofitted arena. In addition, your donation is approximately 80 percent tax deductible and goes solely toward putting Saluki student-athletes through school, which is a pretty worthwhile endeavor, in my opinion. There is a much to discuss about seating, and we will produce a brochure to explain in detail at the appropriate time.

    As a hard-core Saluki Fan, I want to take a moment to drop a line about the way the basketball tickets went this year. It seems to me that in order to get tickets to the big-time games, you have to either 1) pay a lot of money to the SASF, or 2) buy season tickets. Don't get me wrong, the season ticket is the way to go, but some of us have jobs that require us to work 24-hour shifts. In my opinion, I think allowing season tickets holders another chance to buy more tickets is totally wrong and makes it hard for others such as myself to get tickets to the big games. Comments?
    First, thanks for being a big Saluki fan! Our season tickets exploded this year from around 3,500 total to more than 4,600, which is a massive increase. Our biggest reason for pushing season tickets so hard and leveraging individual game purchases in order to sell season tickets was primarily a need for guaranteed revenue. In addition to raising men's basketball salaries last year, we have also increased salaries for our women's basketball coaches and football assistant coaches, as well as several other initiatives. The bottom line is that we are spending more money each year as the price of poker goes up (keeping quality coaches and staff members to ensure our best chance for on-field/court success.) We must continue to provide incentives to join the SASF as well, because the cost for tuition keeps going up. We raised $850,000 for scholarships through the SASF, an increase of $250,000 over the previous year. However, tuition went up, also. Remember that when we give Jamaal Tatum a scholarship, we have to turn around and pay the University for this, so when tuition goes up, it affects us big time. At the end of the day, we were ahead just $12,500! We had to have a record year to barely keep our head above water.

    I know these issues make it harder for the average fan to purchase tickets, but I do know that the general public still had a chance to get tickets to the IU and Creighton game, and there are tickets available for all remaining games on the schedule, and I hope you will come to as many as you can. Thanks for your past support.

    Why do you want to build the new football stadium next to the arena on land that is already occupied by tennis courts and ball fields? Wouldn't it be cheaper and more practical to build in the parking lot or rebuild a new stadium in the current location?
    The decision to build in this location was in the original plan created a few years ago and is part of the overall campus master plan. The plan has the stadium lining up, from a linear standpoint, with some of the premier buildings on the main campus. The first part of the project will be the building of the new rec fields and tennis courts, followed by the football stadium. I believe we are doing things as economically and efficiently as possible. A big factor in the stadium location and new building addition is the opportunity to utilize value engineering and economies of scale.

    I have seen the pre-season rankings, and the Salukis are ranked high in the polls this year. My question is, do you think they have the talent to be ranked as high as they are? I remember what happened to Wichita State last year, and I don't want to see the same thing happen to the Salukis this year.
    I definitely think we have some good talent. As we all know, a team is only as good as the chemistry that it has, and with a new team, we shall see how the guys gel together. With several returning players, it seems like we will have an opportunity to be solid ,but having to find an alternative for Tatum and Young will be no easy task. With our strength being predicated on defense as opposed to one or two "star" players, I believe that even if a 29-win season doesn't happen, we also won't totally fall on hard times.

    I have heard that Brown Dog is in disrepair. The foot is held on by brown duct tape, there are burn marks on knees, holes in the gloves and all kinds of other problems. I have personally heard people young and old asking what's wrong with the costume. Is there a reason that there isn't a new costume on the way? Is there anything in the works already? I know that these things are not cheap, but with something like this, it seems it would be worth the money. I do also understand that it's not as easy as just going to the store and getting one.
    First off, I hate to see something that represents our University in shoddy condition. However, my near-term goal is to alter the costumes next year in conjunction with a new children's logo that has yet to be designed. With costumes being so expensive, I didn't want to spend the funds for just one year of a new mascot. I'd like the new Brown and Gray dogs to take on a little more animated look, as most of the children I've encountered (especially within our athletic department staff) are terrified of the current look. So, I am holding out hope that the current Brown and Gray dogs can make it through one more season. The new dogs would make their debut in August of 2008.

    We have played Murray State every year since I can remember. Why aren't they on the football and basketball schedule? I went to SIU, and my wife went to Murray. Has the tradition come to an end?
    I met the Murray State AD, Allen Ward, at our last basketball game, and we got along well. I can't speak to the past history of football, but with the addition of North Dakota State and South Dakota State to the Gateway Conference and us playing one Football Bowl Subdivision team and a DII team each year, it makes scheduling a non-conference FCS team a little more complicated. We have a contract with SEMO and are looking to expand that series. I have had discussions with Murray State for a football game, but it wouldn't take place until 2011 at the earliest and perhaps as late as 2013. Playing the Racers certainly makes sense, because they are a familiar opponent for our fans. Plus, Murray is a bus trip as opposed to a flight, which is a huge budget strain. As far as basketball, we couldn't make the date work this year. We decided to back it up a year, which then threw off both schools' scheduling, so we ultimately decided to take a hiatus. There were no hard feelings involved, and we both pledged to try to get back on each other's schedules as soon as we can work it out.

    Myself and a lot of other Saluki alums around the county would love to see SIU football step up and compete at a higher level. When, if ever, do you see SIU stepping up to play at the FBS level? The basketball program has done wonders for the school's reputation, and I'd love to see that happen for our football program as well.
    Well, at the outset, the NCAA has issued a moratorium on teams moving to different divisions, so at the earliest, we couldn't jump to the FBS until 2012. With all the costs involved, there would need to be a University financial commitment for a stated goal of success in this subdivision. I think many schools just add it to say they added it, but there needs to be a huge commitment across the board. In addition, there needs to be a natural conference to move into, and I would think the only two coming to mind would be the Mid-American conference and the Sun Belt conference. However, neither of them would take us as a football-only member, and I'm not sure they would be a good fit for all of our sports.

    Do you think the MVC will move the Valley Basketball Tournament to Kansas City? Also want to say keep up the great work. Just please change the dawg head logo.
    The tournament was a topic of discussion at our Missouri Valley Conference fall meetings in St. Charles, Mo. this week. Our main goal is to provide a first class event for our student-athletes and fans. With the tournament coming off a phenomenal year, and our contract winding down at the Scottrade Center, it was incumbent on the league to put the tournament out to bid. In addition to a financial component that is very important to all schools, we need to remember there are some schools to the west and north of us that would love this tournament in their "backyards" as well. We should have a final answer on this by mid November.

    As for the logo, I have heard many comments about this both positive and negative, and it is also on my radar. We have some other pressing issues, but our brand is a very important item, and when we do have time to put some energy behind it, we will definitely engage a wide range of constituents to get their opinion.

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