User ID: Password:

August 11, 2009

Tech AD Addresses Important Topics Concerning Athletics

By: Jimmy Robertson

Virginia Tech is entering its sixth year as a member of the ACC with three championships in football and 10 overall league titles. As usual, the department continues to invest for future success, and we sat down with Jim Weaver, Tech’s director of athletics, as a part of our annual Q&A to get his thoughts on a wide range of topics.

Q: The big topic, not just in athletics, but also around the country, today is the economy. How has the poor economic climate affected the athletics program?

JW: We have planned for the down side of the economy, just like the rest of the university. We’re very fortunate that our season ticket sales in football are just like they’ve been the past 10 years. We’re fortunate that our basketball season tickets sold out last year and we have every expectation they will continue to do that this year. So the revenue streams that we can control are virtually very solid.

But we had planned for more than $1 million less in revenue than last year. We feel very fortunate that we have not had to lay off any employees or drop any programs or furlough anybody at this point. A lot of athletics programs across the country have had to make critical decisions with regards to personnel and programs.

Q: What cost-cutting measures has the department taken to reduce the impact of the tough economy?

JW: Oh yes, we’ve done a lot, more than $500,000 worth. Every segment of the department, every sport program and every support unit is operating on the same budget they had last year. Football alone will save the department $80,000 by busing to Maryland instead of chartering. We’ve asked all sports to try and stay within two states of Virginia for non-conference competition to cut back on travel costs. We’ve done lots of other little things to make sure we’re being as cost effective as we can.

Q: Even with the difficult economy, the department is going ahead with the new football locker room project. How is that project coming along and how much will it cost?

JW: They’ve started moving dirt and it’s scheduled to be ready by the first of August next year. It’s going to be a nice addition to our entire complex. It’s a facility that’s desperately needed. When you’re playing at the high level we are, you’ve got to maintain every thing in the program at that high level, including facilities. Our locker room facility, in my opinion, needed attention.

The cost will be around $16-18 million. It will give us three stories (locker room, lounge and wrestling practice room).

Q: What was the thought process behind having the wrestling room as a part of that project?

JW: The reason is we’re going to convert the back gym where wrestling currently practices into a first-class weight room. All of our Olympic sports have been in a 3,500-square foot weight room that used to be football’s weight room until about 10 or 11 years ago. So we’re making that change.

As a result of moving out of the current football locker room, we’ll be able to, with some minor construction, create three new locker rooms for Olympic sports. There’s a lot of win-win here, and that’s what we’ve always tried to do any time we’ve built new facilities. We’ve tried to create new space for someone else. We did that when our academic support services people moved to Lane Stadium. We created some offices for men’s and women’s soccer and volleyball, and they’re really first class.

Q: As far as football scheduling, talk a little about playing Boise State at FedEx Field in 2010 and removing Syracuse?

JW: We’ve been working for four or five months with the Redskins. They want to start hosting college games and we’ve been going back and forth. They had about four or five different teams in the mix, and we signed a contract to play Boise State at FedEx Field on Oct. 2, 2010.

Syracuse has asked for relief for the last two or three years. It’s very difficult to make the kind of scheduling changes you need to replace someone like that. Then we needed a one-time home game to replace Syracuse here in 2011 and we put that on the group that is working with the Redskins. The only team they could get was Arkansas State, which is a Division-I team.

It’s not going to be a particularly attractive non-conference schedule in 2011. But what we’ve done the last couple of years with Nebraska and the Alabama game, and what we’re doing in the future with games against Pittsburgh (2012-13), Ohio State (2014-15), Kansas State (2014 and 2016) and Wisconsin (2016-17) is pretty strong.

Q: What is your vision for the future of Tech athletics given the uncertainty right now with the economic outlook?

JW: What I see in the future is for us to continue to develop and grow our enterprise as best we can under the circumstances of the economy. We’ve finally been able to help some of our Olympic sports operating budgets and salaries and we want to continue along that line because we haven’t completed our task in that area. And we want to continue to advance the Olympic sports facilities as well because we play in the best conference in the country in Olympic sports. For us to be competitive, we’ve got to continue to build on our current strengths and address some of the issues that need our attention. Of course, we’ve got to keep the engine that drives the train moving down the track, which is football.

And of course – and probably most important – we need to continue to provide our student-athletes with the resources to help them graduate. Last year, our graduation rate was 76 percent, which is tremendous.

Overall, we want to be a well-rounded and competitive athletics department in the Atlantic Coast Conference. We’re going to work hard to continue down that path.