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August 15, 2011

Q&A with Jim Weaver

By: Jimmy Robertson

Tech AD optimistic about Hokies’ future in spite of ever-changing landscape

Virginia Tech is entering its seventh year as a member of the ACC, and the landscape of college athletics continues to change. The question remains how will this impact Virginia Tech going forward. Tech AD Jim Weaver sat down and graciously answered questions concerning many different topics.

Q: What progress is being made on the building of a new field house next to the football locker room?

JW: “We’re getting ready to move on that and start a fundraising campaign. We’re getting a publication printed, so that when we get after it here in the next six weeks, I would think we’d start our active campaign in concert with the start of the football season. We don’t have a timetable set as to when we’d like to start construction or when we’d like to have it done, but we have an idea as to what we’d like built and we’re moving forward with that idea.”

Q: How did the arrangement with Alabama come about [2013 Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game], and what are your thoughts on all these neutral-site games?

JW: “Last fall, Gary Stokan [president of the Chick-fil-A Bowl] approached me and said that they would like for us to consider coming back and playing Alabama. The new College Football Hall of Fame is going to be opening and run by the Chick-fil-A people, and Frank [Beamer] and I felt honored that they wanted Virginia Tech and Alabama to play in that special game in conjunction with the new Hall of Fame.

“I do like neutral-site games when it’s the right thing to do. The kinds of exposure we got with the first one [e.g. ESPN Gameday] and the enthusiasm around the game was good. But I’m not one who wants to keep going to neutral-site games. I want our fans to be able to have as many opportunities to see us play in Blacksburg as we can because they’re buying season tickets, club seats, suites, etc. I want them to have the opportunity to use those.”

Q: What’s the latest with football scheduling? You need a game next year, correct?

JW: “Yes, we’re looking for a I-AA because we don’t have one scheduled. We were supposed to play East Carolina in 2012 and 2013, but when we got the invite to play Alabama, I called Terry Holland [ECU AD] to see if we could do anything and we agreed not to play in 2012 and 2013, but we are going to push those games back to 2016-17. Having said that, they had an opportunity or two that they wanted to look at, so we worked together on that.

“Other than looking for a game for next year, we’re scheduled out through 2015, and we’re looking at adding a MAC opponent in 2016. I’m waiting for the contract on that one before I say anything, but that fits with our scheduling philosophy. We want to schedule a major institution like Ohio State (2014-15), Wisconsin (2016-17) and Pittsburgh (2012-13), which are on our future schedules, and then fill in with I-AA’s and teams from the MAC and Conference USA (e.g. Marshall, ECU).”

Q: Do you see any movement to playing nine ACC games and getting rid of a non-conference game?

JW: “We discussed that at two or three ACC meetings last year, and for all intents and purposes, the AD’s voted to take that off the table. We’re not actively pursuing that. Some teams would be playing five conference games at home in a given year, while others would be playing four. To be honest, a lot of the head coaches didn’t like that.

“We talked about the “buy” games because the guarantees are getting so expensive. But it’s not to the point yet where we’re willing to go to nine conference games.”

Q: What led to the decision to perform another re-seating of Lane Stadium?

JW: “When we did the first re-seating, we said we were going to re-seat in no less than five years and no more than seven years, so we’re keeping our word. There are a lot of donors who have given us gifts with the understanding that they’re going to have a chance to get better seats. So we feel that re-seating is the proper thing to do, and we have a committee that is working diligently on that.

“I don’t have any concerns about our process. I think our process will be better than what we had in place the last time, and we had very few, if any, problems the last time and received compliments from sister institutions in the way we went about it the last time.”

Q: How concerned are you, like most AD’s, about selling tickets to bowl games?

JW: “Very. The secondary ticket market is killing everyone right now. Our people have been such terrific followers to bowls and away games. But go back to the one Orange Bowl a few years ago when the Orange Bowl was going to host the national championship the week after. They [Orange Bowl officials] mandated that people who bought tickets to the championship game also had to buy tickets to the Orange Bowl. So a lot of those people had no interest in the Orange Bowl and were selling those tickets and parking passes at tremendously reduced rates. That killed us.

“It’s an issue, and we’ve talked about it a lot. But I’m not sure what can be done. Different things have been tried, but without a lot of success. I don’t know what the answer is. That’s a wait-and-see deal.”

Q: What do you think of all the chatter in regards to paying student-athletes?

JW: “The reason this is a hot topic is that a lot of these young people don’t have spending money, and you’re hearing more and more about expanding scholarship dollars to cover the “cost of attendance,” which means not only giving money for tuition, fees, books, etc., but also for personal expenses.

“The problem with doing that is that if you don’t pay that for everyone, you have a potential Title IX issue. Now, if I understood what [ACC commissioner] John Swofford said, he would like to pursue increasing the value of the scholarship, and I don’t think it’s necessarily the same issue as paying them [student-athletes] the cost of attendance. If that’s the case, then there’s equity within your department and it’s not going to be as costly because not every student-athlete is on full scholarship – some get a percentage of a scholarship. I think increasing the value of a scholarship might be a way to do it without getting into all the other issues that may come into play.”

Q: So you wouldn’t be for paying student-athletes a set rate of $100 or $200 a month or whatever the number might be?

JW: “I would not. I still believe that the amateurism issue should be in effect. There are a lot of young men and women on scholarship who go through college and get some Pell money or get some NCAA assistance money or they work a little in the summer, and they still graduate and they’re okay. I’m not for paying college athletes. I am for having as many opportunities available for our young people to get resources such as the Pell money and the NCAA special assistance money.

“If we start paying people, and let’s just say it’s $100 a month as a hypothetical, then people will say that won’t be enough. There’s no end to it, and remember, in this day and age, there are 20 schools that are operating in the black (actually 22) – and we’re one of them. If they’re already in the red, how are they going to afford to make headway toward operating in the black?”

Q: A story came out recently in The Washington Post about the financial problems in Maryland’s athletics department. How is this department financially looking ahead to the next several years?

JW: “I think we’re as solid as any schools that have been operating in the black. We’ve been operating in the black for as long as I’ve been here. We’re proud of that fact. We have a requirement from the state that you have to have 22 percent of your operating budget in reserve, and we fulfill that obligation. We have the lowest student fees among the schools in the state, and we’re still on solid ground.

“The most important reason we’re in the black is that we have a fan base called Hokie Nation that loves this university and supports this university and buys football and basketball tickets, which it takes to operate the enterprise. They also give of their resources to help us build facilities. Without them, we would have a hard time.”