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Ask Director of Athletics Randy Eaton


Director of Athletics Randy Eaton
Randy Eaton will address your items of interest, answer questions and occasionally throw in his own two cents worth in a column dealing with issues that specifically concern the Western Carolina intercollegiate athletic program.

Have a question for Randy Eaton? Ask it below, and check back to CatamountSports.com for your reply.

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Previous Editions of "Ask the AD" with Randy Eaton: 2012   |  2013   |  2014   |  2015


December 16, 2016
We have been getting a few questions here at the beginning of the holiday season, so it's time for another edition of "Ask the AD":

Bob asks when are we planning to replace the turf in the football stadium, and will it look the same?
Bob, honest answer to both questions is, I do not know. As for replacement, it is on our radar, but no definitive date has been set. As to the appearance, especially on television, I do think new turf, with proper alignment, would not give us the same sheen as we see from the current field. 

A second question from Bob is about message boards . . . . do I receive feedback from coaches, athletes, staff, etc. that they are upset about negative comments made about them, and do I think WCU loses recruits due to these websites?
Bob, have I heard from my staff about negative comments made toward them on the message boards? Sure. Does the staff sometimes get upset? Sometimes they do. The thing I continue to share with the entire Athletics staff is that these sites contain opinion and conjecture, and, for better or worse, our selected career fields are open to "Monday morning quarterbacking". However, I do get the sense that those folks that throw the most barbs on the message boards would not do so if their careers were under the same microscope. As for the recruits, most parents of prospects do not pay much attention to these websites, so I don't think it hurts WCU Athletics any more than our competitors. The one thing I would share with the message board community as it relates to comments about student-athletes is this: As a parent, would you want people to say the same things about your son/daughter as you do about their child? Just think about that the next time you want to verbally bash an 18-year-old!

Jimmy asks if attendance is up at all sports?
Jimmy, since we do not ticket all sporting events, it is hard to give you a definitive answer. However, we have noticed what we believe to be more folks in the stands supporting all of our teams. C'mon out everyone, see for yourselves!

Joe and others have asked about the success of the football program: what does it do for future finances and does that create a need for, and an investment into, an indoor facility?
Joe, continued success on the field should lead to increases in ticket revenues, corporate sponsorships, and Catamount Club membership; and yes, we have seen those direct correlations over the past few years.  As for an indoor facility, it is hard to argue against the need for one regardless of the football team's performance. As a recruiting tool, it would be great as currently no member of the Southern Conference has a "true" indoor practice facility (although UTC has one in the concept stages and ETSU has the Dome). The investment question is the hard part. A standalone facility will cost somewhere between $12 and $20 million dollars - money that the State of North Carolina's laws say cannot come from the university. And with the alterations in the legislature's rules governing student fee increases this past summer, we cannot ask for more debt service be paid by the students (the current bonds financed by student debt service are not paid off until 2025). Hence, whatever we do, we will need to fund raise 100% of the cost.

Jim wants to know where we stand overall, in my opinion, as an Athletics program?
Jim, I have said from the start that I wanted to "win every game, graduate every student-athlete, and do it all with class"; but I am also a realist. I look at the resources we are able to offer our different programs in comparison to their respective peers in the SoCon, and I think most of our coaches overachieve. We continue to have one of the lowest scholarship and operating budgets in the conference, therefore yes, I would argue that our teams DO overachieve and our coaches are doing a great job with what they have to work with!

At this time of year, I want to share how thankful and grateful I am to all of you for supporting Catamount Athletics. I especially would like to thank those of you that support our student-athletes financially by being members in the Catamount Club. NORTH CAROLINA STATE LAW DOES NOT ALLOW UNC system institutions to utilize tax dollars, nor tuition receipts, to fund athletic programs. Therefore it becomes even more imperative that we have a strong, ongoing fundraising effort in order to compete within the SoCon. It is up to US to make a difference! I ask that you help me bring championships back to the `Whee"!

 

Go Cats!                              

Randy



August 25, 2016

Welcome to a new school year! The student-athletes are back in full force, and our fall sports are gearing up for the season ahead. Our women's soccer team has already begun competition, splitting their first two contests on the road. Both soccer and volleyball will kick-off our home schedule this Friday, so ready or not Catamount faithful, the season is upon us!

During the past two months, every question (less one) sent in to "Ask the AD" has inquired about the NC Promise program and what effect it will have on our athletic program.  Since this has been, and will continue to be, a major issue for both the athletics program and the University, I thought I would share with you a recent interview I did with the Sylva Herald. Hopefully this will give everyone insight as to where we are at, and how we anticipate moving forward.

 

START

 

From the Sylva Herald

By Carey Phillips | Posted: Wednesday, August 17, 2016 2:00 pm

 

WCU athletics could gain dollars

Lower tuition rates through N.C. Promise could bring big changes to the athletic program at Western Carolina University.

Coaches could be paying out fewer dollars than now for scholarships. WCU leaders caution, however, that there remain many unknowns.

"We believe, at this time, that the economic impact on our current scholarship budgets may be significant, but until details are finalized at both the state and institutional levels, we cannot be certain," WCU Athletic Director Randy Eaton said last week.

During the upcoming academic year, WCU leaders plan to crunch the numbers and add up possible savings and where to spend the "extra" money.

"A reduction in scholarship costs will not necessarily translate to more scholarships for every program," Eaton said. "We will work with each coaching staff to determine individual program priorities."

Eaton said all of WCU's teams trail their Southern Conference peer institutions in both scholarships and operating budgets.

"It would be foolhardy to simply say we are blindly increasing scholarships, when in fact that may not be the most pressing need for a given program," he said. "The decisions between offering more scholarships versus allocating more for out-of-state students would rest primarily with each individual head coach."

WCU's athletic director said that the university also plans to look at possible new strategies in other areas, such as student academic support, sports medicine and strength and conditioning.

Eaton said it is difficult to place an exact figure on costs of athletic scholarships, because of the many variables involved for coaches.

"The actual cost is typically student specific," he said.

Roughly stated, an in-state freshman, staying in Scott Hall and receiving a full meal plan, will cost $15,409 this year, while the out-of-state cost will be $25,802, according to Eaton.

The scholarships cover tuition, mandatory fees, room, board and books.

During the last school year, the Catamount Club, WCU's athletic-booster organization, raised $1.4 million in its annual fund. Endowments added another $200,000, totaling $1.6 million for athletic scholarships, according to Eaton. He said that's right at half of the approximately $3.2 million cost for WCU's athletic scholarships.

"The balance of this expense is generated from other revenue sources, such as ticket sales, corporate sponsorships, and game guarantees generated by both football and men's basketball," Eaton said.

The athletic director said that WCU is not in the position where the department can offer a specific number of scholarships for each programs. Football, with 63; men's basketball, with 13; and women's basketball, with 15; each receive the full allotment of scholarships allowed by the NCAA (although not all are funded at the out of state rate).

"Our other sports have been using a base budget number since my arrival, which we tweak on an annual basis," Eaton said. "We have not reached the point financially that I can sit down and tell each coach, `You have `X' number of scholarships.' I am hopeful that the financial outcomes of the N.C. Promise Program will allow us to begin budgeting by number of scholarships, rather than simply by dollars."

END

 

The point of the article - and what I wish to share - is that we will not rush to short-sighted decisions; there is no need to do so. We will take our time and thoroughly review every program and every support unit to ensure we are making the best possible decision for the future of those teams, and areas, as we can. Many will say we should simply fully fund the scholarships of a given sport. But I ask you, what good will that do if the coaches do not have the operating budgets to recruit out-of-state students? As I stated, we will take our time, have multiple discussions with coaches and staff, and develop a strategy that will move our athletic program forward not just today, but for the foreseeable future!

 

One final thought: now is not the time to lessen your commitment to Western Carolina University; to the contrary, it is a perfect time to step up. The momentum we have gained over the past several years will be given a jolt of renewed energy with the implementation of the NC Promise program. Yet, we are in a position to magnify that impact by increasing our Catamount Club membership and fundraising totals. If you are not a Catamount Club member, my question to you is "why not"? If you are already a member, thank you. I would ask all current Catamount Club members to help me in recruiting new members to join us in our mission.

 

As always, keep the questions coming, and I look forward to seeing all of you this fall.

Go Cats!

Randy



March 29, 2016

I asked and you responded!!  Many questions over the past month, let's get to them: 

Ed asks: What is the possibility of playing a "throw-back" basketball game in Reid Gym?

Ed, this is something we looked into during my first year at WCU.  Unfortunately, the stands were condemned and removed from Reid, and the cost to replace, or even rent bleachers, makes the idea cost prohibitive at this time.  However, it is on my radar and is something we will continue to look at in the future.

Ed continues with: Would it be possible to play a regional high school double header with a WCU home game?

Ed, this may not be a bad thought.  My initial reaction is this would probably be against NCAA Bylaws, but definitely something to research.

Greg asks:  Are there any football camps coming up for students interested in attending WCU?

Greg, and others with questions regarding camps, should look at CATAMOUNTSPORTS.COM and go to the home page for the sport that interests you.  Each of our sports have links to information regarding their respective camps.

Willie wants to know:  How does track manage to recruit freshman that make major contributions on a less-than-ideal budget?  Can these same tactics be used by other teams? 

Willie, part of the answer has to do with how track splits scholarships when other teams cannot.  Basketball teams cannot offer more than a limited number of scholarships (13 for men; 15 for women); football has 63 scholarships that can only be given to a maximum of 85 athletes.  Baseball can have no more than 27 students on scholarship.  Track can split the scholarships allocated to them to an unlimited number of students.  In a nutshell, this is what helps track along with great coaching

Jonathon asks:  Why does Men's Basketball always seem to have mediocre seasons followed by strong endings to the season, and at the Southern Conference Tournament? 

Jonathon, part of the answer lies in men's Basketball needing to generate significant dollars on guarantee games to help fund the department budget.  These games can only be played when available, which is typically at the beginning of the season.  Playing a level of competition that we only see a minimum number of times, delays the chemistry of the team as well as not allowing playing time to develop a bench rotation.  Unfortunately, this will almost certainly be a way of life for us for the foreseeable future.

Mike, Cornelius & Jenny write to ask:  Are there any plans for a new Press Box (with Club and Suite seating), as well as an indoor practice facility in the future? 

Mike, Cornelius, & Jenny, we have had internal discussions on facility upgrades to E. J. Whitmire Stadium, and an indoor facility, but to date, nothing that we are ready to discuss publically.  I will tell you it is my intent to improve our football stadium during my tenure at WCU!

I want to once again publically thank all of you for following and supporting Catamount Athletics.  I am certain not all of my answers are what many Catamount faithful want to hear, but I can only share what I know to be true as of today. I also would like to sincerely thank all of you that support our student athletes financially by being members in the Catamount Club.  It is imperative that we have a strong, ongoing fundraising effort in order to compete within the Southern Conference.  Many of our peers within the conference receive significant funding from their institutions, SOMETHING THAT NORTH CAROLINA STATE LAW DOES NOT ALLOW.  Our University is limited in the amount of support it can give to Athletics, it is up to US to make a difference!  If you are not a Catamount Club member, I ask you to consider joining me in making WCU the shining example of athletics within the Southern Conference, and beyond!

Go Cats!

Randy




February 15, 2016

Welcome Catamount Nation to another edition of "Ask the AD".  I typically wait until I receive enough questions to fill a page, but only six have made it to me over the last several months, hence the delay in this edition. 

If you ask, I will answer!  Let's get to our current batch: 

Will wants to know how our football budget compares to others in the Southern Conference?

Will, Football may be the only budget that stacks up well against its peers in the SoCon.  In all categories: operating budget, scholarships, and coaching salary pool, we are in the top half against other football programs within the Southern Conference.  Unfortunately, football is our only team at WCU that can make that claim; the other fifteen programs we sponsor are in the lower half of the SoCon when it comes to scholarships. Operating budgets and salary pools aren't necessarily much better. 

Bob wants to know if the SoCon is looking to expand anytime soon, and if so, what qualities would we seek in new members?

Bob, as of today, I would say "No", the SoCon is not looking to expand anytime soon. However, I have learned to never say never!  The current membership mix of public and private institutions always leads to interesting dialogue when expansion is discussed.  The only trait I would say is vital would be location. I cannot see the SoCon expanding too far from our current footprint. Other issues such as private versus public, and football versus non-football, will always be discussed prior to offering any institution membership.

Jim wants to know my future plans; am I in this for the long haul?

Jim, thanks for the kind words in your email.  I will share that earlier this fiscal year I signed a contract extension that will keep me here thru 2021.  Hopefully, we have the success I envision us having, and I am offered an extension after 2021; I have no plans of leaving anytime soon!


A different Jim wants to know about the FCS playoffs this year; he wants to know how a 6-5 team received a bid, along with several 7-4 teams, yet the Catamounts were on the outside looking in? 

Jim, I wish I had a simple answer, but really I do not.  What I will share with you is a couple of members of the selection committee did reach out to me after the fact, and told me how they viewed candidates: they look at WHO each team beat, not necessarily WHO each team lost too.  In our case, the committee thought we won the games we should have won, and lost the games we should have lost, so nothing special.  While I could argue all day with the mindset, it was what it was.  Looking forward, as Coach Mark Speir has said, we need to control our own destiny and NOT leave it up to sixteen men sitting in Indianapolis!

Joe writes in and wants to know how close are we to funding all scholarships so we can focus on facilities? 

Joe, short answer, we are not close at all!  On an annual basis, we are in the neighborhood of $1,500,000 to $2,000,000 SHORT of funding all scholarships for all teams.  However, we are in very early discussions about facility upgrades: what facilities; what priorities; and how to fund them. I do not foresee us waiting to fund all of our needed scholarships before beginning some facility improvements, but I am not sure when upgrades would occur.  In short, I do not foresee us waiting until every scholarship is funded to do something with our facilities.

That's it for this edition! Let me thank all of you once again for following and supporting Catamount Athletics.  As always, I want to express the importance of the scholarship dollars we are able to generate from the Catamount Club.  For all of our teams to be competitive, we must give our coaches the scholarship resources to compete within the Southern Conference.  I would ask each and every one of you to consider joining the Catamount Club today.  Without your support, we cannot improve.

 

Go Cats!                              

Randy
 




October 8, 2015

Welcome again sports fans, to another edition of "Ask the AD".  Sorry it has been so long since I have replied to your questions, but honestly, we only received seven over the past several months.  If you ask, I will answer!  Let's get to our current batch:

Matthew asks how much revenue does the football program draws in annually.

Matthew, it really depends on the year and the number of "guarantee games" on the schedule.  Typically, a "big time" opponent from the SEC is gong to pay $500,000 per game, ACC $400,000, and on down the line.  So depending on who we play in a given year will determine the revenue for that year.  I will share that we have averaged roughly $250,000 on ticket revenue over the past couple of years, so add that in as well.

Howard wants to know why we do not have more information about teams that are no longer sponsored by Western Carolina Athletics on our website?

Howard, basically it is about manpower and focus.  While we cannot forget the past, we cannot allow ourselves to become so focused on it that we forsake the current and future.  If and when time allows, we may be able to get caught up; but again, only as time and manpower allow.

Ken wants to know if we plan on a small pep band at any away games this season?

Ken, since the band does not report to athletics, I cannot answer your question.  However, history has proven that the band does not typically have the time nor the funds to make such a trip.  Others have asked me why athletics doesn't find the money to pay for it, and that is an easy answer: ask Head Football Coach Mark Speir, he will tell you he would rather have the money for scholarships than have the band at a road game (as would all of our coaches)!

Richard wants to know if there are plans for new football uniform combinations this year? 

Richard, I do not believe football purchased new sets of uniforms for this year, so unless we have jerseys and pants we have not used in unison, I would say it is doubtful.

Joshua asks inquires about improving quality in our televised games and if we will ever have a CatamountTV package? 

Joshua, remember this is only year two of Catamount Athletics producing digital streaming in-house, so yes, I do think we will improve.  By the fall of 2017, all SoCon schools will be required to stream to ESPN3 standards, so I know we will be better.  As for a Catamount TV package similar to the ACC or SEC, I do not see that happening anytime in the near or intermediate future . . . . but never say never when it comes to technology!

Ethan wants to know if we will ever have a Men's Tennis team? 

Ethan, we are a long way from beginning any new teams, especially men's sports.  We first need to improve the operating and scholarship budgets of those teams we already sponsor.  Then, we will need to ensure we are meeting all guidelines as set forth by Title IX.  Then, and only then, would we be able to discuss adding a Men's team.  Unfortunately, that day is not on the horizon.

Let me thank all of you once again for following Catamount Athletics.  I always like to take this opportunity to express the importance of the scholarship dollars we are able to generate from the Catamount Club.  Remember, without YOUR support we would not be able to support the great men and women that represent you and YOUR University!  Help us continue to strive for excellence, join the Catamount Club today!

Go Cats!                              

Randy

 



May 13, 2015

Here we are nearing the end of another year of Catamount Athletics. What a great year -- we saw the resurgence of football, stellar performances by the men's and women's track and field programs and deep tournament runs by both volleyball and softball.  As we head into summer and begin preparing for next year, I wanted to take a few minutes to answer questions that have come in over the past few weeks:

Jim asks about how the Hawaii football game came about?
Jim, it really was as simple as us hearing about it via the Southern Conference Office.  I reached out to the AD at Hawaii, after discussing it with Head Football Coach Mark Speir, and began discussing the opportunity.  We reached an agreement on a contract that calls for Hawaii t0 cover travel costs and provide a cash guarantee.  Add that to the fact that this is an allowable 12th game per the NCAA, and it really was a no-brainer.

Todd asks an intriguing question: "If money were no object, what are five things you would do or improvements you would make immediately in the athletic department?"

Todd, in order I would: 1) fully fund all scholarships for all sports as this is the area where we see the largest discrepancy between ourselves and our competitors in the Southern Conference;  2) make facility enhancements that help us get better competitively: indoor practice facility for all sports; a new athletic performance center (to include a new weight room and sports medicine area); upgrade locker rooms (to include video capabilities); enclose batting cages (baseball & softball); and create a practice facility for golf;  3) I would expand and enhance our academic center; 4) increase coaching staff sizes to NCAA maximums (only sports we have that currently have all allowable full time coaches are the two basketballs and baseball); 5) enhance operating budgets to allow all coaching staffs to recruit when and where they want, within NCAA bylaws. I Hope that is what you were looking for!

David wants to know how many "full ride" scholarships does football have available and what does "full ride" really mean?  Also, how do academic scholarships figure into this?

Well David, a "full ride" scholarship currently means tuition, fees, room, board and books.  With the approval by the "Power Five Conferences", the "cost of attendance" is set to become part of athletic scholarships most university's offer, so our definition may change in the future.  As far as what we budget for football, we do budget the 63 scholarships allowable under NCAA Bylaws for FCS.  Of these 63, we budget 31.5 at the in-state rate and 31.5 at the out-of-state rate.  Academic scholarships are typically not included in this 63 limit, as long as the scholarship is directed at the general student body and not specifically offered to student athletes.  Hope that answered all of your questions.

Jimmy, who states he is partial to the old "The Cats" logo, wants to know who picks out the design for uniforms and our helmet decal? 

Jimmy, in a nutshell, we in Athletics select these items.  But it is not as simple as liking one logo over another, rather it involves an orchestrated effort by the Athletic Department and the University to continue to build brand awareness via consistency in our marks.  While I personally like the cat eyes that were used years ago, we need to stick to our current logos on all of our uniforms, letterhead and business cards until such time as these, similar to "The Cats" logo, have run their course. 

Let me thank all of you once again for following Catamount Athletics.  As I spoke in one of the questions above about the importance of scholarships, I cannot express the importance of the scholarship dollars we are able to generate from the Catamount Club.  I urge each of you to join, or increase your membership level if you are already a member!  Remember, without YOUR support we would not have achieved the great things we did this past year, and for that I thank you!

Go Cats! 

Randy



Jan. 29, 2015

I hope everyone enjoyed the holidays and like us in Catamount Athletics are getting back into the swing of the winter -- and soon to be spring -- athletic schedules. Let's see what has been on your minds since we last spoke:

Bob asks if there are plans for an indoor facility, and if so, when would the project start? He also asks when we plan to get new turf for the football stadium?

Bob, we are discussing a possible indoor facility; but exactly when, I am not sure. I will tell you that I would hope to be in a new facility within five years. As for the turf, it would make sense to replace it while we are placing turf in a new facility, yes?

Joe wants to know, how much do we normally pay Division II schools to come to Cullowhee to play football?

Joe, the average since my arrival has been roughly $35,000 per school.


Joe wants to know what the Student Athletic Fee adds to the educational aspect for the general student body?

Joe, that question really has multiple answers based on each individual student. If the student takes advantage of the free tickets associated with the fee, the experiences gained while attending our home events can build spirit de corps among students, instilling a better student experience while attending college, and help them become an active and participative alum. Many of these alumni have donated millions of dollars to academic units for items such as endowed chairs of departments. For those students that do not attend games, the fee assists Athletics in meeting Title IX standards. If the athletic department were to fail in these efforts, the federal government could conceivably cut off federal funding leading to WCU students being ineligible to receive Pell Grants or guaranteed student loans, not to mention other federal grants the institution could lose.

Richard writes about watching home men's basketball games on the new Southern Conference Digital Network and having concerns about attendance during winter break. He asks if we have contemplated moving home games to the remodeled U.S. Cellular Center in Asheville during this time to improve attendance?

Richard, the first thing I would ask you is if you are local, why are you not in the Ramsey Center during those games instead of sitting at home watching on the SDN? As far as moving to Asheville, no, that is not an option at this time. Our cost to rent the arena would be much greater than any ticket revenue we could generate, and even if we were to lure a "big name" school, their required guarantee would be close to $100,000, and selling out the arena at $20 per ticket would be approximately $120,000. Not a good business decision. 

Another Richard (I think) inquires: I see Mars Hill is on the 2015 football schedule. Do you ever see a day we will have all FCS teams on the schedule?

Richard, I doubt it as I think we will always keep at least one FBS on the schedule for financial reasons. However, in the very near future we will have a few seasons without Division II opponents.

Jim wants to know why we play so many road games in the early part of the men's basketball season? Is it all about money? The philosophy does not seem to work.

Jim, you are correct on two counts: we do play many road games early and it is all about the money. When basketball schedules guarantee games, the bigger schools want these games scheduled early in the year when they have home dates to fill. Realistically, it doesn't really matter when we play Alabama, Vanderbilt, Minnesota or the like -- those are tough games for us to win regardless of the calendar date. However, if we averaged say 3,000 MORE paying customers per home game, we may not need to play as many of these "money" games. And before people starting saying "if you scheduled better opponents, people would come," let me share with you that Appalachian State, our most despised rival, did not average 3,000 paid ticket purchasers the last three times they appeared at Ramsey; and a "big name" opponent, such as an N.C. State, for instance, would require a guarantee of $50,000 - $100,000 to come to Cullowhee, making the financial pro forma for such a game impossible to reconcile.

Another Jim (again, guessing here) states it appears the Southern Conference, after all the institutional movement, appears to be in good shape. Jim asks: "what is your opinion about the shape of the conference?"

Jim, I like where the Southern Conference is positioned as of right now. For most of our sports, there is equity; and in others, there are clear dominating teams. For football, we stand where the conference stood after they lost Marshall in the late 1990's; but someone WILL fill the void. In men's hoops, I like that we have institutions that will draw fans to Asheville for the Southern Conference Tournament. But the thing I like best: all 10 institutions are united in bettering themselves, and the conference, together and NOT at one another's expense!

Jarred writes to say he lives in Raleigh, and why is so hard to find WCU merchandise?

Jarred, we do have a company that helps WCU get our apparel into regional, and national stores. But honestly, the best thing all alums can do when they cannot find our merchandise is this: 1) ask for the store manager; and 2) DEMAND they carry WCU apparel. Nothing builds supply like demand!

Let me thank all of you once again for following Catamount Athletics. I want to continue to share with you that we will not continue to move forward without people like yourself supporting our student-athletes via scholarships from the Catamount Club. To all of you Catamount Club members, without YOUR support we would not have achieved the great things we did in 2014; and for that I thank you!

Go Cats!                              

Randy




Nov. 12, 2014

Been a while since we last spoke, but what a fabulous fall we have experienced, highlighted by the resurgence of Catamount Football!   I hope all of you have had a chance to join in the fun, now off to some questions:

Bob states that he is aware of numerous complaints about Southern Conference officiating over the past year. His question is: have there been discussions with the league and what, if anything, is planned to improve overall officiating within the SoCon?

Well Bob that has been a question among fans for as long as I have been involved in intercollegiate athletics.  Truthfully, I am not certain officiating has really gotten any worse over the years. In my opinion, it has become more of a topic due to instant replay in and out of the stadium, multiple camera angles and zoom lenses.  I have heard this same issue from fans at every institution where I have worked during my career.  To be honest, officials are human beings and are going to make mistakes.  I think this is one area where the instant replay on the field has led to benefitting FBS football, while other Division I collegiate sports and football at other levels have not been able to share the same benefit.  I am not sure we will ever see officiating get to the point of making fans happy, but I do believe we will see field level instant replay expand to at least the FCS football level in the near future.

Cecil asks about next year's football schedule. He has seen we have Texas A&M and Tennessee scheduled in 2015 and wants to know if the return game to Coastal Carolina scheduled for 2015 is still scheduled? 

Cecil, the short answer is no, we are no longer scheduled to play Coastal Carolina.  Due to the University of Tennessee offer, we approached Coastal Carolina about moving the game to 2016.  They offered to move the game for a six-figure payment, so I bought out the contract.  Although we did have to buy-out the contract, we will still earn mid-six-figures from the net of the Tennessee/Coastal switch.C

Closely related to Cecil's question, Matt wants to know how much we make from playing "big schools"? 

Matt, this year Western Carolina earned $425,000 from South Florida while Alabama will be worth $480,000.  Next year, Tennessee will pay WCU $500,000 while we will receive $620,000 from Texas A&M.  Also realize these amounts represent roughly 8.5 percent of this year's total revenue while next year it will be nearly 10.3 percent of total funding of athletics! 

Jim asks: are there any plans to bring an ACC or SEC team to the Ramsey Center for a game? 

Jim, I would love to get a team from one of those conferences into Ramsey.  Unfortunately, having worked at that level for many years, it is virtually impossible to get a Head Coach from a major conference to agree to play what they consider a mid-major program away from home. We will keep trying to get someone from that level in Ramsey, but it may never happen.  I know NC State played here to open Ramsey back in the day; and I would guess there was vast political pressure placed on that institutions Chancellor to have his team play in the opening game of an arena named for a very powerful state legislator!

Richard inquires:  Once the Catamounts get to the level of a North Dakota State, would we entertain the idea of moving to FBS if the chance presented itself?

Richard, one can never simply state `No' in most cases, but this is really close to being there!  First, we have a LONG WAY TO GO before any FBS conference would offer us membership; remember, we cannot simply decide to jump to that level without being offered to move up.  On top of that, with the new NCAA Division I Governance Structure now in place, I am not sure the upper level programs will EVER let someone from DII or FCS move up, that would simply mean less money for them.  Never say never, but this is as close as it comes to being that case!

Let me thank you once again for following Catamount Athletics.  If you are not a Catamount Club member, realize we will not continue to move forward without people like yourself supporting our student athletes via scholarships.  To all of you Catamount Club members:  football would not be at the level it has achieved this year without YOUR support, for that I thank you!

Go Cats!                              

Randy



Sept. 18, 2014

While we have some time during this week without a football game, I thought I would delve into the mailbag and see what is on the minds of the Catamount Nation:

Bob wants to know if an indoor practice facility is still on our agenda and when it may become a reality; and Jim follows up asking why WCU won't ask the state to float bonds to help generate the necessary funds to improve facilities?

First, to Bob's question: yes, an indoor facility is on our "brick and mortar" agenda for the future.  But to go further, and address Jim's question, we will need to generate private funding sources (donations) to build it.  Now, might we request bonds from the state: absolutely.  But we must show that we can repay the bonds prior to the state agreeing to issue any at all. I will also share with you that all state owned buildings must have prior approval from the State Legislature prior to even beginning a planning phase; and we have started that process!  As for the timeline, the Catamount Nation will help me dictate that answer! 

Joseph wants to know about previous comments I have made regarding the need for the Athletic Department to get "fiscally healthy" prior to looking at adding sports or upgrading facilities. He wants to know how much progress has been made and when I foresee a "growth" stage. 

First Joseph, I think everyone needs to understand where we started from.  We were, and still are, the lowest overall budget in the Southern Conference, and we rank seven of 10 when it comes to the number of scholarships we offer (and remember, ETSU and UNCG do not currently have football).  However, we have been growing.  We did an analysis at the beginning of this fiscal year that showed we have increased team budgets by a little more than 20 percent from 2011-2012 to 2014-2015.  I think you would agree that is a significant jump in a short period of time, but we nevertheless remain at the bottom of the SoCon!  We still have a long way to go with current operating and scholarship budgets before we begin discussing adding any new teams.  However, as we move toward a campus wide comprehensive campaign, I do believe that we may have the opportunity to upgrade some facilities that impact athletic performance without jeopardizing our continued enhancement of team budgets.

Ken inquires about sending a small "pep band" to Furman, as he thinks it would be a tremendous boost to our fans and our team.

Ken, I couldn't agree more, it would be great, but there are two issues to overcome.  First, the band already has plans to participate in a regional competition on that date. This was planned over a year ago when our schedule was announced, so nobody can hold that against them.  Secondly, I would ask you to look at the answer above concerning finances.  What team's budget would you suggest I cut to afford that trip?  Could I get it sponsored, I think so.  But why would I use sponsorship money on a pep band trip when those same dollars could give, say Coach Moranda and baseball, another scholarship funded student-athlete to competitively improve that team?  Those are the day-to-day decisions I must make, and currently, I tend to err on the side of making all of our teams better before we can afford the "feel good" extras.

Corrie wants to know how Catamount fans will be able to support the football team when they travel to Alabama later this year.

First Corrie, I would tell you to contact our ticket office, purchase tickets, and make the trip.  But if you can't get to Tuscaloosa, invite some friends to get together and watch it on television.  I would guess you could find it on either the SEC Network or digitally streamed by Alabama.

I want to thank everyone who has helped us move our Athletic program forward by being a Catamount Club member.  With football off to the best start at WCU since 2006, it's exciting to see the investments many of you have made pay off to support each of our teams.  However, in order to continue to move forward, more of you must join the Catamount Club to allow us to strive for championships in all of our sports.  Your continued and new support is essential to our ability to maintain the upward momentum we are experiencing.

Go Cats!

Randy




July 9, 2014

Hello everyone, I hope you enjoying some time off this summer, and like all of us in the WCU Athletic Department, gearing up for another exciting season of Catamount Athletics!  It's been a while since I have answered questions on "Ask the AD", but to be quite honest, we have not been receiving as many questions as usual and waited until we had a handful to respond to. So, here we go . . . . . . 

Doug asks: Will WCU be sponsoring a women's lacrosse program in the near future?

Doug, currently we are not in a fiscal position to add teams.  Before we move in that direction we must ensure the 16 programs we currently sponsor are funded in a manner that allows them to compete for Southern Conference Championships.  Once we cross that hurdle, we will begin discussions on adding programs.

Terry wants to know about future plans to upgrade our baseball facility, especially in light of winning the past two Southern Conference regular season Championships.

Honestly Terry, are there plans? Yes. Will it happen tomorrow? No.  We have a plan for adding facilities; it will be part of a campus-wide master plan.  However, our annual focus is trying to raise money to allow for more scholarships that will assist us in becoming more competitive in the short term while we work on upgrading facilities.  Now, I want to be clear that when I discuss facilities, I am discussing things that in my opinion make our teams more competitive, not upgrades that are "pretty."  An indoor facility will help make all of our teams better, an upgraded scoreboard or sound system, while valuable to the fans, will not in my opinion, help us win more games.

Jerry inquires about a rumor he has heard involving a four team basketball event in Asheville.

Jerry, we have spoken with representatives in Asheville about participating in a multi-team, beginning of the year basketball event, to be hosted in the U.S. Cellular Center in Asheville.  Although I cannot share specifics, I can tell you it will not occur in 2014 . . . . . but stay tuned!

Jim wants to know if it is time the Southern Conference rethinks how it awards its automatic bid for the NCAA Baseball Tournament. This is in light of WCU winning the past two regular season championships and finishing 20-6 this year while Georgia Southern went 15-12 in conference but received the automatic bid.  He also wants to know about the conference moving toward a home-and-home two-game series each year.

Easy answer on the automatic bid: it is the standard in college baseball, so I do not think that will change.  I am unaware of another conference that awards its automatic bid to its regular season champs.  Not saying there isn't one, just I am not aware of one.  As for the home and home idea, don't see that as a reality either.  The coaches want to be able to play out of conference competition to help with their RPI, and I don't see them agreeing to add to the number of conference games and delete non-conference contests.  You also mentioned the five major conferences acting like a cartel and taking most of the at-large spots.  If you think that now, just wait until the new NCAA Division I governance structure comes out!

Jeffery wants to know about playing a night football game anytime soon.

Jeffery, will there be night games in the future? Yes.  The conference signed an agreement this spring with Sinclair Broadcasting to broadcast a number of games each season, and although we are not scheduled to have any home games carried by Sinclair this year, we will most certainly in future years.  Right now Sinclair has the standard football television block of kick-off times: noon, 3:30 and 7:00 p.m.  Soon enough, we will be selected for a 7:00 PM game.

Joe asks about updates to the football stadium, he drove by The Citadel recently and was very impressed with their stadium.

Joe, as I said in an earlier response, we do have facility upgrades as part of a campus wide comprehensive master plan. When I think of facility improvements, my questions are: Will it make us better?  Will it help us win? My current opinion is what we need first is an indoor practice facility that allows all of our teams to practice during inclement weather.  That will help us become more competitive and will help us win.  As for a new stadium, we need to prove we can fill the one we have before we look to build bigger and better!

Thanks for your questions, if you keep writing them, I'll keep answering them!  For those of you that continue to ask about facilities, remember we must raise 100 percent of the revenues needed to build any new facility or modify any of our existing facilities.  When we reach the time to begin our fund raising efforts, I hope each of you will be generous in helping us achieve the success we all desire to see for each of our Catamount teams! 

Go Cats!

Randy


February 27, 2014

As we near the end of our winter sport seasons and begin firing up our spring teams, I wanted to take a few minutes and delve into the mailbag to see what is on the mind of Catamount Nation . . . . . . . 

Patrick writes in to inquire about the possibility of auctioning off old football game jerseys since we will be moving to Adidas next year.

Patrick, we actually have been discussing options and working with University Officials to determine how we can do this.  Since the jerseys are "technically" state property, there are many hoops to jump thru before we can move forward.  Stayed tuned for more info on this . . . . . . 

Jason wants to know what are the odds that if an indoor practice facility is constructed that it will contain a track? 

Jason, good question.  My gut tells me 50/50.  We may have other options as well, such as following App State's lead and turning the concourse of the Ramsey Center into an indoor track (this was done at the Holmes Center in Boone).  My fear in constructing an indoor track as part of a new facility is what I have experienced at other institutions.  With the shortage of indoor facilities in western North Carolina, an indoor track on our campus would instantly have heavy usage on most weekends in the late winter/early spring.  Then, when weather made it necessary for our teams to move indoors, we find our facility is "rented" and unavailable for our own student athletes.  I know that may sound farfetched, but trust me when I say I have seen this exact scenario at every school that shares an indoor facility with track, hence my personal desire to find another option.       

Richard asks about our take on possibly adding lacrosse in the future?

Richard, you have a very keen sense of the current athletic landscape.  Both Men's and Women's Lacrosse are two of the fastest growing intercollegiately sponsored sports in the southeast.  As you pointed out in your question, Furman recently added both men's and  women's programs; and other institutions such as Elon, Gardner Webb, Campbell and Kennesaw State have added or soon will add women's Lacrosse  I get the sense that when WCU Athletics is ready to expand, lacrosse will be on the very short list of sports we consider.

Continuing down similar lines, Joseph, a student here at WCU, wants to know: why does Western not have Men's Soccer?

Joseph, I will try to be brief, although all of the moving parts to this answer could probably fill a book.  The short answer is money and Title IX.  First, I would not consider adding any new teams until such time that the Athletic Department is in a position to properly fund the 16 programs we currently sponsor.  Most, if not all, of our teams rank in the bottom half, compared to their peers, in the Southern Conference as it relates to operating budgets and scholarship funding.  Until I can fix this, we need not discuss new teams.  Secondly, due to Title IX requirements, based on the squad size of any future sport added for women, we probably will need to begin two or three women's teams before we begin discussing adding men's teams.

Jerry wants to know if UNC-Charlotte is anywhere on a future football schedule?

Jerry, Charlotte was in fact scheduled for 2014 at one time.  However, due to their football program jumping straight to the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) level, our contract with them was nullified.  As of today, they are not on any future football schedule.

Thus concludes another foray into the mailbag!  Keep the questions rolling in, and I hope to see you at an upcoming Catamount home event or several away venues over the upcoming months.

 Go Cats!

Randy

 


 

January 3, 2014

I hope all of Catamount Nation had a happy, healthy and prosperous holiday season.  I thought this would be a great time to check the mailbag and see what has been piling up over the last several weeks, so let's get right to it . . . . . . 

I have received a few questions concerning the state of our football stadium, specifically if there are any plans to address needed upgrades or repairs?

As per usual, no easy answer here.  Are there plans in the immediate future: no.  However, as we work with campus to discuss a possible future strategic fundraising campaign, I am certain the football stadium will be one of a handful of facility initiatives the Athletic Department would undertake.

Cathy asked a question regarding maintaining the "tailgating policy" that was in place this past year in the FPAC Parking Lot (since it was typically not full), and if we had thoughts to change it: 

Cathy, that is relatively easy, the FPAC Parking Lot will remain a Catamount Club lot for the foreseeable future.  Although the lot may not have been fully utilized, each space was assigned to a Catamount Club season ticket holder during our "select a spot" event in August prior to the season.  I understand and have heard from a few people the lot went primarily unused, but the simple fact is the Catamount Club will generate ALMOST four times as much money as football ticket sales this year.  The easy answer is to join the Catamount Club to secure a spot on a weekly basis.

Johnny wants to know why we do not have more games on Mountain Heritage Day?

Johnny, that is easy:  not enough parking.  The decision has been made, at the University level, to avoid as much as possible having a football game on Mountain Heritage Day.  As one of the primary benefits of being a Catamount Club member is parking location on football game days, I am in complete agreement that we should NEVER combine these events.  In my opinion, nothing positive would come of this union.

Jimmy wants to know my take on what is happening within the NCAA structure.  He has heard in might even dissolve.

Jimmy, nobody is really certain where we are headed.  The NCAA Convention in slated for January 15-17, at which time the future of the NCAA, and Division I in particular, will become clearer.  All I will say is that I expect vast changes in Division I, not really certain how that will impact us, but we certainly will feel the effect.

That is all for this edition.  Keep the questions flowing and I hope to see you at one of our January home events!

Go Cats!

Randy



October 24, 2013

As we are at the midpoint of our fall semester, I thought I would check the mailbag to see what questions have come in over the past month, so . . .

Steven asks: With the `Pride of the Mountains' Marching Band not performing at the Mars Hill game due to rain, what is the possibility of having a pep band in place for bad weather situations?

Steven, good question; but as of now, no answer.  We are working with the band directors to develop a strategy for similar situations of inclement weather that may occur in the future. But as of now, we do not have a plan in place.  However, I do fully anticipate we will have something in place before we face that situation again.

Josh wants to know my thoughts on the progress of the football team:

Josh, the short answer is I am very encouraged by where our program is today compared to the shape it was in when we hired Coach Mark Speir.  The analogy I have consistently used is comparing a team - in this case football - to an iceberg.  What most fans see is only the 10% that is above the surface.  In order for the football program to progress to the point all of us desire, Coach Speir and his staff must first deal with the 90% that is not seen on the field; things such as teaching the young men on the team virtues such as responsibility, perseverance and respect.  The football staff must also strive to instill in these young men the principles that will make them not just good football players, but good men and valued members of our alumni base when they depart WCU with their degrees.  In short, I am very happy with the progress we have made.  As the 90% below the surface becomes restored to the level we demand, all of us will be able to enjoy the 10% we see on the field on Saturday afternoons!

Justin asks about a newspaper article a couple of years ago that compared our football program's scholarships and revenues to other SoCon members and asked if the large number of FBS games we played this year was an attempt to combat the apparent deficiencies reported in the article?

Justin, the short answer is no.  The reason we played three FBS games this year is simple: money.  As of last year's budgets (2012-2013) we were dead last in the SoCon in overall budget, and next-to-last in scholarships offered department wide.  Football, along with men's basketball, must be the horses that pull the wagon; and as such, need to generate as much revenue as possible for the entire program.  Football is funded - both in scholarships and operating budget - at a level that is consistent with our SoCon peers. Until we reach a point that every home game is sold out and we are generating fundraising dollars with these sell outs, we will continue to look to football and men's basketball to generate significant funds by playing guarantee (money) games.

Richard said he heard the 2014 Southern Conference football schedule would be released this October and was wondering when he could expect to see it?

Well, Richard, the earliest I have seen the following year's football schedule since my arrival at Western Carolina was the February PRIOR to the upcoming season.  With the changes in Southern Conference membership set to begin next season, I do not anticipate seeing next year's football schedule until February at the earliest again this year. 

I hope that scratched your itch for "Ask the AD" for this month.  Keep the questions rolling in and I hope to see all of you this Saturday in Cullowhee for Homecoming 2013!!!

Go Cats!

Randy


 

September 10, 2013

The week of our home opener in football is a time when all eyes are on Cullowhee to see what the new season will bring.  Coach [Mark] Speir and his team are ready for this weekend's game against The Citadel, as I hope all of you are as well.  In order to add a little kick to the start of the week, I thought I would delve into the mailbag to see what is on the mind of Catamount Nation.

Here we go . . . . . . 

John asks:  Is there a capital improvement plan on the horizon?

John, there has been discussion of a campus wide capital campaign since my arrival in late 2011.  I sense that we are probably within a year or two of kicking off such an effort, but as of now there are no definitive plans.  Items that will be high on the Athletic Department wish list will be a stand-alone athletic facility to hopefully include an indoor practice component, enhancements to existing locker rooms, improvements to the football stadium and upgrades to the baseball stadium.  I am not sure at this point what the focus of improvements in each venue would be as we have a lot of room for improvement.  I will say this, anything we do MUST move the program forward and cannot and will not be simply to "look better".  If it does not help us win, it is not a good investment at this time. 

Mike wants to know: are we planning on utilizing logos from the past?

Mike the simple answer isn't so simple.  We are looking into a "legacy" type of program that would allow us to ask vendors to create apparel with logos from past decades.  As far as using old logos on the field, no, we need to keep our brand in line with that of the University.  History is a good thing, but should be kept in the rearview mirror and used to enhance the future, not relive the past.

Jim Asks:  Have you considered more individual player stories on the web page?

Jim, the short answer is yes.  We actually had discussed a plan to have more available stories on individual student athletes this year.  However, we had a change in our staffing in Media Relations over the summer and quite frankly we simply did not have the time, with the shortage of manpower, to get everything completed that we had planned on doing.  That said, we will make every effort to get back to our planned strategies in the very near future!

That's it for this edition.  Hope to see all of you this Saturday in Cullowhee!!!

Go Cats!

Randy


August 7, 2013

Here we are on the brink of a new academic year and the questions continue to pour in!  I hope that all of you are looking forward to the upcoming seasons as much as we are in the athletic department.  Hopefully I will have the chance to chat with many of you this fall and answer some of your questions face to face, but for now, this will have to suffice.

Richard asks:  Do you anticipate moving any home games to the US Cellular Center in Asheville?

Richard, I have never really given that any thought before your email.  Not that is necessarily a bad idea, but one that will take time to look at all of the pros and cons, as well as the additional cost involved.  We will not be moving a game this year, but it is food for thought.

Bob wants to know: Have we ever considered building an indoor practice facility?

Actually Bob, this is something we have discussed internally since my arrival.  Although we are a long way from making that a reality, I suspect an indoor facility may well be a part of Athletics' piece of any future University-wide Capital Campaign.  Maybe you would like to make the first substantial financial gift?

James asks:  The home side was switched a few years ago at football; do you have any plans to change it back?

The quick answer is no.  As television sets up on the pressbox side, we want our bench featured in all television broadcasts.  That said, if future construction were to move the pressbox to the west side of the stadium, we most likely would switch back to using the east sideline for the same reason.

John wants to know: Are we playing an away football game against Coastal Carolina in 2015?

The quick answer is yes, we are scheduled to travel to Coastal in 2015 to complete a home and home series.  However, due to ever changing landscape of the FBS level, we have seen many date alterations at the FCS level over the past two years.  Obviously both institutions would need to agree to change the proposed game, but we are currently scheduled for a September 2015 match up.

That's all for now folks.  Keep those questions coming and I'll do my best to get answers out monthly.  And DON'T FORGET:

Football season tickets are NOW ON SALE, so make sure you get yours for the upcoming fall season!

Go Cats!

Randy


 

July 9, 2013

With a new academic year fast approaching, I wanted to get caught up on the letters that have come in over the past few weeks. 

 Joshua asks: Is there a reason you are staying away from the 6:30 start time in football?

Actually, there are a few.  First, with a large number of WCU alums living in Buncombe and Mecklenburg counties of North Carolina, a mi-day kick off makes it much easier for those traveling to have a "day trip" and reduce the need for them to spend the night.  In addition, the athletic department and many other campus entities host post game functions, something that is extremely difficult to pull off with a night game.  We also did an analysis of the past eight years of ticket sales and found that the midday games have drawn better than our night games. Add to this the fact that most of our season-ticket holders have told us they prefer midday games, and well, I think you get the picture. 

Charles wants to know: Why is our football team playing three Division I schools?

First Charles, we are playing eleven Division I schools this year, three of them happen to be FBS and eight are FCS, but we are ALL Division I!  As for the three you mention:  Middle Tennessee State, Virginia Tech and Auburn, the simple answer is money.  Coach [Mark] Speir and I discussed this at length, and while we build the football program back to a winning tradition, we also must be cognizant of the pivotal role football plays in revenue generation.   When Auburn called last year and offered a VERY substantial contract, it was something we could not refuse.  Many people are concerned with the team's confidence level due to playing games that some feel are certain loses; these people do not know our student athletes nor our coaches.  As an athlete, you see these games as a challenge and a chance to prove yourself to the world.  Anyone who has been in this situation understands that as an athlete, you relish these opportunities. 

Jimmy wants to know how all of the budget cuts in Raleigh are going to impact our efforts in supplying our student athletes with the resources needed to succeed on and off the field.

That is relatively easy: very little if any.  Unlike most of our Southern Conference peers, we receive ZERO state appropriations nor do we get very much from the University.  While most schools we compete against receive well over seven figures annually in direct institutional support, we receive a little over $500,000.  So in the long run, state budget reductions for higher education, both in North Carolina and other states, will have a greater impact on institutions that do receive substantial amounts from their universities; MUCH MORE than those same reductions will impact us here at WCU!

That's it for July.  Keep your questions coming and I will do my best to give you honest and direct answers (even if you don't agree with what you hear). 

Don't forget, football season tickets are on sale NOW, so make sure you get yours for the upcoming fall season!

Go Cats!

Randy


 

June 3, 2013

Over the course of the past month, we have seen an avalanche of change within the Southern Conference, losing two additional members (Davidson and Elon) to go along with the other three that had previously announced they were leaving (Appalachian State, Georgia Southern and College of Charleston).  Last week, East Tennessee State, Mercer, and VMI were invited to become the newest  members of the Southern Conference.   College of Charleston will leave us affective June 30, 2013 while the other four do not officially leave until June 30, 2014.

Believe me when I tell you the comments I have received on this are wide ranging, everything from "glad to see them go" to "WCU needs to jump into the ACC".

I would first like to take a moment to make sure everyone in Catamount Nation understands WHY each school departed.  First, Appalachian State and Georgia Southern left for one reason: football.  Moving to the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) level from the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) level was a decision focused on one sport.  Both of these institutions have been very upfront about "moving up" for several years, so their departures, although painful to many of you, did not come as a surprise.

The decisions made by Elon and College of Charleston were admissions driven.  Both of these institutions decided to join the Colonial Athletic Association to utilize the presence of  their athletic teams to try and gain additional students from the Mid-Atlantic region.  In neither case was athletic competition a motivating factor for either institution, it simply came down to trying to increase student enrollment, specifically from a region where each institution already draws a large percentage of their respective student bodies.

Davidson, while also appearing to be an admissions decision, did join the Atlantic-10 Conference, which is a "basketball-centric" conference.    Since Davidson sponsors non-scholarship football, I do think there was consideration given to the fact that the Atlantic-10 focuses primarily on basketball.  I cannot fathom that was not a significant factor in Davidson's move.  It is extremely important to realize that there was very little, IF ANYTHING, the Southern Conference Office could have done to prevent these five institutions from departing. 

The three new members of the conference (ETSU, Mercer and VMI) will join us in the summer of 2014.  Having been on each of these three campuses and meeting with members of the respective coaching and administrative staffs, I believe these three new members will be competing for conference championships in many sports from day one (ETSU & Mercer are competing in the NCAA Baseball Regionals as I type!).  And although VMI is the only one of the three that currently sponsors football, all three will be competing in football by the fall of 2015.

To answer questions about why WCU should or should not look for a new conference, I will start with the easiest:  you must be ASKED to join a conference, you cannot simply invite yourself.  Appalachian and Georgia Southern were asked to join the Sun Belt primarily due to the success of their football programs.  Elon and College of Charleston were asked to strengthen the southern flank of the Colonial, and in part due to the Colonial's desire to increase the number of private institutions among their ranks.  Davidson, similar to ASU and GSU, was primarily asked to join the A-10 due to the past success of their Men's Basketball program.  Our most successful program over the past decade has been track, and not many conferences are looking for new members solely due to a strong track program.

My next point is: why would we want to leave?  Many people see the sky falling; I see opportunity.  Just as when the ACC was formed or when Marshal left several decades later, the Southern Conference not only survived, it has thrived!  As some have left over the years, others have filled the void.  This is our chance to step up and become a leader in all SoCon sports!  Remember, NCAA post-season opportunities remain with each conference, so we still have those same opportunities year to year, but now with a maximum of ten schools participating in a given sport, our odds in earning a post-season berth have increased already.

So, there it is, a brief synopsis of where we are and where we are headed.  As we move forward, I do believe WCU can and will become a dominate program within the Southern Conference, but we cannot do it alone.  I ask each and every one of you to join the Catamount Club today, help us place our teams on the springboard toward championships!

Go Cats!

Randy

 


 

April 19, 2013

I hope everyone in Catamount Nation is doing well today.  We have some good questions this month, so let's get to them:

Jim asks: With Appalachian State, Georgia Southern and College of Charleston leaving the SOCON, where does this leave WCU's football program for the future? Is this the death nail for the Southern Conference?  Will WCU now look to the future of moving up to the FBS?    Also, Elon is rumored to be looking at the Colonial Athletic Conference, so why would we want to remain FCS and not join the in-state FBS schools such as Appalachian, UNCC, Wake Forest, NC State and UNC?

Jim, a ton of questions there, let me see if I can get them one by one.  Where does this leave WCU's football program is dependent on how the Chancellors and Presidents of current member institutions vote on expansion.  Losing ASU as a rival does sting, but fifteen years ago when Marshall left for "bigger and better", the same fear of a weaker SOCON was prevalent.  However, I would argue the SOCON is stronger today than when Marshall was a member.  Do I think the SOCON will die? No. It's probably older than either you or I, and if you will do some homework, you will see many ACC and SEC members are SOCON alum, so I do believe the SOCON is here to stay.  Will we look to the FBS?  No, why would we?  ASU and Georgia Southern will now play New Mexico State, Idaho and North Texas, among others, on a regular basis.  Is that really who you want to watch?  I would much prefer to have strong, regional competition to which our fans and families can travel.  Ask a Marshall fan how they feel fifteen years later, the vast majority of them I spoke with at last year's game still long for the days of SOCON membership!   As far as joining the in-state FBS, remember, you must be asked to join, we as an institution cannot simply decide to invite ourselves.  And finally, let's not forget the all important dollar.  Georgia Southern is estimating an additional $6 million in expenses associated with joining the Sun Belt.  Trust me when I tell you they will receive a fraction of that amount from the Sun Belt, the balance will be paid by the institution or placed on the backs of the students in the form of higher fees.  In a time when Athletics has been tasked with helping the University grow its' undergraduate enrollment, increasing fees is counterproductive to that goal.

Kevin wants to know: What is the issue with the Baseball scoreboard?  There appear to be several lights out, is that just a bulb issue?

Kevin, I don't know, but I will look into it.  Honestly I have not noticed a problem this year, but I will ask our staff to look into it.

Robert writes about the continued augmentation of other Baseball stadiums around the SOCON and what is the Athletic Department's plan to deal with the recruiting shortcomings due to our facilities being some of the worst in the SOCON?

As far as facilities, we are nearing the completion (over the next two months) of our Athletic Department Strategic Plan, which should give us a "plan of attack" for our facilities. However, with that stated, tying "recruiting shortcomings" strictly to facilities is not seeing the whole playing field.  The biggest issue facing us, particularly in Baseball (among other programs), is a shortage of scholarship dollars.  Trust me when I tell you the old adage: "If you build it, they will come" does not work in the world of college athletics.  Would you pay for your son or daughter to attend an institution due to outstanding facilities; or would you send them to a school with moderate facilities that also offered them a scholarship?  I can assure you that in the vast majority of cases, scholarship money in hand is much more appealing to recruits (and their parents) than a shiny new stadium.

Bob wants to know if we have, or plan, to either paint or pressure wash the east stands in E.J. Whitmire Stadium.

Bob, my understanding is this is something that is scheduled every-other year.  We are due to clean the concrete this year.  And I am sure you can guess why - money!

Joseph writes to ask about the Strategic Plan, and to gain any insights or timelines I can share.

Joseph, I just received my second draft earlier this week, so the timing on your question is perfect!  However, my timing could use a little work.  Although I received Draft #2 Monday, I have yet to have time to fully review the document.  I can share with you that the concepts are somewhat still in the "sausage making stage" and will be refined and all rough edges removed in the coming weeks.  As far as timeline, we will have the completed document by the end of June.  I hope that it is a living document that will help us determine our path over the coming few years.  I will share with you that I foresee a self-life of 3-to-5 years on this plan.  With the speed at which our world moves, I will be happy with a document that remains relevant for five years!

That's all for this edition.  Keep the questions pouring in and I will do my best to give you honest and direct answers (even if you don't agree with what you hear).  As a reminder to all of you, CHAMPIONSHIPS BEGIN WITH SCHOLARSHIPS. We will not be able to succeed without the whole of Catamount Nation firmly supporting this program!   

 Go Cats!

Randy

 



March 26, 2013

Well, as I stare out my window today I, like you, am wondering when will spring arrive?!?    I am tired of attending baseball and softball games dressed as if I was on an expedition in Antarctica!   As dreary as it is outside, thinks are looking bright within our athletic department.  We have recently finished our presentations on next year's budgets to campus, and although we are just getting started, we have some momentum for future growth and thus will continue to build the excitement we have recently experienced here in Catamount Athletics!  On another note, I hope everyone enjoyed the "Video Ask the AD" last month.  Not something we will do all the time, but we do it enough to keep you guessing.

Now to the mailbag:

What does the future hold in regard to Western staying in the Southern Conference?

Chancellor David Belcher and I are totally committed to remaining in, and assisting with the growth of, thee Southern Conference.  I cannot see a scenario in the immediate future whereby Western would look for membership within another conference.  That said, it is vital that we work with the Conference on upcoming discussions of expansion.  With the loss of College of Charleston and the possibility of more defections in the future, we need to ensure the Southern Conference is poised to remain the national leader that it has become over the past several years.

Why doesn't Western pursue the local talent in western North Carolina rather than recruit out of state athletes?

I will admit that prior to my arrival we had several teams that focused more on out of state student athletes rather than young people living in our back yard.  I will have instructed all of our coaches to make sure that every local student athlete that is capable of competing at this level is recruited by WCU.  I will tell you that we have lost some of these prospects simply because they prefer to move away and not attend school were they grew up.  This is not a phenomenon that is specific to this area I have seen this throughout my entire career.  Sometimes it is actually harder to keep local kids at home!  Again, we are committed to recruiting local talent IF they are capable of competing at this level.  I will continue to keep my eye on this and discuss with the coaches on a regular basis.

Have new additions to our campus, such as the Health Center, new off-campus housing, etc., helped our coaches with their recruiting?

I think anytime we can show a recruit and his/her parents expansion on and near campus, that is a good thing for recruiting.  There is no doubt that additions, such as new and refurbished on-campus dorms, a new dining facility and a new recreation center, have had a positive impact on our recruiting efforts over the past few years.  I have also heard from many recruits and their parents how impressed they were with the new HHS building.  I think anytime we can show vision, it helps in recruiting, for all sports!!!

That's all for this edition.  Keep the questions coming in as I enjoy hearing what is on the mind of Catamount Nation! Remember, it is going to take all of us being involved to get this program back to the elite status we all want and that the University deserves.

Go Cats!

Randy


 

February 21, 2013

 


January 11, 2013

I hope all of you had a great holiday season and were able to spend quality time with friends, family and all of the people that are important in your lives.  Each year brings with it a sense of hope for better things to come, and that goes without saying here in Cullowhee.  I begin my second year here, at Western Carolina University, with a better foundation in my understanding of the athletic program - where we have been, where we are and where we hope to go.  I hope all of you are excited about sharing the journey with us.  Now to the mailbag:

 

I would like to know why Western doesn't have a Men's Soccer team.  It seems unfair to have a women's program but not one for the Men.  Is it a money issue?

First and foremost, yes, it is 100 percent a money issue.  We currently do not fully fund the sixteen sport teams we currently sponsor, and until we reach a level where every team we have can compete within the Southern Conference year in and year out, we will not look at adding any programs.  Beyond finances, we must also be aware of and adhere to Title IX standards.  As for being fair, Title IX looks at the number of total participants (total number of men versus total number of women in all sports), it does not compare within a sport.  So in the eyes of the law, this is fair.

Over the years I have continuously heard about upgrading football.  All I seem to hear is football this and football that, what about upgrading the other teams, especially those that win championships, like track?

Good question, difficult answer.  The bottom line is football can pay the bills, track can not.  We will make strides in upgrading all of our programs eventually, but football must be first.  Let me ask you a question:  Do you buy stocks that generate large returns or ones that give little or no returns?  There is your answer.

Have any of the coaches said we were losing recruits due to the size and condition of our strength and conditioning area?

I cannot say I have heard that directly, but to be honest, I would be a fool to think it wasn't true. Our weight room is just one of many facility areas we need to address.  During this academic year we are in the process of researching and preparing a Strategic Plan for the Athletic Department.  I fully anticipate when we are completed, we will have a road map for investment in facilities, scholarships, operating budgets and staffing.  Until we have a plan, we will not rush out and spend what limited resources we have available.

Why are General Admission tickets more expensive this year than last year for Men's Basketball?

Quite simply, we had some catching up to do.  Not one person currently on our staff can remember a price increase, add to that we were the lowest in the entire Southern Conference.  Yes, going from $7 to $10 was a large percentage jump, but in actuality we were simply catching up on increases that should have been made over the last several years.

That's all for this month.  I hope you enjoy reading my responses as much as I enjoy writing them.  A lot of good questions this month and the one commonality is that all of the above issues can be improved if we have more money!  That means YOU need to be involved.  Get your family, friends and classmates re-energized.  It is quite difficult to assist us in restoring Western Carolina to its' past glory, it is quite easy to sit back and complain. 

Finish Strong!

Randy



 

December 6, 2012

It has been some time since I dove into the mailbag to answer your questions.  As our fall seasons ramped up, I found less and less time available and quite frankly have just fallen behind in a few areas, and "Ask the AD" was unfortunately one of those areas.  We did just complete amazing fall seasons in cross country, volleyball, soccer and football.  All of our student athletes battled hard for Catamount Nation and I think many of you that made contests of these sports would agree.  We saw renewed interest in our football home games this year and had some of the largest crowds in recent history!   I personally experienced a game day environment that rivals any in the Southern Conference, one that I believe anyone who was in attendance enjoyed as much as I did.  Again, forgive my lapse, but here are a few questions that have piled up over the past couple of months:

Just wondering why we can't give scores from other games at our football games.

Actually we do announce other scores in-game during football.  Unfortunately due to limitations with our press box, we do not control the video board from that location thus making it difficult (if not impossible) to flash scores on our screen.  However, we will work on these issues and make sure to somehow "announce" the fact that scores are forthcoming via PA and try to get scores on the video board as well.

Western Carolina is going to play three money games next year.  What are your plans on how that money is going to be used to improve the football program?

Good question, difficult answer.  It is not, nor will it ever be, as simple as "what a team brings in they get to spend".  Football, and to a great extent Men's Basketball, must carry the bulk of the financial burden for athletic programs such as ours.  Unfortunately, football has not been generating the needed revenue for many years here at Western, obviously due to the teams past performance.  While Coach Mark Speir and his staff work to improve on-field performance which we hope will increase attendance (and hence revenue), both Coach Speir and I realize that we must look at other means for football to immediately generate revenue, such as guarantee games.  While we have no interest or plans to play multiple "money" games in the future, we had such a rare opportunity next year that both of us agreed to move forward with scheduling three such games.  While there are no specific items or areas of planned financial investment within football next year, we have previously made major financial commitments, such as a state of the art video editing system, to assist Coach Speir and his staff, to enhance the entire football program.

I was looking on an NBA website last week and noticed that Kevin Martin (a former WCU basketball standout), was placed on the NBA All Star ballot.  I think it might be good to market this information, or at least make it known to the community. It is a point of pride to see such success of athletes after they leave WCU.

Not a bad idea, but then again, not something I would necessarily advocate focusing on too much.  I agree that several of our alums have accomplished goals that have made us proud.  However, we must also be very cognizant of the present and what today's student-athletes are accomplishing.  As a Cherokee proverb states: "Don't let yesterday use up too much of today."  While we do need to stay abreast of our alum's accomplishments, we cannot take away from reporting what is happening today.  I will speak with our staff and discuss options of possibly developing a "Where are they now" segment that we can highlight on our website.

That is all for this round.  Keep the questions rolling in and I promise to keep up on a timelier basis!  Over the course of the next few months it is important that ALL OF US support Coach Larry Hunter and Coach Karen Middleton as their respective basketball teams dive into Southern Conference action.  Remember, one more home win last year would have meant the Men's team would have only played three days in Asheville, not four.  One more win and that Davidson game MIGHT have had a different outcome.  Your support matters, but so does YOUR attendance!

Go Cats!

Randy 


 

September 12, 2012

Another month, another set of questions!  Don't be bashful, keep them coming!  You ask and I will answer. Here are a few from this month:

With all of the renewed enthusiasm surrounding the Catamount program this year, I was wondering what type of growth, in number of members and in donations, the Catamount Club has experienced?

During the past nine months since mine and Coach Speir's arrivals, we have seen our membership numbers jump around 10% and we have experienced an increase in donations of around 20%!  These are great, but we cannot get complacent and be happy with these figures.  In order for us to achieve what all of us want, an athletic program everyone can be proud of, we will need to continue to see this type of growth, on an annual basis, for the coming few years.  So . . . . if you haven't joined, there is no better time than the present to pick up the phone and become a Catamount Club member!

Just wondering if you would be interested in a cycling program at WCU?

The easy answer is no.  Not because I do not like cycling, but due to the fact it is not a sport sponsored by the NCAA.  As I have said in previous "Ask the AD'" segments, I anticipate it will be several years before we are in a position to get serious about adding any sport programs, cycling or otherwise.

Do you have a plan to get the Greeks more involved in tailgating and sporting events?

Last spring, and again this fall, Coach Speir and I made several trips to fraternities and sororities trying to establish relationships and help build a following for our student athletes.  Now that we are in full swing academically and athletically, it will be difficult to mesh schedules for more trips this fall.  That said I do anticipate both of us getting out again this spring.  The best advice I could share at this point is "Come to one game, you'll be back!"

Are there any big name Men's Basketball programs coming to play WCU in Ramsey anytime soon, and specifically, what about UNC-Charlotte?

Unlike football, Men's Basketball scheduling is done one year at a time, usually after the season for the following year.  Currently we do not have any Top 20 teams slated to travel into Cullowhee this year, but we will work on it in the future.  As for UNC-Charlotte, we will approach them next year about establishing a home and home series.

That's all for this month, and remember:   It is EASY to sit back and criticize, it is HARD to be actively involved and become a part of the solution!!  Be part of OUR solution!

Go Cats!

Randy


 

August 14, 2012

As we prepare to embark on the upcoming fall calendar of events, I wanted to take a few minutes and answer a handful of questions that have been sent in over the past month:

I heard a rumor from a North Dakota State fan that WCU would be traveling to Fargo for a game in 2013.  Given your previous statements about possible games with Southland members, I am guessing NDSU is footing the bill, correct?

We are in fact currently scheduled to play North Dakota State in 2013.  The contract was already in place when I was hired, so as of now we will be honoring that agreement.  Although I typically will not publically discuss game contracts, I will share with you that this trip should cost us little more than a normal in-conference road trip.  However, I will also say that it is not a home and home agreement and one I would have never agreed to in the first place. 

I think FCS teams are allowed to play 12 games in 2013.  Will Western play 12, and if so, who would be our non-conference opponents? 

Well, the previous question already told you that North Dakota State is one.  We are also contracted with an ACC opponent and I am still working on another possible contest.  In addition to 2013, FCS teams will be allowed to play 12 games in 2014 and 2019 as well.

I have heard the band is traveling to the Alabama game.  Is this true, if so I think it is awesome!  What are the chances of the band traveling to more of the away games?

I too have heard the rumors of the band traveling to Alabama, but to the best of my knowledge that is NOT true.  As far as that game and others, I too would love to have the band in the stands to help support our team.  However, until such time that I and my staff can increase revenues to the point of being able to adequately fund our teams, I will not be in a position to assist the band in covering travel costs associated with away games.

That's it for now.  I want to go on record and thank everyone who has shown interest in our program and our student-athletes.  Be it from asking questions, to coming to our off-campus events, being a season ticket holder or a donor, I want to thank you for the past eight months. 

 I also want to remind you that what we are doing takes time and support.  If you do not have season football tickets, BUY THEM!  If you are not a Catamount Club member, CONSIDER JOINING

Remember, it is EASY to sit back and criticize, it is quite another to become ACTIVELY INVOLVED and become a part of the solution!!

Go Cats!

Randy

 



July 17, 2012

Not even a month has gone by, and you have responded in earnest to my request for more questions!  Here are a few I received over the past few weeks:

Would it be possible to utilize the intramural fields for parking during football games, especially during the bi-annual Appalachian State game?

We are actually looking to use those fields this year for the Thursday night game against Mars Hill, but only as a last resort due to weekday parking limitations.  The fields do have extensive irrigation systems which can be damaged or destroyed by too much vehicular traffic.  My suggestion is to join the Catamount Club, thereby guaranteeing yourself a parking spot at all home games!

A lot of us in tailgating circles would like to see future football games against Southland Conference members, such as Stephan F. Austin, Sam Houston State or McNeese State.  Any chance this will happen soon?

In short, the answer is no.  These games generate no additional revenue and the cost is exorbitant to take a team to schools that far away.  For the immediate future, we will work with regional FCS schools in the Big South, Colonial Athletic Conference and the Ohio Valley to schedule home and home series.  The teams from the Southland would not add enough additional ticket sales in the return game years to offset the cost of traveling to their place, nor would the ticket sales be enormously different than what we would generate from playing teams from these other conferences.

Why is there such a small amount of apparel available to Catamount Nation?

From the vendors I have spoken with the one reason I hear constantly is lack of demand.  I have talk to representatives at national chain stores as well as small business owners from Cullowhee to Asheville, and each one has told me the same thing, they cannot move enough inventory.  We try to offset this by having an online store on our website.  While we work with regional vendors to increase their inventory, I would suggest checking out our website in the meantime. 

Why is the Mars Hill game slated for 8 PM kick-off?  Aren't you afraid this will hurt attendance?

We needed to move the game back to give ourselves time between the end of the business day on campus (5 PM) and the start of the game.  Had we tried to play this game any earlier we were facing major parking issues (much larger than normally experienced) due to the campus community still being at work and in class while our fans were searching for a spot to park.  Although not perfect, an 8 PM start allows us to focus on the experience our fans have come to expect prior to each home game.  In addition, with this being Coach Speirs' first game, we are hoping the fans will come out regardless of what time the game begins! 



June 22, 2012

Well, for those of you keeping score at home, you realize I missed a month of "Ask the AD" responses.  To be honest, my head has been buried in the office and campus still trying to wrap my arms around everything that is Catamount Athletics.  No excuse, just the truth.  I apologize to all of you and will try to do better in the future.  Also, I believe we had a VERY limited number of questions, so do your part as well, keep me on my toes and hit me with your questions!

I wanted to know if we (the Cats) could get some nice wallpapers to download?  I am tired of seeing my App State counterparts with these on their computers!

To say my computer skills are limited would be a VAST understatement!  I can tell you we are nearing an upgrade to our website in the coming months, so I will make sure we have some wallpapers available for all of the Catamount faithful!

A couple of you wrote in wanting to know about the ever changing landscape in conference alignment and how that could potentially affect the Southern Conference (and especially us here at Western) and what we are doing to prepare for that day.

As most of you are aware, both Appalachian State and Georgia Southern have done some extensive research into the possibility of moving to the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) level.  As of now, that is all they have done.  I too have heard rumors of FBS conferences speaking with each, but I cannot confirm that hearsay.  We also have heard innuendo of other conferences approaching a number of the non-football playing schools within the SoCon, again, from my knowledge these are still just rumors.  I can share with you that we spoke of realignment issues during our most recent Southern Conference Spring Meetings during a gathering of University Chancellors/Presidents and Athletic Directors.  All of us are keeping our eyes and ears open to this fluid situation.  I can also share that we discussed what options would be available for us and what institutions would best fit into the Southern Conference if any members were to depart in the near future.  It was agreed by all member institutions that our greatest strength is maintaining the twelve current members of the SoCon.  As far as us here at Western?  Dr. Belcher and I are dedicated to maintaining our membership within the Southern Conference and doing what we can to preserve a strong, nationally relevant SoCon.

One of you wrote and was wondering if we recruit in south Georgia or north Florida.

Our coaches are aware of student athletes in these areas that have the ability to play at our respective levels, but we focus on what I would describe as a "bull's-eye" approach.  Most of our coaches draw concentric circles around Cullowhee of varying distances and then focus the majority of their recruiting efforts proportionally within the closest circles.  We typically find the players we need closer than the areas you asked about.  Although this is USUALLY the case, it is not absolute.  We just graduated two young men from our Basketball team who hailed from Canada!


April 2, 2012

It has been clearly evident that many of you, from both your questions here on "Ask the AD" and having a chance to meet you during our Catamounts Unite Tour, are extremely fired up about the changes we have made in our football program.  Coach Speir, his staff, and our football student athletes have been working hard over the past few weeks during spring practice to improve both the team and the entire program as we begin this new era of Catamount Football.  I would like to take this opportunity to invite all of you to this year's Spring Game to be held on April the 14th at 1 PM.  Come out and show your support for the new coaches and let our student athletes know there will be support for them and the team this fall!

Now for questions I received this month:

The turf was recently replaced (3-4 years ago) and it still has a shine/glare when the sun is on it.  I was hoping that it was related to the field being new but it doesn't seem the case.  From a new point of view, how is it holding up?

We recently were visited by the manufacturer's representative for the "mid-life" check-up.  It seems the field is holding up well and should, at this point, make its 8-to-10 year life expectancy.  I have heard from others about a glare the field has, but I have not seen it myself.  My guess is this is due to the direction the individual fibers lay in comparison to the angle of the sun.  I sense there isn't a lot we will be able to do to fix this phenomenon.

I would like to know what you plan for the soccer program at WCU?  I would like your feedback on the facilities they use.

I finally had the chance to tour all of our facilities about two weeks ago and while not impressed, I can tell you they were not nearly as bad as I was led to believe.  Yes, we do certainly have areas to address, but overall, we are neither at, nor near the bottom of, the Southern Conference when it comes to facilities.  As for the soccer facilities, in particular the locker room, let me just say at my previous job at Maryland, our Women's Soccer locker room was WORSE than what we have at Western!  We do have room for improvement, but as I have said from the beginning, scholarships and operating budgets must be increased first before we can begin addressing any facility needs.  Soccer, like many of our other programs, needs an influx of funding for scholarships to remain competitive in the Southern Conference.  We could improve the Soccer locker room tomorrow, but unless we fund the needed scholarships, the student athletes will not come here for free.

I was wondering what your plans were for the upcoming football season.  I have seen so many changes made, I can hardly keep up.  Everything from how tailgating is run (restrictions, parking payments, reserved parking lots, etc.) to which sideline we place our players on.

We are currently working on plans for the upcoming season, but many areas were addressed prior to my arrival.  You may or may not know that the University established a "Tailgating Task Force" to review the policies associated with tailgating at athletic events.  For the upcoming season, the Task Force recommended increasing alcohol consumption during tailgating from 3 hours to 3.5 hours prior to each game.  Since all of our game times are 3:30 PM (except the Thursday night opener against Mars Hill), this means alcohol can be brought out beginning at noon on game days.  The other area that was changed that will impact tailgating is doubling the number of spaces available in the Field House lot that the students use.  This will be done by decreasing the number of reserved spots for each group from 6 to 3.  All other lots will remain the same as they were last year, either reserved for Catamount Club members or open to the general public.  All other items and areas you inquired about are still being discussed.

Since there is a large alumni base in Charlotte, why do we never play Davidson in football (which is a SoCon member in every other SoCon sponsored sport) at home or away instead of playing a D-II team at home or a D-I FCS school that is further away?  Also, are there any plans to play UNC-Charlotte in the future?

To answer your question about Davidson, we could theoretically play them, but I would NEVER travel there, just as we should never travel to a D-II school. Playing a D-II or non-scholarship program (such as Davidson) actually hurts us, to some degree, with the committee that selects the at-large FCS playoff teams.  Playing a D-I FCS program gives us a better "strength of schedule" in the eyes of the selection committee versus playing a D-II or non-scholarship program.  As for Charlotte, we are currently discussing a home and home series with them in the coming years.  

 



March 15, 2012

Before I get to the fan questions this month, I want to take a minute to thank the Catamount Nation for your support at the Southern Conference Men's and Women's Basketball Tournament in Asheville. We asked you guys to paint Asheville purple and you didn't let us down.

I can't say enough about how well Western Carolina was represented in the Southern Conference finals, as our men's basketball team took on Davidson. To look up in the stands and see the sea of purple didn't go unnoticed, and I want to give a special thanks to our students who came out to the game.

The last month has seen a definite surge for Catamount athletics; from the amazing run by the men's basketball team at the SoCon Tournament, men's track and field winning the Southern Conference Indoor Championship, to the great start by Catamount baseball.

It truly is a great time to be a Catamount.

 

Do you think the Southern Conference Tournament will become a permanent fixture in Asheville?

While I, and I hope all of you, enjoyed this year's tournament in Asheville, there is really no way of knowing for certain if it will become our permanent home.  I would hope that the great showing by all of the member institution's fans (and especially our Catamount Nation) will influence all of the decision makers at the Conference level to look at keeping the tournament in Asheville on a more permanent basis.

Randy, since you came from Maryland, do you have an inside source to make Under Armour the official merchandiser of Western Carolina University Athletics.

I do in fact know many people at Under Armour, including Kevin Plank, President and Founder of the company.  However, those relationships may not be enough to get Under Armour to be the official supplier to WCU Athletics.  There are multitude of things we will need to review first, most importantly all current contracts and expiration dates of those contracts.  Once we have a future date, we may take a hard look at getting an "All Sport" deal with a manufacturer that would cover all of our teams.  I can share with you that any move in that direction is still a few years down the road.

Although not really a question, I feel too much emphasis was placed on football during the Catamounts Unite Tour, especially since it was held during basketball season.  The Tour should have been held after basketball season and included the coaches of those teams as well.

Good insight, but I do need to explain.  The purpose of the Catamounts Unite Tour was specifically to introduce myself and Coach Speir to Catamount Nation.  It was in no way meant to detract from Basketball, but with football spring practice and then recruiting periods for both football and basketball in early spring and summer, there would have not been adequate time to reach every city we visited (10 cities in 30 days!).  In addition, we do have our Catamount Golf Tour stops scheduled for April thru August where all of our coaches will be able to share their vision and message with Catamount Nation.  In addition, we will have a similar version of the Catamounts Unite Tour in future years where we DO FOCUS on each and every coach.

 We have the worst football lighting system in the Southern Conference.  The lights shine in spectators eyes, there are shadows on the field and night telecasts are horrible.  Can this be fixed?

In the short term, we can and will have the system reviewed by a specialized sport lighting company.  This may help alleviate some issues, but probably not all.  By refocusing and relamping, we may be able to solve some of the problems you mentioned.  As for a total fix, that will have to wait until we sell enough tickets and have enough members of the Catamount Club to be able to address many of our facility needs, of which this is just one of many.


February 1, 2012

What a first month on the job! It was a VERY memorable first eight days as myself and the Catamount family welcomed home Mark Speir, our new Head Football Coach, as part of Catamount Athletics! Since then it has been a whirlwind of events; games and meeting the great people that support Western Athletics! This is my first foray into "Ask the AD" here in Cullowhee and the questions were tremendous. I will tell you that in some cases I have combined several questions that were related (upgrading different facilities for instance) and gave a blanket response that encompassed all of the specific questions. I hope you have has much fun reading the responses below as I had writing them! I look forward to next month's questions!

GoCats!

Randy

When are you thinking about adding Men's Soccer?

Given where Western Carolina Athletics stands in our efforts to obtain gender equity under Title IX, I do not foresee any men's programs being added in the near future. I realize we have strong support for Men's Soccer and an increasing demand for Men's Lacrosse, but with the financial realities we currently face, adding these programs is still in our distant future.

What financial upgrades are you planning on in the near future, such as fireworks at football, increasing summer school aid to student athletes and traveling our marching band to away football games?

Given the financial reality of what I have walked into, we will be making some investments in our programs, but these will not come immediately. We are well behind our Southern Conference counterparts in operating budgets. This is attributable to a lack in season ticket sales and donations. I am committed to increasing both of these revenue streams, but for those of you that have asked about increasing expenditures, this is your chance to make it a reality! Attend games and donate, that is how we will turn this program around.

How can we energize our students?

Great question! I have seen firsthand the lack of student attendance at our basketball games and have been told we face the same issue at other sporting events. Very shortly, the Athletic Department is going to begin open forum lunches in the campus dining hall to include myself and a series of head coaches to speak with and answer questions from the student body. In addition to this, we are discussing plans to increase our advertising visibility in the dining hall and the University Center. Talking to students at our basketball games, the one overriding concern I heard was that we are doing a poor job of getting our schedules in front of the students, addressing this will be our starting point.

When will the Athletic Department begin to address facility upgrades?

I received multiple questions about upgrading our facilities (football, baseball, etc.) and I hate to sound like a broken record, but these upgrades cost money, BIG money. Until we can pack the stands and increase our fund raising, these will remain on our radar, but our FUTURE radar.

How were the cities for the Catamounts Unite Tour selected?

I have had a handful of opportunities to visit a few cities since I started in February (Charlotte and Raleigh most notably), so we decided to focus on places we have not yet been. I am sure we will miss some folks, but between my schedule and that of Coach Speir, we were limited in how many cities we could hit in such a short period of time.

What is the possibility of WCU Athletics having a radio network similar to those of Corporate Marketing partners like IMG or Learfield Sports?

Never say never, but right now, quite frankly, these entities are not interested in us! With the success we are going to have in the near future, that will change! Then we will be in a better position to negotiate with them.


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