June 15, 2006 - by
Q&A With Florida State Director of Athletics Dave Hart

June 15, 2006


1. How would you describe the Florida State athletics department when you got here and now today? 


Well, I think certainly we had a stated goal of trying to achieve comprehensive excellence and while you’re never quite where you want to be or hope you will be one day, we’ve made a tremendous amount of progress, primarily because of people.  I think we have a great staff–we have good coaches, good administrators and student-athletes that have really embraced that mission and that goal.  So, collectively I think we’ve made a lot of progress and I’m very proud of that progress.  Part of that has been our ability to substantially complete our master facilities plan because I think it’s given us that tangible sign of commitment and I think that’s playing a role in the comprehensive success that we’re enjoying right now.


 


2. What would you say has been your greatest personal satisfaction since you’ve been at FSU? 


I think it’s probably student-athlete centered.. It’s hard to top Garrett Johnson, to be a Rhodes Scholar and whether you’re just a member of the student body or a student-athlete, that would be tremendously exciting but because he’s a student-athlete, we’ve all taken such great pride in his accomplishments.  He’s a shot put champion in track and field, he’s a leader, and he’s been the president of the student advisory council for a couple of years.  I just can’t say enough great things about him.  It’s been very satisfying to be a part of the athletic program when he was here because he’s that special. 


 


3. Talk about the progress of your master facilities plan.


We will break ground with the aquatics center this January, if not before.  That’s an exciting project that’s much needed because we’ve been operating without an outdoor pool.  I really applaud Neil Harper and his staff and those student-athletes on both our men’s and women’s teams.  They were both ranked all year long and had terrific seasons so, Neil is selling the new pool in recruiting, and it’s becoming a reality so that’s exciting.  Then our track building which was a part of our original master plan that was built eight years ago, we budgeted some money a year ago in the budget and just received a wonderful gift from Al Dunlap that will enable us to move forward.  Bernie Waxman has been with architects for several months and his committee has been looking at completion of that building, which will be a $5 million facility that will replace the existing track building, which is in dire need of replacement.  The timing could not be better given the National Championship of the men’s team and both teams combined points in the NCAA track and field meet, verifying that at least right now, it’d be hard to argue that we don’t have the best track program combined in the country so the timing of that coming online and again, this is well ahead of the championship being accomplished, that building should be coming a reality in the next year.


 


4. Your thoughts on the year as a whole…


I think it’s the best year we’ve ever had comprehensively.  Now, when I say that, that’s exactly what I mean.  When I looked at what our 19 teams did, competitively, what they did in the classroom, how academically it was a terrific year, highlighted by Garrett Johnson being a Rhodes Scholar, but we set a record again with the number of student-athletes on the ACC honor roll.  You just go through academic accomplishments, post-graduate scholarships, teams with GPAs over 2.6–right down the line we’ve had a wonderful year academically.  And in community service, the service activities over 5,000 recorded hours by our student-athletes. We’re recognized and rightfully so, our student-athlete population won some individual and team awards for their community service efforts, for their efforts in the classroom, and for their efforts competitively.  So, comprehensively speaking, though some of our teams have had what they would have considered a disappointing year, we had 16 of 19 teams in post-season play.  So, comprehensively, when you look at the three areas we prioritize after they mix service and competition, we’ve had the best year we’ve ever had.


 


5. In your opinion, what’s the perception of Florida State nationally?


I think it’s a very good, positive perception. I have had a chance to see that first-hand and quite honestly, and this probably transcends Florida State but our reputation nationally is probably much better than local people might think because we’re so close to it that we don’t get a sense often times, of how our program is viewed nationally and it’s viewed in a positive light and that’s a source of pride for everybody who works here and certainly a source of pride from my perspective. You asked me what are one or two things that give me the greatest sense of pride and I named Garrett because that’s so special.  But, as I said they’re all student-athlete oriented but one that is kind of on the periphery of Florida State, but that’s expansion, being a proponent of expansion, and seeing what has occurred since we’ve expanded is very gratifying for me and I know it is for John Swafford and others. But what has happened to the ACC since expansion is extremely notable and noticeable, most recently, half the field, and unfortunately we’re not in that half, but half the field in Omaha represents the Atlantic Coast Conference and you go through sport by sport and you can make those types of statements.


 


6. The new Moore Athletic Center, we’ve now been in it nearly two years.  Has it met the needs that you intended?


It’s been absolutely terrific in every respect.  I go back to the student-athletes again. I don’t think there’s another facility in the country with as high a quality of services afforded to the student-athlete population than what we can offer in this building.  Whether it is academic services, compliance services, student development, life skill services, sports medicine, weight training, it’s all under one roof and it’s all state of the art. We’re so blessed and Seminole Productions does such a wonderful job as a part of the school of communications, but we have a New York Studio for all intended purposes as a part of this facility.  So when you look across the spectrum of that master facilities plan and you talk about this building being the center piece and it truly is. It gives us a chance to display proudly our history and our tradition but you look at all the facilities now and I think they’re classy and functional.  They’re really not ostentatious, but I don’t think anybody has better facilities when I consider this building and what we’ve done.  Doak Campbell is always a gorgeous facility but you look now at basketball and the renovations to the Leon County Civic Center and then the basketball training center adjacent to it has met wonders for both our men’s and women’s basketball programs.  The baseball stadium is like a minor league baseball park.  Golf is a great example of what we had and what we have. We had a very dilapidated facility in golf and now we have a beautiful facility.  Soccer and softball remains the best facilities in the country. We still have just as many people come see that as we do in our facilities that have been built in the last few years.  So, again, right across the board, we’re very proud of our facilities; we put a new floor in Tully for volleyball and redid the locker rooms.  We have a beautiful tennis facility.  We’d like to cover a couple of courts so that we can enhance our tennis facility a little bit more, but we don’t have a sport now that doesn’t have a facility that they can share a lot of pride with them and know it offers them what they need to be successful.


 


7. How important is good coaching and how unique is it that we have the longevity and success of Bobby Bowden, JoAnne Graf and Mike Martin?


I don’t think there’s a more important component to success than leadership.  That’s true in the corporate world just as it is in the athletics so coaching plays a vital role in your ability to be successful.  You have to have leadership because you could have the best facilities in America but if you didn’t have the proper leadership, you would fall short of your goals and expectations. It is unique, we are unique, to have three sports with coaches that have the longevity, first of all, that Bobby, Mike and JoAnne have. That day is over, I fear, sad but probably true.  Our industry has changed dramatically, there’s a lot more pressures on coaches.  Patience is probably a word you can almost take out of the dictionary for our purposes. It’s a very difficult job today. When you have success then those expectations, and rightfully so, are never going to change and nor should they change. But, we have three coaches who are synonymous with the sports they coach at Florida State, without question.  If you look at where the programs were when each of them came in their first year as head coach and see where those programs are now and what has happened over those years, the ratio of success is extraordinarily impressive. They all know and understand that that bar is high and you constantly have to achieve at that level which is very difficult to do, to maintain success at the ratio that those coaches have enjoyed success, but we’re very, very unique in that regard. We have three hall of fame coaches who have meant so much to the growth of the athletics program, their sports, and so much to Florida State University. 


 


8. Talk about the season the track program had on both the men’s and women’s side.  


The first thing I said publicly after the men won the national title was not that we won the men’s national title.  Although I’m extraordinarily proud of that, but the first thing I said was that, if you take a look at what the men and women have accomplished collectively, we scored more points collectively than anybody in the country.   This makes a statement about our total track program being probably the healthiest in the country at this point.  The championship is the pinnacle of success so for the men’s team to bring home the national title, it was a red letter day to be a Seminole, no question.  The women finished 14th, and of course we had as long a list as All-Americans on both sides men and women, probably that we’ve ever had.  So, there’s an awful lot to be very proud of as it relates to what track’s accomplished.  Bob Braman has done just an incredible job and he would be the first to say that he has an outstanding staff.  One of the first things Bob said after we won the national title was giving credit to Terry Long for setting the stage and all the work that Terry did as coach of our track program prior to Bob taking over. When you enjoy success, you can rest assured that a multitude of people played a role in that success and that’s true of anything and it was just very classy to hear Bob say that.


 


9. What are the biggest challenges FSU athletics faces over the next five years and college athletics in general?


I think finance, that’s always going to be a challenge, that won’t ever change. It doesn’t matter the size of you budget. The cost of scholarships continues to rise dramatically.  When you’re a program fully funded in all sports, which we are, that has a significant impact on you financially.  Because we’re still a young program, and we don’t really view ourselves, probably as we should in that regard, but we’ve been about this task for about 55 years and we’re competing against people who’ve been at this level athletically and use the term BCS conferences for 100, 110, 125 years, so we’re still young, our alumni base is still young, we’re still a growing athletics program in that regard.  We do have challenges, I think that’s why it was so important in my opinion to build our master facilities plan and get that in place.  We’ve been able to do that because of a lot of people’s generosity, including our fan base and alumni, who’ve contributed to those campaigns. Our next major campaign will be for scholarships, and it will be a total focus on endowing athletic scholarships so that we can relieve some of that financial pressure that exists along our ability to do that.  I think overall, as I look at intercollegiate athletics in general, certainly the scrutiny is such that it takes everybody prioritizing.  We have over 450 student-athletes, and they’re basically 18-22 years old and they’re going to make some silly decisions and that’s typical of that age range and we’ve all been there.  By the same token, we spend an ordinate amount of time talking to them and reminding them and having various seminars and so on about the fact that they’re the university’s most visible ambassadors and because of this, one mistake can really cause a black eye toward the department, toward the program, and most importantly, toward the university.  The shame of that is that out of the 450, the percentage is so small that find themselves in those situations. But, usually that’s what gets the attention, that’s just the reality and so that’s a big challenge to continue to work to minimize the times when student-athletes find themselves through an error in judgment, a choice they made that was a poor choice bringing negative attention to the program and university. I think we work as hard at that as anyone in the country, but it’s a huge challenge.

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