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FSU Director of Athletics Dave Hart
July 7, 2004
The BCS and college football post-season situation seems to have been a hot topic for the better part of the last 10 years. You are the ACC’s representative on the BCS committee and there has been some massaging of the system every year sort of like we’ve talked about with what’s going on with the ACC expansion. They have left themselves places where they can tweak. This year there are some changes as well. Do you feel like there’s any movement toward a playoff? Where does the BCS stand and if you look back at what the goal of the BCS, has it been successful?
Let me say first there continues to be resistance, strong resistance at the presidential level, to anything that resembles a playoff. I think as you look at the post-season football picture and we go back into the days of the coalition and you come through the existing BCS mold, certainly that evolution has enhanced itself with each turn but we’re still not, in my judgment, where we need to be or hopefully one day will be. Being involved in those discussions at a first-hand level has brought to light for me, and I think the other five athletics directors that are in that same capacity of the BCS, the degree of complexity is much like that in expansion in the sense that it’s far more complex than probably would meet the eye. You’ve got a lot of different perspectives, a lot of different views, a lot of hands in the pie and you’ve also got your bowl partners to be concerned with. I have been and remain a proponent of the five plus one model, that’s on the personal side of things. I think that solves the access issue to everyone’s satisfaction and enhances the opportunity for the game to remain healthy. I say that because I have an ongoing concern that if we don’t get there we have a relatively status quo posture although it appears that it will be added if the market place will support it. But if we go another four to six years without making a significant rollover to a five plus one type setting, I worry about where we’ll be in the market place in four to six years with our competitors. And our competitors are NASCAR, the NBA and the NFL. There is advertising considerations and concerns to go with that, and there is television viewership. Where does the next generation of college football fans come from? I have all of those long term concerns just as I had in the expansion process. I don’t think you can look at where you are today or where you’ve been. I think you have to look at where you’re going to be and try to have enough vision to sort through that landscape.
I’m concerned that if we don’t do something to generate more excitement around college football post season, and quite candidly generate more advertising dollars, because they’re minimal concerning college football as we know it today, I think we’re leaving a lot of dollars on the table and that we’re leaving a potential shot in the arm on the table as it relates to the reaction of the college football fans. That is a personal opinion but it is shared by some others. Not enough to have us moving in that direction at least right now. In defense of the commissioners, they were given a very difficult task and an extraordinary puzzle to put together with parameters that they could not exceed. So given the tough task I think they have arrived at about the only place they could have at this juncture with the model that has been presented. And it certainly has problems within it, built within it, and I know some people have been disappointed with that being the outcome of the current process. I’m not sure it is the ultimate outcome though. I think it is a point of departure now as ABC and the BCS enter into negotiations this fall. They may find that the market place won’t support it at which point reconsideration would have to be given to other models and the presidents would have to reconsider their posture.
A very lucrative television contract was just signed by the ACC. Obviously it has a great impact on football, but it also impacts other sports as well in terms of the dollars and the television exposure.
It does and that’s often lost because of the enormous visibility of football. The primary piece that drove the leverage in that negotiation obviously was expansion and our new football alignment. Basketball has been traditionally strong and remains strong and so we were able to negotiate an outstanding contract with ABC and ESPN. Because of the leverage that was present in the conference, we had the opportunity and took the opportunity to add to the visibility of women’s basketball and our olympic sports. No one has a better contract for women’s basketball than the ACC right now. So we were able to get additional exposure not only for our football product and our men’s basketball product but also for all of our sports.
Speaking of exposure, the baseball tournament has sort of fought for exposure the last two years. Is the ACC looking to hone in on one traditional site or do they like bouncing it around and is that not an area where maybe we are leaving dollars on the table?
I think that there is a strong feeling, I’m not sure it’s reached a level of consensus quite yet but I think there is a strong feeling among most of the now 12 athletics directors that we need to take a serious look at finding a home for the baseball tournament for all the reasons you’ve mentioned. It’s not been well attended as its been moved from site to site and from state to state. We’ve had success in our state. It was not well attended when it was in the Raleigh-Durham area which was surprising to a lot of people. I think people, like Charlie Carr, who of course who is a senior associate athletics director here and chairs the baseball committee nationally and Wake Forest AD Ron Wellman, who has a baseball background, coached baseball, and at one time chaired the baseball committee and is heavily involved at the conference level still with our baseball committee, I think the two of them feel strongly that we need to give more serious consideration to a permanent home. When I say permanent that’s probably an unfair term to use but to give it a chance to get rooted some place. That doesn’t mean you never move it. It’s like the basketball tournament. We’ve lobbied long and hard for many years to periodically move the basketball tournament out of the state of North Carolina and we will have an opportunity in 2007, at the Ice Palace, to see the ACC men’s basketball tournament in Florida, which is exciting. But I think now as a 12 team league it changes some of your thinking and some of the strategic considerations. For example, with men’s basketball, we’re going to have to look at going to more domed stadiums when we meet our obligations in the existing contracts for sites in football. I recently spent a day at the ACC as part of a subcommittee that will assess all of the bids from cities on hosting our football championship game. I do think it behooves us to find a city that has experience hosting those types of events in a climate that makes sense because that game will be played in the month of December and in an area that will receive it with a great deal of enthusiasm. I think that city, and I would say the same about baseball, needs to have at least two years, maybe three years but at least a two-year option, because I think if you move it too quickly then you’re taking away momentum that could help the annual attendance that you seek and the type of financial guarantee.
The addition of Boston College to the conference will mean a football playoff game will likely take place. When does Boston College come onboard?
Boston College comes onboard a year from now in all sports. So in ’04-’05 we will be an eleven-team league and then as we get ready here in another month to start a new academic and athletic year, a year from then, Boston College will very much be a part of participation in all sports. We’ll be a 12 team, two divisional, football conference. We will rotate out two teams that we won’t play and that, as you identified, in football for the next two years will be Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech. When Boston College comes in, there will have to be a third team we would not play and it appears, though this decision has not been formalized, that would be North Carolina for us. So in 2005 football, we would not play Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech and it looks like North Carolina.
In basketball, we’ll play 16 league games and we would play everyone in the league. You will have four partners which you would only play once and everyone else you would play twice. Beginning this season it means we would play one time against Duke here. We will go to Maryland one time so they would not come to us. We will go to NC State one time and then they will not come to us and then Virginia Tech would come to us but we would not go up there this coming year. Like football, that will change. It will be on a rotating basis. The difference being you will play everyone in the league. It was one of those things that took a lot of conversations, a lot of cooperation and a lot of meetings to determine how we were going to get to an equitable situation in the basketball schedule.
One last question, as they literally work around us in the new facility that we are moving into and you look back on a very successful year both athletically and academically at Florida State, assess the general health of the program. The environment of the ACC changes, a lot of our competition changes, and most teams are in relatively new state-of-the-art facilities as well. Where do you see Florida State Athletics as we begin 2004-05?
Well, I think it’s not only very gratifying to look at where we are as we begin this year but it’s exciting to look at where we were. We did have an outstanding year academically as you said. Athletically, with service in terms of student-athletes giving back to their community, and financially we’ve just had a very, very good year. We finished 22nd in the Director’s Cup standings and that’s the highest we’ve ever finished.
You look around at the facilities and you can’t help but swell up with pride. If you’ve ever touched Florida State as a student or as an alum or a fan, to see our new facilities come to fruition is wonderful. Everyone takes a collective pride with what has occurred with facilities and so many people have played a role in that. The alumni, the donors, the fans, the staff, Andy Miller and his staff, the coaches…so, it’s very exciting. I think that would be a word I would use. It’s very exciting to be at this stage and to have the type of facilities and resources we now have available to us to continue to make progress.
We have some coaches who are outstanding and are providing outstanding leadership and we have so many student-athletes who have been recognized for individual performances as well as team performances. I would have to single out Jessica van der Linden in that regard who’s became the most decorated and celebrated softball player in our history and that’s a history with a lot of success within our softball program. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that she and Michael Boulware become husband and wife this summer and I wrote them a letter as they get ready for their wedding reiterating that their children have free rides in any sport that they so choose to participate in. I had to remind Michael that as much as I respect him as a person and an athlete that I hope they inherit their mom’s talent. I mean one of the top five female athletes in the country is hard to beat.