March 16, 2005
Tallahassee, Fla. – Seminoles.com student assistant Mihaela Moldovan sat down with current Associate Athletics Director for Facility Planning, Operations and Event Management to discuss the transition of Florida State athletics over the past 30 years. Waxman, who is in this 31st working at FSU and 14th in the athletics department, joined the Seminoles as a student-athlete on the track and field team. He captained the 1972 squad after graduating in 1971 after earning track and field lettermen honors for three years. Waxman earned both his bachelors and masters degrees in 1971.
Waxman oversees event management for most of the nineteen sports in which FSU competes at the NCAA division I level. The scheduling and maintenance of the athletic facilities to include Mike Long Track, Dick Howser Stadium, Doak Campbell Stadium, the Florida State Basketball Training Center, the practice football fields, the athletics wing of the Dave Middleton Golf facility, and the soccer/softball complex also fall under his direction.
How long have you been associated with Florida State University?
I came here in 1967 as a student-athlete and I left for about a year after I got my masters degree. I worked as an assistant athletic director for the city of Tallahassee but then I came back and started working in the intramural department. The actual year that I started employment with the university was in 1974.
What does FSU have that other schools don’t?
Initially, coming to FSU felt like coming back home. The school had a personality that was right for me. It was a big school but at the same time shared a down home feeling as well. People were very friendly, faculty and staff made an effort to know the students personally and know their interests. Faculty enjoyed being around students, helping them out and providing them with a unique college experience.
Do you think FSU continues to have the same personality?
I think we are a much bigger school and it is much more difficult to know everybody. The first time I taught a class there were 15 students in the class and last time I taught a class, there were 50 students. Therefore, it is very hard to establish a close relationship with all the students. However, we still try to get to know them, make it a personal experience and because of that I think that the atmosphere is still cozy and homey.
What are some of the most interesting things you have seen at FSU over the past 25 years?
The physical growth of the university is clearly the major difference. It is remarkable to see the change in the physical growth of the university but at the same time it is also sad because FSU used to have lots of beautiful green space and oaks trees where students used to go and study or just chat with friends. Although we have now magnificent new and great facilities we lost some of the green space and some of the special feeling of the campus. But clearly, the good that comes from the new facilities outweighs the lack of green space. The growth of the population has been a major change as well. When I came here FSU had 15,000 students and now we are close to 30,000 therefore, change is inevitable. It’s exciting and neat to see the phenomenal changes that are triggered by the advancement in technology.
What has changed with the student athlete?
I think the student athlete 25 years ago played the sport purely for the love of the sport. Big-time athletics did not exist. Now, I think the elite people in the sport separate themselves from everybody else in the sport. How can you fault somebody for quitting school to make millions of dollars when at the end of their career they can come back to finish their degree as they afford it? Twenty-five years ago students came here to get an education whereas now they come here to get an education but also to make themselves marketable in the world of sports.
What was the most memorable moment as a student?
To be a part of an athletic team and to get to compete for your school was very exciting and I just loved it. Most of my friends are the people that I met during my athletic career at FSU. I don’t think there is one event that stands out but the whole college experience was memorable for me.
Do you think the team spirit that characterized your athletic career still exists today?
It does exist. Although the team spirit is more obvious in sports like swimming and track and field where there might be four athletes competing and the rest of 50 or 60 supporting their colleagues, the same intense feeling is the trait of all the teams at FSU. If you spend enough time with student athletes you understand that their motivation derives from the energy and the support that comes from their teammates.
What was it like to be a student-athlete in 1970?
It was privilege to be a student athlete. The recruiting system was different back then. I was recruited out of a physical education class that I was taking as elective. The track and field coach taught the class and he saw me running and asked me if I wanted to join the team. I really felt that it was a privilege to run with them. I believe that in 1970 nobody in the team had a full scholarship. You were there because you wanted to be there and it was fun to be on the team. Coaches had little money to recruit or get for scholarships. It was a small budget and you didn’t fly anywhere. Once we received an invitation to participate in a relay six hours away. We drove through the night to get there, we competed the next day having slept in the van and then we drove the next night after the meet and we received nine dollars for meals. It was a whole different world, different not worse.
Students’ expectations from the athletics program are very high. Why do you think that is so?
Because it is a different world. There were no Nike contracts when I was a student. Now, the Nike contracts mean so much because they give us the ability to give students what they need to perform at their maximum level. Sometimes I think that student-athletes should be more grateful of what they have today but then another part of me says the whole environment that they grew up in is different from mine so their expectations are legit. It is also harder for the parents because they have to do a lot of thinking to come up with something to surprise their children precisely because they grew up in a different environment.
What specific facility changes have taken place since you have been here?
All of the facilities have changed so much that they barely resemble what was there when I came here. The track that we put down is one of the finest surfaces in the world, the softball complex is beautiful and the golf course is amazing. The basketball facility training center is new and the baseball field has just been renovated. I drive to work every day and I just shake my head to the accomplishments that FSU has realized in terms of bringing its facilities to the 21st century. There is no facility that has not undergone dramatic improvement.
The freshmen that are coming to FSU don’t know the changes that took place over the years and they might take everything for granted. What can we do to make them aware of the opportunities they are afforded?
Well, we need to take pride in what we have. When an upper classman is with a freshman they have to share with the newcomer the pride that they have and how nice it is to be a part of the Seminole tradition. It is also the quality of people not just the coaches but the quality of people you surround yourself with including your teammates, the athletic administration, the faculty, staff around the university that make of FSU a friendly environment. This is what we have to take pride in and cherish.
What administration differences have you seen over the years?
The athletic department took on the personality of whoever the head was and in this case the athletic director. Over the years, athletic directors had different views: some brought everybody in the same building, others built new facilities and brought coaches back to the facilities where they ran their practices so that coaches interact more with student athletes and become part of their life. The athletic directors had different philosophies but each was extremely good and all of them have been very successful in what they accomplished. The people in athletic administration are there because they love the student athletes and the sport they supervise.
How would you describe FSU in one word?