MU athletic director Mike Alden
Missouri Senior Director of Athletics Mike Alden met with media members informally at the Clinton Club in Mizzou Arena on Thursday, here are a few highlights of the discussion.
CHANGES COMING TO NCAA SPORTS?
We discussed the recent moves towards a cohesive group of the so-called “big five” conferences (SEC, Big 12, Pac-12, ACC and Big Ten) that would represent the interests of those schools as opposed to the entirety of the NCAA. The key word in earlier media reports of this issue was “autonomy,” and Alden repeated this as a major goal.
“The goal is for the NCAA and Division I athletics to stay together, to stay under the ‘big tent’ and I believe that’s going to happen.”
“The (key) piece to that is the ability to have some autonomy, to make some decisions to benefit student athletes.”
The big decisions that would be available to schools in these big five that might not be available to smaller schools include such things as providing “full cost of attendance” financial aid to students, medical care for current and former student-athletes, and “lifetime educational opportunities,”
Darren Hellwege, Sports Commentator
the ability for former student-athletes to finish their education after his or her class has graduated. The schools say the inability of smaller conference institutions to pay for such items shouldn’t prevent the big schools from making them available.
There are priorities for things that would not change under the agreement as the big five propose.
“There are certain things we want to stay consistent with…that has to do with access to championships, the revenue distribution formula that we have, and to make sure that the rules and regulations that we have in place for transfers”
Alden indicated a vote on these proposals could come in August, and if it’s approved by the Division I schools of the NCAA, implementation could come around January of 2015. Alden was firm in saying these benefits, should they become available to Missouri, would apply to all scholarship athletes and not just those in so-called “revenue sports” (meaning primarily football and men’s basketball). While this substantially changes the cost structure for the University, Alden is to be commended for this commitment to all Tiger student-athletes.
The biggest question regarding these benefits is obvious—how much would it cost? The answer now is clearly “who knows?” because there will need to be more definition of what is and isn’t allowed and what “full cost of attendance” will really mean. Alden told us there are already discussions within the athletic department at Missouri about potential costs and how MU would be best able to address those costs.
IT’S MONEY THAT MATTERS
The conversation then went into a more broad-based discussion of the University’s athletic funding. It was pointed out that in the recent USA Today list of athletic department revenue for D-I schools, Missouri ranks 11th out of 13 SEC schools listed, ahead only of Ole Miss and Mississippi State (as a private institution, Vanderbilt is not required to release their numbers.) Alden expressed that while moving up is a priority, it won’t happen overnight.
“I see that as a realistic spot for the next couple of years. What you target at is how do you get up to eighth, ninth,” he said.
As things stand now, to pass the SEC schools immediately ahead of Missouri would require a funding increase in the neighborhood of $20 million. Where would the money come from?
Alden identified annual giving through Tiger Scholarship Fund, along with multimedia rights and ticket sales as the three biggest funding priorities, in that order. Alden said TSF giving and multimedia rights were the biggest areas for potential growth, with the concern about ticket revenue being that he didn’t want to see substantial increases in the cost of tickets for fans.
There has been a good deal of revenue growth in recent years, due to the conference switch and continued success of the Tiger football team.
“With the move to the SEC, there was an immediate bump in that, and that’s stayed consistent. And then coming off the type of success we’ve had but then, you gotta make sure you sustain that. Annual giving, you want to tie to consistency with your program, in times that are really good but also in times that are really tough.”
SEC NETWORK: COMING SOON TO A TV NEAR YOU (OR IS IT?)
Alden was asked about what type of revenue Missouri could expect from the SEC Network when it signs on in August. He noted the money would be entirely driven by distribution. While at this point one of the satellite TV carriers has signed up, there is not yet an agreement for the SEC Network to be carried by Mediacom, the primary cable TV provider in Columbia. Obviously, there’s a lot of negotiating that will happen between now and the day programming begins, scheduled for August 14. Alden also noted that this will not move Missouri up within the SEC as all schools will share SEC Network revenues equally.
Alden said the UM Board of Curators will be meeting to discuss the Master Plan, all proposed construction and renovation projects for the four campus system. He identified as the two major priorities the proposed new softball complex, and a desired new indoor practice facility for football. The current facility, the Devine Pavilion, was completed in 1998 and does not have a full 100-yard field. Both projects still require Curators approval before moving forward.
Alden also said a decision about the future of the Hearnes Center is still a couple of years away. The Warren G. Hearnes Multipurpose Center was complete in 1972, and is currently home to the volleyball, wrestling and gymnastics teams as well as a number of athletic department offices.
SEC HOOPS IN GATEWAY CITY
Alden was clearly excited by the recent announcement from the Southeastern Conference that the 2018 SEC Men’s Basketball Tournament would be hosted by St. Louis at Scottrade Center.
“I think it’s great for the state of Missouri and Mizzou, it’s great for the SEC, it’s great for our fans. I know there were a lot of cities that bid on that, but St. Louis did an awesome job.”
Alden had particular praise for the St. Louis Sports Commission and it’s leader Frank Viverito. St. Louis will also host the NCAA Wrestling Championships in 2015 and 2017, and NCAA Gymnastics Championships in 2017 and 2018.
A NEW OLD FACE FOR MISSOURI MEN’S BASKETBALL
Alden was asked about the first few weeks of the tenure of MU’s new men’s basketball coach, former Tiger star and assistance coach Kim Anderson.
“It’s been really positive as far as our fan base is concerned. He’s been everywhere around the state…I think our athletes have received him really well, our current student-athletes and our recruits. Everything I’ve seen so far has been very positive, very good.” Alden also expressed a desire to see Anderson bringing some stability to the program, which has seen four head coaches since the departure of Norm Stewart following the ‘98-‘99 season. (You can see the final information on Anderson’s contract in another post on this site.)
SPEAKING OF OLD FACES…
While discussing former Missouri coaches, the name of Alden’s first hire for the job, Quin Snyder, came up. Snyder, who resigned in 2006, was recently hired by the Utah Jazz of the NBA.
“I’m happy for him. I think he’ll do a heck of a job as the coach of the Utah Jazz, I do…I think he’s a heck of a coach, unfortunately it didn’t work out for him at Mizzou.” Among Snyder’s stops since leaving Columbia have been NBA assistant coaching jobs with Philadelphia, the Lakers and Atlanta.
TIGER BASEBALL NEEDING ATTENDANCE BOOST
After reiterating his support for longtime baseball coach Tim Jamieson, whom many (including this writer) thought might be finished after another disappointing season in 2014, Alden discussed the lack of fan support for baseball at Mizzou.
“I think we have great baseball fans throughout the state. You see them for the Cardinals, you see them for the Royals, we gotta keep working on it…it’s similar to women’s basketball, we need to grow that attendance.”
Missouri has finished last in the SEC in baseball attendance for the last two years, averaging an anemic 967 fans per game this season. By comparison, the next lowest attendance figure belonged to Tennessee, which averaged 1,981. Five SEC schools averaged more than 7,000 per game and LSU led the nation with an average attendance of 10,812.
Darren Hellwege is a member of the United States Basketball Writers Association and Football Writers Association of America.