Friday, June 27, 2008

D-Rad's "Good Word"

Dan Radakovich's latest edition of the "What's the good word" newsletter has a lot of interesting points. However, many of them raise as many questions as they answer. Below are the main bullets of the write-up along with my comments on each point.

D-Rad's text is in blue colo

D-RAD: We are approaching the middle of the summer with the 4th of July coming next week. I am sure many of you are in and out on family vacations and weekend trips to the lake. Many of our athletic department employees are doing the same - catching a breather and re-charging their batteries for the new academic year just ahead in August. Yours truly will grab a little time with family next week as well, but I thought I might give you a glimpse of the AD's current worksheet for the summer months.

# We have been very active in our discussion with regard to multi-media rights. I have informed you in this space before that we are in a window in which our current rights-holder ISP has exclusive negotiating rights for a contract extension past 2010. Our talks have been very substantive and innovative. It is now clear to me that whether we remain with ISP or look elsewhere for a partnership, Georgia Tech is well-positioned in the area for the future. Our location in the heart of this thriving hub of the South combined with our tradition, prestigious academic standing and a bright outlook for success in athletics has us in an enviable situation. Look for this picture to become very clear before the calendar year is out.

Good news in my opinion. Reading between the lines - we are positioned for a more lucrative contract. Talks that are "innovative" sound interesting. What does that mean? Are we talking innovation in terms of the business model financially? Are we talking innovation in the broadcast? Internet broadcasting offerings? I sure hope it has something to do with the radio broadcast for the local folks. Here's the ISP team if you're interested.

Another question - if Georgia Tech ends up moving away from ISP (which I doubt will happen), how does that impact Wes Durham? I doubt much since I believe he's officially an employee of the GTAA.

D-RAD: # On a separate but somewhat related matter, we are on the verge of announcing a major partnership extension with Russell Athletic that will provide uniforms, apparel and a lucrative cash distribution over the next several years. When the terms are completed, Georgia Tech will find itself in the upper tier in these types of agreements in all of college sports. Look for a formal announcement in August.

Cash money. The message from D-Rad - He's makin' it rain. More good news for sure. Let's face it - we need to wring out as much income from these deals as possible. They go a long way towards coaching supplemental salaries and team gear.

# We are finalizing the first phase of a plan to bring a state of the art video screen, ribbon boards and sound system to Bobby Dodd Stadium in 2009. While the huge visual change won't take place for this season, we are busily building the infrastructure this summer to complete the back-of-house technology that will drive the new system in the future. Current work is being done to provide a state-of-the-art production unit that will allow us the most up-to-date video and audio capabilities on the market. We hope to have this behind-the-scenes equipment on hand and in use by August. If all goes well, construction on the new in-stadium displays will begin soon after the football season concludes.

That's cool. BDS is a classic stadium and upgrades like this are a nice touch. A top notch sound system and new modern video screen sounds like a reasonable way to spend some money and possibly attract some new fans. Ribbon boards I believe are those narrow screens that run along the narrow face between the upper and lower decks. My guess is that the ribbon boards are a pure ROI calculation, because they'll primarily be used to sell advertising space throughout the game. They will provide a return on capital in some timeframe and become an income generator.

For those who attend the games, a new bigger video board (maybe HD?) and better sound system should be welcome. The ribbon board I'm guessing is more about revenue, which means I like the idea as well. However, I'm not so sure how much it will really add to the game. Let's just not turn BDS into a Christmas light-show. Make the ribbons tasteful I say........

D-RAD: # Academic reform continues to be an important undertaking. Two major pieces of academic change were accomplished during the last few months thanks to great cooperation from the Institute, its faculty and Provost - now Interim President - Dr. Gary Schuster. Thanks to this work, the playing field has become more level for student-athletes at Georgia Tech and we should begin to see a greater level of retention and academic success.

Ok, now this one really opens the door on a bunch of questions. Paul Hewitt alluded to some things that D-Rad was attempting to get done on a 790thezone radio interview a few months back. He didn't say what, but said he really appreciated the support that D-Rad was trying to push through for the athletes.

So what is the "academic reform"? He references "two major pieces of academic change". Here are some pieces of the puzzle based on some comments at some local alumni meetings.

1. One item seems to have to do with a rule that is actually tougher on student-athletes than the general student body. It had to do with a student's ability to participate in "extra-curricular" activities if they were not in good standing academically. Seems that the rule dis-allowed students from participating in clubs, intra-murals, drama, etc if they were on probation. For student-athletes it effectively cut them off from playing their chosen sport. Apparently the rule was only being enforced on student-athletes and not the general population.

2. The second change seems to involve a student-athlete's ability to transfer classes or take transit classes at other schools. Evidently there were more limitations on student-athletes than on "regular" students.

Both of these are speculative until something official is said. Some folks who heard D-Rad's comments at the "coaches caravan" commented that they were really looking for the new GT President to support the Georgia Tech athletic program since it was such a visible face of the school. There were implications (I wasn't there, but read between the lines of attendees) that Wayne Clough was a barrier at times with the GTAA. Not sure any of us will know the truth.

Bottom-line on this is that it's a move to support the student-athlete......... not give them special treatment relative to regular students, but actually treat them more "equally" in areas that seemed to beg change. Nice move by D-Rad. He's standing up for the athletic program, coaches and student-athletes. That's a good way to endear yourself with your organization.

D-RAD: # The Budget process has occupied a good bit of the last month and is now ready to roll out. Our 2008-09 budget has been approved by the GTAA Board of Trustees and I feel confident that we will meet our revenue expectations while giving our programs the financial opportunity to succeed.

Not much to say here without seeing the budget. However, I'm sure the top-line and the bottom-line are both heading north in the plan........ "up and to the right", I say.

D-RAD: # We will spend the summer in our annual evaluation process for our coaches and employees. I believe this is critical if we are to continue to improve while giving our staff honest and direct constructive feedback on job performance. It is my mission to ensure that we have the right people, doing the right jobs and performing to their utmost capability within the program. Doing so will translate into more success on the field and in the classroom. This is a great time of year to really dig down and assess the strengths and weaknesses of our organization both as a whole and individually.

Ahh, the annual performance review / appraisal. We all know'em and love'em, right? That ever effective strengths / weaknesses, projects / accomplishments conversation. Personally I do believe you need a structured process in place, so that's a good thing. However, I'm a believer in the day-to-day open feedback mechanisms when it comes to course-correcting. I sure hope the coaches and staff have a pretty good idea of where they stand at all times, not just once a year. Now, if this is more of an overall process of looking at the organization, structure and activities, then hey, I'm all for it.

# In addition to time in the office there have been a couple of summer road trips for workshop and committee work. Last week I was in Dallas for the annual National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA) meeting, where I served on a panel to discuss "Dashboard Indicators." This is a program of financial benchmarks that allows schools to compare their financial data with other institutions. And just last night I returned from Chicago after two days of service on the NCAA's Championships Cabinet - the committee that sets policy and procedure for the various NCAA post-season competitions in all sports.

.......... because the NCAA is really all about the arms race, right? What we need are better ways to benchmark and compare how much money we are (or aren't) making relative to the "Jones's" next door. What's striking about almost every item in D-Rad's letter is the common thread of money through-out. I take that back - it's not striking at all. It's reality.

D-RAD: # We have and will spend a good deal of time this summer on our various facility projects and some deferred maintenance. We continue the construction of our new softball complex just off Fowler Street on campus. Likewise, we are working toward a March '09 start to the Zelnak Basketball Practice Facility - adjacent to Alexander Memorial Coliseum. These are major additions to our landscape that require solid planning and discussion this summer. Not so visible is the work to provide a bit of a facelift to some of the infrastructure within Bobby Dodd Stadium. For this season we will see the complete repainting of the East Side Upper Deck. After the '08 season more deferred maintenance issues will be tackled.

We now have a target date of March 2009 for the hoops practice facility. Sounds good. Should be a nice addition for the hoop teams and maybe boost recruiting a tad.............. A facelift to BDS. Some infrastructure work. When you're the oldest DI-A stadium in the nation, I imagine infrastructure work is something that needs to be on the agenda regularly. Repainting of the East Side Upper Deck. Good news. My wife tells me all the time that paint is the cheapest and quickest way to change the look of a room. Why not a stadium.

D-RAD: NOTEBOOK ITEMS: Congratulations to golfer Chesson Hadley for being named a first-team All-American by Golfweek magazine... Hadley is currently playing on the United States team which is competing in the annual Palmer Cup matches in Glasgow, Scotland... congratulations to golf alumnus Stewart Cink for capturing his fifth PGA Tour title last week at the Travelers Championship in Hartford, Conn... Cink currently ranks No. 2 in the points standings (behind Tiger Woods) to make the U.S. team for the Ryder Cup, which will be played in Louisville, Ky., in September... We'd also like to congratulate basketball alumnus Chris Bosh (2002-03) who has been named to the 12-man U.S. basketball team for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China... Bosh, an NBA all-star with the Toronto Raptors, was on the U.S. squad which won a bronze medal in the 2006 FIBA World Championship, and participated in the 2007 Senior National Team training camp.... Kristi Miller received an NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship... Derek Dietrich was named to the 20-man USA National Baseball Team that will tour the Netherlands, Germany and the Czech Republic before competing in the FISU World Collegiate Baseball Championships to end the summer... Miller and Amanda McDowell knocked off the tournament's No. 3 doubles seed to advance to the quarterfinals of the CHRISTI Pro Tennis Classic in Wichita this week... make sure to continue to check out for updated blog and journal entries by members of our golf and baseball teams... Speaking of the website, you have an opportunity to vote for the seven greatest games in Georgia Tech football history... the top seven vote-getters will get a spot on the cover of each of our home football game programs this fall.

I hope you all enjoy a great 4th of July holiday next week as well as the rest of the month of July. I will reconnect with you via the Good Word beginning the first week of August. Go Jackets!