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Post & Courier (Charleston, SC)

 

The Citadel has a new school president. A new athletic director should not be far behind.

Gen. Glenn M. Walters, a Marine and 1979 graduate, was announced as The Citadel's new president last week.

The retiring president, Lt. Gen. John Rosa, said he would leave it to the new president to hire the next athletic director.

The Citadel has been without a permanent AD since Jim Senter left for UTEP last November, and has formed an eight-member search committee to recommend finalists to Walters.

The Citadel has not hired a consulting firm to help with the search, according to school officials. Senior associate AD Rob Acunto has been serving as interim athletic director since Senter's departure.

At his presentation to The Citadel community during the interview process, Walters was asked about the role of athletics at the military school.

"Sports teach leadership," he said according to The Brigadier, the school newspaper. "Athletics taught us (in the Marines) where to go to get recruits. We went to Title IX areas. Women's volleyball makes great leaders."

Walter also talked about the value of teamwork taught in sports.

"If we (the military) went to Korea and we weren't a team, and we didn't have dignity and respect for each other, we would lose," he said.

Whoever is The Citadel's next AD, he or she will face many challenges. Here are five of the most urgent:

Finish the stadium

For an FCS school, The Citadel has half of a great college football venue at Johnson Hagood Stadium. It has about 11,000 seats on the west side, complete with revenue-generating club and luxury box levels.

But the east side of the stadium has been reduced to temporary seating for about 2,000 spectators after the aging structure on that side was torn down last year .

In August of 2017, The Citadel's Board of Visitors approved a plan that calls for about 3,800 seats on the east side of the stadium, with about 40,000 square feet of "office, education and/or residential space."

At that time, the Board of Visitors requested that The Citadel Real Estate Foundation "develop detailed specifications, pricing and recommendations to finance and fund the cost of the new East Side facility."

But the Board of Visitors has made no further decisions on what the east side of the stadium will look like, and the price tag remains unknown. Getting the project moving again will be a top priority for the new AD.

Decision on Duggar

Before he left for UTEP, Senter oversaw the hiring of all three coaches in The Citadel's major sports - Brent Thompson in football, Duggar Baucom in basketball and Tony Skole in baseball.

Baucom's fate will likely be the first considered by the new AD. He is entering his fourth season at The Citadel with a record of 33-64, including a 12-42 mark in the Southern Conference.

Baucom has shown slight improvement in SoCon play each season, going from three wins to four to five last season. But since the end of last season's 11-21 campaign, four players have announced their intention to transfer, forcing Baucom to bring in at least two graduate-student transfers for next season.

The coach is entering the fourth year of his original five-year contract. The Citadel traditionally has honored coaches' contracts, allowing coaches to serve out their terms rather than fire them early and a pay a buyout. Another losing season for Citadel basketball might force the next AD to make that decision.

Master Plan

It was two years ago that The Citadel's Board of Visitors approved a master plan for Bulldog athletics that included more than $33 million in improvements and new buildings.

The plan called for a new $28.9 million, 95,000-square foot building that would house Citadel athletics, and upgrades to McAlister Field House and football and track practice facilities.

A study conducted by a private firm hired by The Citadel found the school has a "programmatic facility shortfall" of about 52,000 square feet when compared with peer institutions such as Mercer, Furman, Western Carolina and VMI.

"I think everyone understands that athletics is getting teed up and its ducks in a row so that we are ready when we launch our next campaign," Senter said.

The question for the next AD: Does the master plan have a tee time yet?

Olympic sports

The Citadel's football and baseball programs have proven themselves capable of competing for, and winning, SoCon championships in recent years. Success in basketball has been spottier.

But the next AD will need to take a close look at the Bulldogs' non-revenue "Olympic sports" such as tennis and wrestling, and in particular, women's varsity sports.

Since The Citadel began fielding women's teams in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the highest SoCon finish by a Citadel team is third place by the women's soccer team in 2010. Most of the women's teams - which also include cross country, golf, indoor and outdoor track and volleyball - have finished at or near the bottom of the league, with track squads the occasional exception.

What additional resources, facilities and recruiting help do these teams and coaches need to be more competitive? The next AD needs to find out.

Money, money, money

As anyone who's read this far can tell, one answer to a lot of these questions is money. Increasing fund-raising will be a top priority for the next Citadel athletic director.

In USA Today's most recent survey of NCAA athletic department budgets, The Citadel's revenues of $16.9 million ranked second among six public schools in the SoCon. About 64 percent of those revenues came from student athletic fees ($6.5 million) and other institutional support ($4.2 million). That's the second-lowest figure among the six SoCon public schools (VMI was lowest at 48.2 percent of $13.3 million in revenues).

The Citadel's student athletics fee of $2,644 per student for the spring of 2018 is the highest in the state, according to the Commission on Higher Education, so that number is not likely to rise much higher. And with the Corps of Cadets locked in at about 2,300 students, the athletic department can't afford to rely on additional income from student athletic fees.

The Brigadier Foundation, which raises money for athletic scholarships, raised $3.3 million in 2017, about half of which went to athletic scholarships. It is currently run by interim executive director Russell Frierson. The Foundation's board will hire the new executive director, who will work closely with the new AD on fund-raising.

There is good news.

The Citadel's Foundation for Leadership fund-raising campaign, launched in 2012, had a goal of reaching $175 million by the end of 2018. At last report, the campaign has exceeded that goal, raising more than $228 million, according to The Citadel Foundation.

When the campaign was launched, The Citadel Foundation said it aimed to raise $25 million to "support The Citadel's athletics programs and increase financial independence.

"Gifts will enhance the college's ability to recruit talented cadet-athletes through scholarships, facility improvements, team excellence funds, and ongoing operational support," the foundation said.

The new athletic director will have much to say about where and how that money is spent.

Members of the AD search committee are Board of Visitors members Jamie Khan and J.C. Dominick; Xavier Starkes, president of the Brigadier Foundation's board; Dr. Jay Dowd of The Citadel Foundation; Dr. Dan Bornstein, a Citadel professor; assistant provost Dr. Faith James; Capt. Geno Paluso, the commandant of cadets; and Citadel supporter Jimmy Reed.

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April 22, 2018
 
 
 

 

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