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Richmond Times Dispatch (Virginia)


VCU's 2017-18 athletic year ended just over a week ago with the NCAA East preliminary track and field meet. During the past several months, the Rams compiled a league-best five Atlantic 10 championships (volleyball, women's indoor track, women's outdoor track, men's tennis, women's tennis).

The 2017-18 season marked the sixth for Ed McLaughlin, VCU's vice president and director of athletics. The Times-Dispatch caught up with him last Friday to discuss the past year and what's ahead. Here is an excerpt from the interview, which has been edited for length and clarity.

Question: How would you evaluate this athletic season looking back at fall, winter and spring sports?

Answer: I think we had a terrific year, winning five A-10 championships and a regular-season championship as well. And also getting an NCAA tournament berth for men's soccer as a seeded team. I think it was a terrific year.

Our senior class when they were freshmen had a year when we won five championships as well, so it's kind of fun to see the senior class go out on a good note. But, all in all, just a really, really terrific year. And a lot of the hard work by our kids paid off.

And I look at it, too, we did that all having probably two of our best academic semesters we've ever had. We had seven semesters in a row over a 3.0 [GPA]. And this past semester, we're waiting on a couple of grades, but this past semester was I think going to be our highest ever. So it's nice to see that we're doing it on both ends.

Question: What are your biggest priorities moving forward?

Answer: It's facilities. It really is making sure for our Olympic sports, making sure we can have the best facilities possible for them. Obviously a new ballpark is part of that. And I'm going to stop short on the ballpark discussion, stop right there.

Our big facility projects are: ballpark, a new indoor-outdoor tennis center, a new indoor field house and practice fields. And we are getting ready to finish up our next strategic plan, and that'll be a big focus in that.

Question: Where would you say you are with the tennis center and the multipurpose indoor-outdoor facility?

Answer: We are getting very, very close on the land part of it, which is the most important part of it. And I feel like we're making really good progress. It's never easy, but I feel like we're making really good progress. And I'm excited for what's going to happen.

And then, once we sort of identify where stuff's going to go, then we will start the fundraising part of it. ... In having some discussions with folks about building a new tennis center, I think there's a lot of energy for that in Richmond. It seems that Richmond's a very, very big tennis community, which is great. Obviously for a lot of reasons.

But for us, as a city and a community, to not have a public, indoor-outdoor tennis facility is crazy in a lot of ways. So we're looking forward to making that project a reality. Not only for our programs, but for the central Virginia community.

Question: In men's basketball specifically, what progress would you want to see in that program as Mike Rhoades heads into his second year?

Answer: I think we will make progress. I think we will be in the hunt for it again. Certainly not to put any pressure on any of them, but Mike is a very good coach. And we'll be a little older, we'll be a little stronger. And I think that's going to be the thing for me is, certainly as you look at the beginning of our season, we've got some tough games ahead of us, obviously. But it's, 'How much have we developed between the end of the last season and Oct. 1?' That's going to really dictate it. Are we bigger and stronger?

Our guys are doing a really, really good job in the weight room right now. ... I think they're terrific and they're talented, and I think we'll have a little more depth than we've had. And I don't know if we'll be as reliant, like we were pretty reliant on Justin [Tillman] last year in a lot of ways. And Justin had a terrific senior year, and so did Jonathan [Williams]. I mean, they both were terrific.

But we were a little reliant on Justin this year, and if we can be a little bigger, stronger. Guys like De'Riante [Jenkins] can be bigger and stronger, and I think Sean Mobley can have a really big jump this year. And Marcus Santos-Silva could really be good. ... And, honestly, having some of our former players back this summer, working out with our guys, that's already started to help. Which, between our team being together the whole time, which we didn't have last year, our coaching staff being together the whole time, which we didn't have last year, and having the pro guys back this summer, I think that helps a lot. 649-6442@wayneeppsjr

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June 5, 2018


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