SBJ/20100517/Sports Business Awards
Athletic Director of the Year
Published May 17, 2010
University of North Carolina
When Dick Baddour signed off on an $80 million project to improve Kenan Stadium, he was doing more than helping the University of North Carolina’s football program. Baddour, UNC’s athletic director of 13 years, was setting in motion a plan to improve the strength and conditioning and academic support facilities, which will be housed within the football stadium and serve as a resource for most of UNC’s 28 teams.
“I’ve been at the university for 43 years and serving a broad-based program is who I am,” Baddour said. “Sustaining that model is difficult to do in these (economic) times, but it’s something we’re committed to.”
The improvements to Kenan will have immediate benefits, in terms of increasing the square footage for strength training and academics, as well as future benefits for the budget, which sits at $64 million for 2009-10. Kenan seats 60,000, well below the 80,000 to 90,000 seats found at many of the top football programs, so increased revenue must come from new premium seating, both in the suites that will be added and the club seats that will be created.
“The concept we’ve created will provide a revenue base that doesn’t exist today and help maintain our 28-sport program,” Baddour said.
The focus on a broad-based program resulted in a No. 2 finish last year in the Learfield Directors Cup, which measures all-sports excellence. UNC was the first school in ACC history to play in the men’s basketball Final Four, the College World Series and a football bowl game in the same year.
Boise State University
As Boise State enters the 2010 football season, seven of its 12 games are already scheduled to be on television. Stock in the Broncos’ football program and athletics overall is at an all-time high, especially on the heels of Boise State’s Fiesta Bowl victory over TCU.
And when the Broncos talk about stock, they mean stock. Actual Bronco Stock. For the first time last year, Athletic Director Gene Bleymaier created stock in Boise State athletics, making it the first school to offer such a program. So far, the athletic department has sold 2,300 shares of Bronco Stock to 560 shareholders in 35 states. Close to $250,000 has been raised, which will help build new men’s and women’s basketball locker rooms adjacent to Taco Bell Arena.
“It’s been a fun project and very well-received,” Bleymaier said.
That’s the kind of innovation and creativity that’s often required of schools that don’t generate the massive revenue of the schools in the big six conferences. Under Bleymaier’s leadership, Boise State’s annual budget has grown from $16 million five years ago to its current $26 million. The athletic department just bought 15.5 acres that was an old junior high and intends to turn the land into a state-of-the-art track facility. A $2.5 million naming-rights gift has already been secured.
“We’re not limited to football success, but that’s obviously what we’ve been known for,” Bleymaier said. “The impact of football has been significant. We’re on national TV now, and with that kind of exposure comes benefits.”
“I had to look Rick in the eye and get a good understanding of what was making him tick — not only in the past, but why it was important to him to get back in the saddle now,” said Guerrero, who understood that the hire would register high in both risk and reward for the school. “I was convinced it was the right time for Rick to get back into college athletics, but more importantly it was the right place. Rick has been embraced by the UCLA family … and I believe good things, and maybe great things, are in store for the football program at UCLA in the future.”
It was the sort of bold move that has become Guerrero’s trademark in eight years at the school. In his first year on campus, he replaced head coaches in football and basketball. Three years in, he pushed forward a project that had simmered at the school for years, the renovation of fabled Pauley Pavilion, a $135 million project on which UCLA broke ground earlier this month.
During his time at UCLA, the Bruins have won 18 NCAA team titles, the most of any school during that span. UCLA also made three consecutive Final Four appearances in men’s basketball.
The Neuheisel decision appears to be paying off, albeit slowly. The Bruins went 7-6 and won the Emerald Bowl last season, elevating the profile of a program that has struggled in the shadow of its neighbor and rival, Southern Cal.
“We were looking for someone who could bring not only the image but also the substance and close the gap that needed to be closed,” Guerrero said. “We truly believe we are getting there.”
University of Alabama
But in his 11 years as Alabama’s athletic director, Moore has become so much more than a coach. He’s the central figure that has held together an athletic department through periods of scandal and untimely coaching vacancies.
If there was a cherry on top of the sundae for Moore and all of his persistence, it came in the form of the 2009 athletics year. Moore’s coveted football hire, Nick Saban, led the Crimson Tide to the BCS national championship, which was the eighth that Moore has been associated with at the school. He won a title as a player for Bear Bryant and won six as an assistant coach at the school.
But Moore’s year wasn’t all about football. He also made a statement by hiring the school’s first African-American head coach for a major sport, bringing in Anthony Grant to run men’s basketball.
Moore has been a leader in fundraising, the latest example being a $65 million expansion under way at Bryant-Denny Stadium. The football stadium will seat more than 100,000 fans by the time it reopens prior to the 2010 season, making it the fourth-largest in the nation, including 160 luxury boxes.
Said Moore, “For me, personally, to see all this come out of the ground and maybe turn out better than what you had envisioned in your mind, I’m certainly very proud.”
Ohio State University
When it became apparent late in 2008 that the recession was about to nudge the nation’s largest, and most expensive, college athletic program into a $2 million glob of red ink, Athletic Director Gene Smith used the projected shortfall to make a point.
“Most people would say that you don’t want to talk about that publicly,” Smith said. “But having had meetings and conversations with my colleagues across the country, I felt it was important for the Ohio State University to say, ‘Hey, we’re all having challenges. Us, too.’”
“I needed to help all my colleagues, some of whom receive a great amount of money from (their school’s) general fund. Sending that message helped them. It’s not just them. It’s all of us.”
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Smith knows most programs can’t make ends meet so easily. So when he found his budget pinched, he took his story to those who needed to hear it, speaking up in front of his peers at national AD meetings and addressing the Knight Commission, which in the last two years has turned its attention to the financial state of college sports.
“I always come at things from a national perspective, because I’ve been at Iowa State University and Eastern Michigan, and I know what they’re dealing with,” Smith said. “So, for me, it’s not just about Ohio State.”