March 4, 2002
Athletic Director Tom Stanton sat down Monday afternoon and chatted with fans online. The following is a transcript of the chat session.
For archived transcripts of earlier chats, click here.
Tom Stanton: Glad to be on board. Sorry I missed last week due to a little illness, but I'm back in the saddle. Fire away.
BrianBear (Waco): Mr. Stanton, what are Baylor's short- and long-term plans for football facilities, and how will they be financed? I don't mind playing at Floyd Casey too much, but I think levelling and paving the parking lots, adding some greenery to the parking lot, and redesigning the layout would attract more return fans. Is Baylor looking at purchasing land or using land it owns to build athletic (especially football) facilities?
Tom Stanton: We have been working on a master plan for Floyd Casey which is launched with the Grant Teaff Plaza after the luxury suites were finished. We will continue that walkway expansion around the stadium as well as restroom and amenity improvements underneath both sides of Floyd Casey. We are putting the finishing touches on now with some design personnel on paved parking and greenery areas. In the long range plan, I would like to enclose the stadium with similar decrative fencing and pillars such as are in the Teaff plaza. This will all be funded by my personal involvement with donors in raising the dollars to make this come to fruition on a stage-by-stage basis over the next 3-to-5 years. Our donors need to come forward and help us make Floyd Casey as attractive as all our other outstanding facilities.
Austin: What's the status of the Jumbotrons?
Tom Stanton: We have made proposals to several corporations for anchor sponsorships. The tragedies of 9/11 and Enron have made it difficult, as many of these corporate commitments tie to advertising budgets. We will continue to dilligently work through the leads, and I hope we are able to have a major breakthrough this spring and have our football upgrade in place for the upcoming season. The next 60 days will be critical.
Curt (Naperville): Tom, effective leaders have a plan of attack prepared for a variety of expected and unexpected events. With that in mind, I am guessing that if Coach Steele wins his fair share of games next season and if there is measurable progress, he will indeed be retained as our head coach - or at least we will attempt to retain his services. Being an effective leader, what is your game plan in case we struggle in the win column next year - specifically in the Big XII? The people that support the program would like to know your thoughts. I realize this is a difficult question but in all honesty, it is a difficult time to be a fan of Baylor football so I guess that kind of evens things out. Thanks.
Tom Stanton: You are correct in expressing that plans are always in place, irrespective of the direction of any program. We all understand the importance of the development and rebuilding of our football program to our level of expectations. We need to expect to win. This year's schedule is positive. Kevin and the players are enthusiastic about it, and I think Kevin and our coaching staff by all accountable standards have put together one of the more solid recruiting classes in Baylor football, certainly over the last 7-8 years. I will not be in a panic mode, ever, as that is also a quality of good leadership. We all have the desire to win and we need to make sure that each and every decision we make is a decision that is well thought, appropriately analyzed and dealt with from a position of integrity and tied to the mission and values of our university. All our coaches are evaluated annually by that same criteria.
Earnie (Houston): Hi Tom. Why did we elect to play So. IL last year instead of Alabama? Whose decision was it?
Tom Stanton: The ultimate scheduling decisions are made by a group involving Coach Steele, myself, Paul Bradshaw, Jim Trego, and David Taylor. This breadth of input covers the spectrum from competitiveness through financial. There are a broad number of philosophies which permeate college football scheduling, and we choose to look for schedules that will give us an appropriate opportunity for bowl participation while taking into consideration the extraordinary competitve strength of the Big 12 as one of the marquee football conferences in the country. We are not going to line up our student athletes in any sport week after week to test the limits of failure. Every program, whether it be football or women's basketball or tennis or golf, has an emphasis on quality RPI scheduling within the framework of building nationally ranked programs.
BrianBear (Waco): What areas of sports marketing will be addressed and improved this next school year? Do you think the (cartoonish, mean, disproportionate) Green Bear logo should be used at the expense of more popular trademarks or identifiable Baylor brands?
Tom Stanton: We've addressed the logos numerous times. The marketplace has total freedom to utilize whatever marks they desire. That practice will be ongoing. Those who are investing in products should have their liberties and freedoms to make their selections. Sports marketing is an issue which we'll give expanded evaluation to this spring. When our programs weren't very competitive, marketing obviously wasn't as big of an opportunity. Now that we've hired outstanding coaches and the number of victories are stockpiling across the board, we need to explore the expanded opportunities this gives to the visibility of Baylor University.
Chuck (Dallas): What objective measures of success are you expecting from the football program next year and thereafter? Please be as specific as possible.
Tom Stanton: Kevin and I expect our football program to be more competitive and win more football games. Also, the continual quality of recruiting classes will yield additional depth and roster strength in addition to the returning quality we have from our existing roster. We need to make sure that, as difficult as it may be, patience is a part of a turnaround, as exhibited by the Iowa States and Virginia Techs of the world. But winning more football games is obviously a priority.
Michael Grady (Midwest City, Ok): I have asked this before but never received a response: Is Baylor interested in getting a wrestling program? Second question is how are plans going to build an on-campus football stadium. That has been discussed in the past, but I have not heard anything recently. Thank you for taking these questions under consideration.
Tom Stanton: There are a very limited number of schools in the Big 12 that sponsor wrestling programs. We have no plans on the drawing board to field a wrestling program. The athletics committee of Baylor has as part of its goals to assess the viability of an on-campus football stadium that would be done in appropriate time frames and in conjunction with the university's 2012 plan. Our immediate priorities as stated earlier are to make as many improvements to Floyd Casey Stadium at a reasonable cost to allow our existing coaches and student-athletes to create a quality "home environment" for our current football members.
BrianBear (Waco): There's a lot of grumbling and discontent among our alumni, especially our graduated lettermen. I understand that this happens at all universities, even though I hold Baylor to a higher standard for everything. What are your plans to reconcile Baylor University and disgruntled alumni and donors?
Tom Stanton: Your comment about there always being individuals who are unhappy about "life in general" is quite accurate. Many can never be pleased, no matter what the level of accomplishment. Although there are some disgruntled, most do not see a silent majority that is exceedingly proud of the facilities which have been built, the coaches who have been hired, and the winning that has taken place across a great breadth of our sports program. We don't just build an entire athletic dept. in a league as difficult as the Big 12 having not invested much of a competitive nature for numerous years prior. The goal is to continue to provide our prospective student athletes and current coaches with what they need to be competitive and let them do their job. We've seen the format for success laid out by Steve Smith, Matt Knoll, Kim Mulkey-Robertson and others are in various stages of development. Might there be some correlation between the new football locker room and Kevin Steele's successful recruiting class? Only time is the appropriate judge, layered by victories. We simply must have the courage to stay the courses and build the traditions in all our sports.
j. Day (Knoxville): Mr. Stanton, I realize that gender equity is mandatory of the Athletic Department. The women's soccer program has illustrated the community?s willingness to support soccer. After playing club soccer at Baylor and seeing the success of many other private schools in Texas I see a recipe for success. I would hope to see soccer be in consideration for the next male sport that would be added to the Baylor Athletics family. What are your thoughts?
Tom Stanton: We have conducted a thorough assessment of Title IX and gender equity strategies for intercollegiate athletics. If we were to add an additional sport, it would in all probability be one for women. I don't see the possibility of men's soccer anywhere in the immediate future until another women's sport were added prior.
Dan (Chicago): What in terms of recruiting can you do to make Baylor a top competitor in the big, money-making sports (basketball, football)?
Tom Stanton: I think one of the major fundamentals ties to the quality of leadership provided to the student athletes and the character of that leadership. In today's environment, outstanding facilities also play a significant role because they signify "commitment." We do everything we can to ensure that our coaches have the recruiting budgets necessary to recruit, either nationwide or internationally, depending on their sport-specific philosophies and strategies. We believe the ongoing coach-administration discussions regarding recruitment, while balancing all the aforementioned criteria, can lead to quality recruiting class after quality recruiting class, which is what will build winning.
Brian (Lewisville): When will we hear of a new contract securing Coach Mulkey-Robertson, Coach Bliss, and Coach Smith to BU for as long as they want?
Tom Stanton: Rest assured, we have the level of commitment and desire to maintain quality leadership for Baylor's athletic programs. We will remain committed to our aspirations of excellence in all sport venues. This is a tough league, and we have and will continue to step up to the challenges.
BrianBear (Waco): How do you identify and evaluate new coaching hires or potential candidates?
Tom Stanton: What we have done in our coach evaluation process has been relatively consistent. We've tried to piece together levels of committee expertise by sport to identify quality coaching prospects. Some of those committees have had as few as 6 and as many as 15 members. Thorough background searches on all aspects of an individual's coaching career are always conducted, analyzed and reviewed. From this point, decisions take on a different tone because many have different philosophies. I actually had some who felt that an assistant coach with no head coaching experience should never be hired at Baylor. Matt Knoll, Kim Mulkey-Robertson, Tim Hobby, Steve Smith never had head coaching experience. That doesn't make the philosophy altogether incorrect, but the most important criteria, particularly at Baylor, are to find individuals whose personal character, commitment, and leadership abilities tie to the mission and values of Baylor University. Our chances are much greater for success if we maintain that overriding philosophy.
Mike (Dallas): Will you consider a radio talk show where people can call in and have you answer questions? Don't you find this is a bit too tight for real give and take?
Tom Stanton: I have attempted the talk show approach for the first two years. The basic talk show format didn't appear to create much in the way of positives in attempting to build a successfful athletic program. I always want fans to have the opportunity to express their opinions, as I believe that is incredibly important. What should not be allowed to happen is the voices of a few shouting down the many who have taken a much broader perspective on the building of an entire sporting organization for Baylor University. When I was at Baylor, we went through a three-year stretch in football of 3-26-1. Those days were not necessarily enjoyable for anyone. It takes a lot of courage and committment on behalf of "everyone" to move an organization the magnitude of 17 sports to the forefront of a tremendous league. What I am convinced of is that if we spend more time concentrating on the positive things that we are doing and building up our programs and successes, this will only help the advancement of our disappointments happen quicker. Those who choose to take talk radio as a means of "sniping" at 3 a.m. are not representative of the thousands of Baylor loyalists who see us on an improving track across all our sports, unprecedented in Baylor history.
Austin: Are we going to follow the lead of every major college basketball program and put our main student section on one side of the floor next season?
Tom Stanton: We'll continue to evaluate seating arrangements at the Ferrell Center. Part of the problem ties to seat options, as well as unfortunately lack of student participation. When you have paying customers who are willing to buy the seats, and when the students head out for spring break there are obvious dilemmas which are created. What we will try to do is satisfy both -- get as many students as close to the floor as we possibly can, in an appropriate sportsmanlike fashion, yet ensure that we have enough quality ticketing for the Waco community and our alums and basketball supporters.
Buck (Dallas): I fully expect that the Lady Bears will be named as a NCAA host for the first two rounds of the tourney. What goes into the preparation for hosting and when will you know for sure if we are indeed hosting? Any chance of getting a Jumbotron in Ferrell like we did for the men's Kansas game last year?
Tom Stanton: We won't know about the hosting until the selection show, 5 or 5:30 Sunday evening on ESPN. We have to feel our chances are excellent due to the tremendous job the Lady Bears have done this year. Ir would be hard to imagine with our record and RPI, a single loss if we even had one in the Big 12 Tournament would drop us seven or eight spots in the polls behind other Big 12 schools we obviously beat over the rigourous conference schedule. We have an internal committee headed by Paul Bradshaw, our interim women's senior administrator, to handle all the approprate issues as outlined by the NCAA manual in the event we do host. There are many issues which are allowed to be done on campuses during the regular year which are not allowed as part of the NCAA manual, i.e., artificial noisemakers. Paul's job in the event we do host is to conduct the tournament "by the NCAA book", and at this point in time, all appropriate advance meetings have been held and we await Sunday.
Austin: If/when our girl's host a regional how will the ticket situation work?
Tom Stanton: In terms of ticket sales for the regional, there is a mailing that has been sent out to existing season ticket holders to see if they want their reserved seats protected. All other ticket inquiries should go to the ticket office, call 254-710-1000 or 1-800-BAYLOR-U, opt. 7. It is incredibly important for the face of Baylor University that we have enormous ticket sales. I encourage everyone to recognize what an honor it is to have a team good enough to be at the level our Lady Bear basketball program has achieved. Two home wins in the first two rounds could put us in the Sweet 16 of college women's basketball. We have an opportunity to raise our voices in our home arena and give our Lady Bears the opporunity to go where we've never been before. Let's take advantage of that opportunity for Kim and our Lady Bears.
Tom Stanton: Thanks for your questions, that's all the time I've got. I look forward to doing this again soon. Sic 'em Bears!