ETSU putting post-football plans into action

By Rebecca Pierson
Assistant Sports Editor
rpierson@starhq.com
East Tennessee State University Athletic Director Dave Mullins announced to the media on Friday a new marketing campaign for the athletic department entitled 'Winning...the Right Way', and unveiled upcoming and ongoing additions and developments that are designed to upgrade the athletic department into one with a competitive edge.
Many renovations have taken place already in the Memorial Center since the decision in April of 2003 that the university would no longer carry a football program. ETSU President Paul Stanton estimated that the university was spending over $1 million per year into the football program using the university's reserve budget.
The university has been under scrutiny since the decision to cut the program. Many skeptics say that an university without football would hurt not only the university's public image, but that it would undermine the athletic department as a whole.
The long term goals of ETSU's athletic department, according to Mullins, is to bring other sports up to speed and to highlight the university's main sport -- basketball.
"I think because of the controversy surrounding the strategic business decision that Dr. Stanton made, and others supported and worked on discontinuing our football program, many outside of the university and ETSU athletics say that it has been weakened," he said.
"Despite the difficulties of that decision, but because of our reorganization of our goals based on that decision, ETSU athletics are alive and well."

Mullins described the university's struggles in its athletic program, including having to encourage its coaches to do their own fundraising; understaffing; and coming in compliance with Title IX, which states that scholarships must be divided evenly amongst male and female athletes.

"We have funded less than half of the NCAA allowable scholarships in most of our sports," Mullins said. "That is not the norm in Division I athletics. As a result of these situations, we've had a high turnover rate with coaches and administrative staff. The term 'revolving door' has often been used with some of our programs.
"Because of federally mandated Title IX initiatives, we have been unable to adequately fund our new women's athletic programs. We believe that our women deserve the opportunity for participation and success in athletics as do the men.
"So we have started a number of new women's programs, but we have been unable to fund them adequately, and therefore to expect success in those programs as we should. When the football decision was made, we were approximately $400, 000 per year short of meeting the Title IX mandates."
ETSU now plans to increase its staff with $213,000 in funding from 2003 until 2006. They also plan to add $503,000 in scholarships, $342,800 in recruiting expenses and team traveling which will be needed with the transfer to the Atlantic Sun Conference, and $272,000 in operations and equipment purchases.

Mullins announced new plans for the placement of the basketball court in the mini-dome. The plans include moving the court to the west side of the arena, where better parking and access will be a benefit, and adding over 700 new seats. The university is also looking into purchasing a center-ceiling mounted scoreboard over the court.
These are the short-term plans for basketball, as the university has already announced that they plan to raze the Memorial Center 5-10 years in the future and plan to build a basketball arena. Currently, renovations of the locker rooms for all sports is an ongoing progress.
All team offices have already been moved to the west side of the mini-dome. Previously, administration and coaching offices were spread out over three floors of office space on both sides of the dome and in Brooks Gym. Now, offices are conveniently located within proximity to each other.
The golf programs have recently opened their new practice golf facility, the Warren-Greene Golf Center, which was built through an anonymous gift of $1.2 million.
BucSports also seen improvements, including the employment of a full-time clinic director, which has allowed the center to increase it's patient load, with includes the general public that is referred to them. BucSports opened three years ago, and has had its first year of net profit.
Mullins also discussed the academic improvements made in the athletic program. E.T.S.U. athletes graduated at a 20 percent higher rate over a six-year period and graduates students athletes at a rate of 87 percent verses 60 percent for traditional students.
Buccaneer student athletes had a cumulative GPA of 2.76 in the Spring of 2004 and 2.83 for the 2003-04 year. Forty-four student athletes earned All-SoCon Academic Honors this past year.
Twenty-seven student athletes have a GPA of 3.0 or better, 31 have a 3.25 or higher and 14 earned 3.75 or higher and six are perfect 4.0 students.
Also highlighted was the athletic improvements of athletic department. ETSU finished second in the SoCon Commissioner's Cup for men's athletics and finished fifth for the German Cup for women's athletics.
Both the men's basketball and tennis made NCAA appearances this year. Men's basketball earned its fourth straight SoCon North Division title and won the SoCon tournament for the second time. The team finished with the best record in school history at 27-6.
The men's tennis team finished undefeated in the conference and captured both the regular season and the tournament championship. Yaser Zaatini was name Coach of the Year.
Women's tennis finished with a record of 17-13 overall, improving from a 12-17 in 2002-03. Three years ago, the team finished 1-21.
Women's golf won its first tournament title in history and finished in the top 10 in eight of nine events a year ago.
The women's basketball team won more than 10 conference games for the fourth time in history and head coach Karen Kemp became the program's winningest coach in history.
The baseball team's Caleb Moore leads the entire nation with a .455 batting average and was named SoCon Player of the Year.
The women's soccer program had its best overall record in 2003-04 with 12-6-0 overall and 7-4-0 in the SoCon. It was listed in the Division I Top 10 most improved teams along with Illinois and Florida.
The track and field team had two athletes qualify for the NCAA regionals in 2002-03, and sent five athletes this year.