Thursday, September 13, 2007

Same Old, Same Old

As I've said before, it's never a good thing when someone starts an email warning you you're going to get pissed.

But a couple weeks ago, a friend of mine on campus sent me one warning that the hockey program had received a $15 million donation towards their facility upgrade from [name redacted], but they weren't going to announce it just yet because there was concern how Mike Brey and Muffet McGraw would react to hockey getting their nest egg filled before basketball.

At first, I was more sanguine. Hockey's current playing area is a complete dump and needs an upgrade more than the hoops side does (which is really saying something). The price tag I was quoted for the arena-within-arena project was $15 to $20m, so this would mean their project is funded and attention can once again be put towards getting the last few hundred thousand so ground can be broken on the basketball project. It's not the hockey program's fault there's a well-to-do subway alumnus who likes Jackson and the job he's doing (although one wonders where the hoops version is, considering it's been more popular for much longer at ND).

Then I heard the budget for the project had jumped from $15m to $25 or $30m. No problem, I thought. The practice facilities ND needs for basketball will cost somewhere around $10m to really do right, so maybe they've decided to reward Mike and Muffet for their patience and make that part of the North Dome renovation.

Then I read this, specifically:
It turns out that the $15 million price tag was only for the base model of a new arena. A juiced-up model, one with all the bells and whistles of an elite national program, goes for considerably more -- actually, about $10 million to $15 million more.

Let me get this straight, thought I. They have full funding to give a non-revenue-producing sport a good-quality arena. But instead, they're going to go out and find a couple more million (or tens of millions) to "juice it up" and give it "bells and whistles". It'll still be an arena-within-an-arena, just like the original plan, but now it's going to have bling out the wazoo even though the R.O.I calculations on the project will get even worse. Meanwhile, the project to give a revenue-producing sport it's first meaningful physical plant upgrade in 40 years continues to languish for want of $700,000, and that plan still won't include the desperately-needed practice facilities.

And my head exploded.

The good news, if there is any, is they won't be taking up the entire North dome. They'll still be in half of it, but it'll be permanent space. This means, hopefully, there's still room to put the practice facility in there, which is the optimal solution, provided the same fundraising apparatus that can't come up with $700,000 for the arena can get the money for it.

But that's all the good news to be had here for hoops fans, as we watch our pays-for-itself program get cut off by yet another money-losing Olympic sport at the funding trough. Golf has that all-weather driving range that's so critical to their success. Hockey will now be getting "bells and whistles". And if the rumors I hear are true, women's crew (a sport barely above club-level) will be getting a boathouse at a cost somewhere (perhaps significantly) north of a million dollars.

All while basketball practices in a columned concrete box in the Joyce Center basement with no weight or training machines, and plays in an arena whose floor is held down by duck tape, whose seats are worn, whose concessions and bathrooms are 25 years out of date, whose press facilities aren't even high school level, and whose latest locker room upgrades are almost a decade old and were only done because the previous coach threatened to quit if they weren't.

I've long said one of the reasons I want Mike Brey to succeed at ND is to prove that nice guys don't always finish last. But I think, in this area, that's working against him. He and Muffet have been waiting eight years for these promised upgrades ... way too long for a project that will not include practice digs, will still have wires going across the floor, and will focus more on the fat cats in luxury suites than the players toiling on the court.

So if I were Mike and Muffet, I would walk into Kevin White's office and inform him on January 1st, there's going to be a press conference down there on the Joyce Center's (inadequate) floor, at which one of two things are going to happen:

1) He will be announcing the timetable for a fully-funded and ready-to-start renovation of the basketball facilities at Notre Dame, which will include not only the long-promised seat replacements and improvements to the arena physical plant but also practice space and dedicated weight and training areas for both basketball teams.

2) They will be announcing their joint resignations as head coach for Notre Dame's basketball programs, explaining that after being lied to for eight years about the plans for the program's future, they could no longer see their way clear to working for a school that obviously doesn't care about basketball. After said conference, they and their agents would be placing calls to every coach they know warning them about the lack of support they'd receive if they took a job in South Bend.

It's time to take the gloves off. It's time for the school to explain to long-suffering basketball fans why they can't figure out how to get money raised for the second-most popular sport at ND. To explain why there aren't even architectural drawings yet for a project that has been on the boards for over eight years. To explain what it is about all these in-the-red Olympic sports that makes them more deserving of multi-million-dollar projects than a basketball program that actually would have a chance of paying for their upgrades over time.

We want to know, Kevin. We deserve to know. What's your answer?

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

This whole situation makes me sick. Over 1 million for the women's rowing team? Are you serious? The only people who even remotely care about the rowing team are the women on the team, the vast majority of whom are walk-ons with no previous rowing experience before trying out. Some women on the rowing team don't even care about how they do, they just view it as a way to keep in shape and as a way to say they are varsity athletes.

How is it that the men and women who have honed their skill on the basketball court their entire lives are rewarded with crappy facilities, while the women, who no doubt are dedicated, but largely unskilled, are rewarded with a new 1 million dollar+ boathouse? The women's rowing team has absolutely ZERO revenue and will NEVER have any sort of revenue and will thus NEVER be able to repay for this boathouse.

I say that the money for the boathouse should go to the basketball facilities so we can begin construction on something that is actually important and more than a dozen people will ever care about.

9/13/2007 01:17:00 PM  
Anonymous Mr. Underhill said...

It's completely ridiculous that you attack softball's "opulent palace," as you call it. You know from where the money for that facility came. You're being cruel and petty, and, frankly, you make it hard to be a Notre Dame basketball fan. Is that how you advocate for the hoops' programs? Taking cheap-shots at softball and at a terrible tragedy?

9/13/2007 01:54:00 PM  
Blogger Craig said...

Hockey is a revenue sport at a number of schools. If ND experiences sustained success, I think it can pay for itself, although who knows if it ever well.

9/13/2007 02:01:00 PM  
Blogger Mike Coffey said...

craig -- awful lot of money to spend on an unknown, don't you think?

9/13/2007 02:16:00 PM  
Blogger Mike Coffey said...

Underhill -- the comment is withdrawn

9/13/2007 02:17:00 PM  
Anonymous NDgravy said...

anonymous - It's pretty ridiculous to call out Notre Dame student-athletes like you do. While I agree that the basketball team should be a priority over the women's crew team, I don't think it helps get anything accomplished by putting down an entire team and the athletes who participate. I actually knew people on the crew team, and while the sport may not have been as serious as being a member of the basketball team, it was still a time commitment and they still represent Our Lady's University.

9/13/2007 03:19:00 PM  
Anonymous Peter said...

I thought that the money for the all weather golf range was donated by a family for that purpose.

9/13/2007 09:03:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

yes, golf range was built after a donation for that purpose and the hockey arena is also a dedicated donation. if basketball can't raise $700k for an arena, maybe its not as popular a sport as you claim. hockey has been underinvested in for years and manages to get to #1 in the country, selling out games on the way despite the fact that playing in that atmosphere ranks last among all big time programs. i would build a stand alone arena on campus where the old 9-hole course remains and leverage the success of jackson to build a powerhouse that will in fact pay for itself.

9/14/2007 07:40:00 AM  
Blogger Mike Coffey said...

Eight to 11k people per game says it's just as popular a sport as I claim.

Given hockey loses money currently, I'll be interested to see how much of this $25 to $30m ever comes back into the coffers. Jackson won't be there forever.

9/14/2007 07:45:00 AM  
Anonymous Ted said...

Slamming other sports at Notre Dame isn't the answer to curing the woes basketball faces with poor facilities. Pressuring Kevin White and the ND Administration to fully fund all of the needed upgrades for the basketball program is the answer. True fans and supporters of Notre Dame should support all of the athletic programs.

9/14/2007 08:41:00 AM  
Blogger Mike Coffey said...

You're right, all sports should be supported. But there also needs to be a pecking order when funds become available, and that pecking order should be based on the sport's ability to create ROI.

9/14/2007 09:01:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If the lack of funding bothers you all so much, why don't you do something other than writing your complaints and donate money to the project(s). That might be a more appropriate way to seeing the projects get closer to completion. These projects take huge dollars, I don't see you doing anything to make them happen.

9/14/2007 10:06:00 AM  
Blogger Mike Coffey said...

I did donate money to the project, and my yearly donations to ND will continue to be earmarked for the basketball program until the projects are complete.

Yes, those projects do take "huge dollars", and apparently there are donors out there who have those dollars given the success of this and previous capital campaigns by ND. I'm doing what I can. A number of people on campus haven't been happy with the way this fundraising was handled.

9/14/2007 10:17:00 AM  
Anonymous Ted Eberle said...

Come on everyone let's be for Notre Dame. This kind of sniping provides fodder for Mike May and the other nut cases like him.

I said what I did earlier, but I also agree with what Mike Coffey said about a pecking order for funds if the money donated isn't sport program specific. GO IRISH!

9/14/2007 10:57:00 AM  
Blogger Frommy said...

Since when were ND athletics all about ROI? If that is indeed the driving factor, how can you even introduce women's basketball into this arguement?

If someone wants to donate millions to support their particular interest at ND, whether its rowing, hockey, chess, etc. then I say "God Bless 'Em"! And everyone that feels that basketball is being ignored can pull their checkbook out, just like you, and pony up. There is nothing that "entitles" the basketball program to claim the next big check that comes rolling in.

9/14/2007 11:28:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like hockey.

Also, I agree with the above two posters. Certainly general dollars should be allocated on the basis of need (and the hockey program certainly doesn't "need" bells and whistles). However, if people want to earmark their money for specific sports, that should be welcomed rather than discouraged. It only remains to find basketball fans who are willing to put their money towards a new facility.

9/14/2007 08:04:00 PM  
Blogger Erik said...

ND hockey will be able to raise money if the school remains committed to the sport. The commitment started with the hiring of Jackson, the FIRST coach at ND who had ever won a national championship, which he won two.

I can say that the atmosphere in the JACC got better and better throughout the past two years. I know ND can recruit good players and we do have enough of a fan base in SB and with the students, (many who come from hockey mad Michigan) that we can support the team.

I am an architecture student also, and I will be working on a proposal for a stand alone arena at ND, which I think ND deserves.

9/15/2007 12:55:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The women's rowing team at Notre Dame is very large and includes both varsity and novice rowers. There is a lot of competition to make the varsity squad. A couple of more points about rowing:
(1) This is a sport that people can start later in life, but development of skill is required to achieve success (e.g. make the varsity squad). (2) Crew is one of the toughest sports, with extremely tough workouts. In most collegest that have both men's and women'ts teams, this is acknowledged. (I wonder if the writer of this comment singled out crew because it is only a varsity sport for women at ND?) (3) Boathouses are valuable and can be used by more than just the ND women's crew team. For example, in Philadelphia (where I'm from) local school boat houses comprise the scenic "boat house row" that benefits the local community. A new boat house at ND for example, be useful for the male rowers at ND (who row on a club team).

9/17/2007 01:24:00 PM  
Anonymous GeronimoRumplestiltskin said...

So White has not only grieviously mishandled the football program, but he is continuing to do so with basketball also. How is it that an AD can mishandled the two most popular and highest-revenue-producing sports at a school and still have a job?

9/18/2007 11:43:00 AM  

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