Three years ago, the University of Oregon announced it was adding baseball to it's increasingly competitive list of NCAA sports...and since that announcement, they have become a national role model for athletic departments across the country.
The Ducks hired George Horton, one of the most highly respected college coaches in the nation and built a brand new state-of-the-art stadium. They raided California and neighboring states for recruits and now, in just their third season, the Duck baseball team finds themselves in the enviable position of being ranked in the Top 10 in many pre-season polls.
The energetic, aggressive and focused athletic department that makes up the bulk of former AD Pat Kilkenny and new AD, Rob Mullins staff, knows what it takes to be successful and they have followed their lead to the letter.
In an economy that is witnessing more cuts than growth, Oregon sprinted forward, while showing surpluses and increased revenue along the way. That is due in part to both Kilkenny's and Mullens background.
Pat Kilkenny was hired on a two year contract to make Oregon athletics relevant. As head of Duck athletics, Kilkenny had reinstated baseball, launched a plan to build a new baseball stadium and hired highly respected baseball coach George Horton. In addition, he added women’s competitive cheer as a new UO sport, led efforts to build a $200 million basketball arena and helped create a Legacy Fund of private gifts to take Duck athletics from self-sufficient to self-sustaining.
Kilkenny's successor, Mullens, hired this past summer has a background in accounting and auditing, and he promoted sound fiscal management and self-sufficiency at the University of Kentucky. During his total of eight years at Kentucky, the athletic department’s operating budget expanded by nearly 70 percent. Fundraising for the department hit record levels each of the past seven years prior to his departure. The West Virginia native was senior athletics business manager at the University of Miami (Fla.) from 1994 to 1996, and prior to that he was an accountant/auditor at Ernst & Young in Raleigh, N.C.
Over the past decade, outright donations for the University's current operations routed to athletics have increased threefold.
According to data retrieved from the Council for Aid to Education, a New York City-based nonprofit established to conduct higher education policy research, the University's Department of Intercollegiate Athletics received $5.6 million worth of outright donations in 2000, increasing more than 200 percent to $18.1 million in 2010. Donations are projected to be well over $20 million in 2011.
California Athletic Departments Listen Up!!! If Oregon, with it's wet and chilly weather can do it, so can we!!!!
This Friday marks the opening day of the NCAA D-I Baseball Season nationwide. In California, from Sacramento to San Diego, 24 D-I teams take the field for a 56 game schedule with the hopes and dreams of taking on Omaha by seasons end.
And this year, more than ever, there's more to cheer for. Gone are the annoying Ping sounds of those minus three bats, one of the biggest criticisms of the game....While College baseball still uses metal, it's the dialed down BBCOR version this year and the crack of the bat is more natural...Look for exciting pitchers duals, small ball and of course the occasional bomb...this time hit by a true, square on the barrel power hitter, not a diminutive second baseman.
This is exciting college sports at its best!!! And this year, more than ever, Californians need to support college baseball.
The recent bungling of the Cal Athletic Department and it's horrible decision to cut baseball has sent an ominous message to the rest of the state...No non revenue generating sport is safe. And, unless we can make our sports self sustaining, they too can get axed.
But, the key words are non-revenue generating sports...There's no need for any of our states baseball programs to be non-revenue generating. Just about every team has multiple players that will be taken in this summer 2011 MLB draft and more than a few have the talent and ability to make a NCAA regional. California Collegiate baseball is extremely entertaining, doesn't cost an arm and a leg and if you are any kind of baseball fan, it's just the right thing to do right now, given recent circumstances.
Cal Administrators have created California College Baseball's Sputnik moment. It's now time for us to wake up and shoot for the moon in baseball attendance.
So get out there this Friday and support your local D-I team...They are relevant...They need your support...they deserve your patronage...They all have web sites and schedules. Just Google your local college's Athletics and click on the sport of baseball....print out that schedule and commit to going top at least 5-10 games this season. It will be an experience that will have long lasting rewards for college baseball for year to come.