US Airways in-flight magazine recently named Charlotte Athletics Director Judy Rose as one of the most dynamic women in her city. Rose, a former member of the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Committee who currently chairs the Division I Championships and Sport Management Cabinet, was recognized for her work in expanding athletics opportunities at Charlotte – by adding football (set to begin in 2013) and several women’s sports (as yet undecided). In Part 2 of a two-part interview, Rose talks about the process of adding a high-profile sport at a rapidly growing institution. (See Part 1 here)
Charlotte AD Judy Rose.
You announced a little more than two years ago that Charlotte would add football in 2013. How is that going?
Judy Rose: I now spend 90 percent of my time on a sport we’re not having for three more years, and I have been doing that for two years. The rest of my job doesn’t go away, so I take a lot home with me.
When you start a program from scratch, it is so different from adding one where you already have facilities. We had nothing in place to start football. That’s good and bad. It requires a lot more work, but in the same regard it gives you the opportunity to build something from the ground up.
We are building a stadium on campus and we will start construction in May 2011. We will play in 2013 competitively. We are an independent right now. We are hopeful hat down the road we will have a conference affiliation. But for the first two years we do have our schedule in place.
We are building a 15,300-seat stadium that is expandable to as much as 60,000. It’s being designed so when I’m dead and gone, somebody else can expand it without tearing anything down. We plan to hire the head coach in April. We will begin that process publicly in January.
Is it difficult to come up with creative financing in the economic downturn?
Rose: The financing of the actual capital expense is on the backs of our students. They are paying a debt-service fee. We have never used debt service for our athletics facilities before at Charlotte. With the economy the way it is, it’s about the only way we could do it.
The athletics department has been charged with raising $20 million to go toward football and the women’s sports we will add. We’ll do that through the selling of naming rights for our stadium and the field. With seat licensees and a little bit of naming, we’ve got almost $6 million already.
I’d like to have been sold out by now, but when you charge a minimum of $1,000 just for the right to buy a seat and then $2,500 to $5,000 for the seats themselves in this economy… A lot of the money will be raised from the naming rights, which will help offset the capital costs to build the facilities we need for women’s sports.
Now that you are two years into it, what have you learned?
Rose: As much research as we have done over the last five years, and calling institutions and talking with folks, my mantra to my staff has been that we still don’t know what we don’t know. I don’t think you can do enough homework. Every day I ask what we learned today as we move forward on this quest for football. I want to get it right. This is a huge step for our university and it cannot be just an athletics department initiative. It has to be a university initiative when you take on the task of starting a program as large as football.
We created logistics committees, and only two are chaired by athletics department personnel. The best advice I probably received from our staff visit to Old Dominion was that football will expose every weakness at your university. They are right. If we don’t have transportation in place correctly for parking and tailgating and game day, that will be a major weakness. If people do not have a good experience with food service and concessions across campus on game day, then that’s another weakness of this university.
We need to have everything available so we don’t look like some rinky-dink institution, because we’re not.
What women’s sports will you add?
Rose: We’re not saying for sure what we’re going to add. (Field hockey and lacrosse) are certainly on the list that we are entertaining. We will survey from a Title IX perspective and see where the levels of interest are. I would consider swimming, and I wouldn’t rule out competitive cheerleading – even though I know right now that there’s been a ruling saying it doesn’t meet Title IX (requirements, the way it’s been conducted). But I wouldn’t be surprised if things changed in that regard. We are looking at things that have large numbers, as you would imagine. If you add small sports, it’s tougher to get there and make sure that you are in compliance. It is important to us to make sure that we are in compliance.
Many in the media criticize universities for athletics department budgets that are growing while academics seem to suffer. How do you answer that criticism?
Rose: At any university you’ve got to decide what the important elements of a university are. A university is not just made up of academics. We understand that is our primary mission, absolutely. But it’s important to most of us on a university campus that the campus life be vibrant. We would see enrollment drop if it’s not a vibrant campus life.
For us, football is going to help us make campus life more vibrant and give our students options. Instead of them leaving on the weekends to go watch football somewhere else, they can stay on campus and take pride in the fact that we have it here. The students want football. They voted to pay a fee for operating expenses and the debt service. But it’s important for people to know that we don’t receive any state funding for athletics. The money we have for intercollegiate athletics would not be going to academics. We raise our own dollars and the students pay a student athletics fee. But we don’t receive an appropriation from the state for athletics. We aren’t in debt here. We operate in the black. Across the country I know there are programs that have been getting quite a bit of appropriations from the state, and it’s a little different story for some of those.
What are the three biggest issues facing the NCAA?
Rose: I would say student-athlete welfare. Are we going to pay our athletes? I am not a proponent of that. I think that issue will remain out there. Also, it seems that every time we turn around, everything seems to have litigation involved with it. It is so difficult to make the right decisions oftentimes because there is fear of litigation. The six BCS conferences breaking away is another concern for me. I think unification and a focus on unification within collegiate athletics is very important. It should be more inclusive. We should try not to make it professional sports. I know that has a lot to do with the BCS and how that gets figured out and whether it stays the way it is. If it doesn’t, I don’t think it’s right the way it is right now, and it’s not just because we’re adding football. I think that March Madness is the largest financial funder for the NCAA, yet football somewhat runs the organization. I see that as problematic.
NN: What do you love about intercollegiate athletics?
JR: Two things: the young people and the spirit of competition.