Maybe I’m blinded or just scarred from so many years of the acceptance of failure but I just can’t see SJSU doing it despite San Diego State pulling it off. Comparing San Diego with Silicon Valley might be apples and oranges but
My entire take on the new AD is going to be based on if he reaches out to the serious $$$ few people of Spartan basketball within the next few months. If yes, it would go a long way towards convincing me that there is finally an effort in place from the top of Spartan athletics. If not, then it’s the same old, same old ride football as far as possible and damn all the other sports to futility
Aztecs face four distinct disadvantages
January, 22, 2011
Being 20-0 and ranked No. 6 nationally is impressive for a school that, other than six winless trips to the NCAA Tournament, has negligible tradition in men’s basketball. But what has confounded basketball insiders is that the Aztecs have done it without many of the resources that everyone else enjoys in the Top 25.
The four areas where SDSU operates at a distinct disadvantage from the big boys:
TCU’s Ed and Rae Schollmaier Basketball Complex, as nice as it is, actually ranks at the bottom end of the practice facility building boom. It is 22,000 square feet, opened in 2004 and cost $5 million.
Connecticut’s board of trustees recently approved $3 million toward a new practice facility for the Huskies men’s and women’s teams. That’s just to design it.
LSU’s practice facility cost $14 million. West Virginia’s cost $19 million. Michigan’s cost $23.2 million. Kentucky’s Joe Craft Center cost $30 million. Iowa State even got one, coach Greg McDermott said, because “every team in the Big 12 has a new practice facility or is building one.”
Or here’s how Virginia Tech coach Seth Greenberg explained it to The Wall Street Journal after opening the Hokies’ $21 million facility: “We don’t have the history and tradition of the North Carolinas and Dukes, so we had to have a building with a ‘wow’ factor … It’s a building to acquire players.”
They are more than just a gaudy recruiting enticement. They allow more convenient practice schedules, promote team camaraderie with a players-only lounge, and house coaches’ offices. They also allow players to work on their game at any time of the day or night — they just use their swipe card to get in.
They practice at Viejas Arena when there isn’t a concert or other event there. Then they’re shipped off to Peterson Gym or, as a last resort, the student rec center with its short courts and din from adjacent pickup games.
Peterson Gym turns 50 next year and is so cold in winter months that players wear long sleeves and running tights. It’s an echo chamber, so much that it’s difficult to clearly hear a coach talking more than a few feet away. The floor is sometimes too slippery to safely use.
A new basketball practice facility has been broached under various athletic department administrations but was bumped down the list of priorities as the state budget crisis worsened. There are no active plans to build one.
Meanwhile, MWC rival UNLV is preparing to open the 38,000 square foot, $12 million Mendenhall Center later this year.
Imagine for a moment if SDSU didn’t have Steve Fisher and his staff and wanted to hire something comparable, with the same kind of success, experience and recruiting pull. What would it cost?
You’d start at $1.5 million. That’s the 2009 average for men’s basketball staff salaries among schools that also have Division I football teams, according to an NCAA report — $911,000 for a head coach, $435,000 for three assistants, $165,000 for administrative staff.
Fisher makes about $550,000. In 2009 his three assistants received $126,000, $95,000 and $81,000, putting the total staff budget under $1 million.
The other nine head coaches currently in the Top 10 make, on average, an estimated $1.8 million per year. Their staffs are handsomely compensated as well, with the lead assistants regularly making $250,000 and having a multiyear contract.
That’s what New Mexico assistant Craig Neal reportedly gets, or double that of SDSU assistant head coach Brian Dutcher. According to state employee salary databases, none of UCLA’s assistant coaches received less than $144,000 in 2009. The lowest paid UNLV assistant made $114,000. Cal assistant Gregg Gottlieb, who left SDSU’s staff in 2007, made $163,757.
Longtime SDSU assistant Justin Hutson, considered a rising star in the business, turned down six-figure offers from Oregon and Saint Mary’s over the summer out of loyalty to Fisher and the rest of the staff. But with the team’s increased national exposure, more and bigger offers figure to come.
“There’s no coincidence that the last five years have been probably the finest five years in the history of the program,” Fisher says, “and it’s in no small part because of No. 1, the players, and No. 1A, the consistency and continuity of being able to maintain a high, high level staff. That’s significant.”
Here’s how it works for the haves of college basketball: You get teams to play on your home floor during the nonconference season so you can build confidence and build a résumé for the NCAA Tournament selection committee while not risking a devastating slew of early losses.
You get them to do that by paying them. The going rate is $70,000 or $80,000 per game, sometimes more.
SDSU’s budget for “buy” games this season: $140,000. That got them two Division I foes, UC Santa Barbara and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.
UNLV had a budget of $200,000 this season. Schools from the power conferences routinely will spend $500,000-plus, which explains why Syracuse didn’t leave New York or New Jersey until January, or why Duke played only one true road game before the conference season, or why Kansas played its second road game Jan. 9.
Without the ability to pay guarantees, you are forced to either go on the road for a similar payout or enter into home-and-home arrangements. Either way, the result is a healthy dose of road games early in the season that can ruin your chances at an at-large berth into the NCAA Tournament.
SDSU knows. It has never received an NCAA at-large berth, and in several years one or two more wins — or one less early-season road loss — might have made the difference. This season, the Aztecs played four nonconference road games and four more on neutral courts.
Even SDSU Athletic Director Jim Sterk admits: “If you don’t have a veteran team like we have this year, our schedule would have been brutal. Without the maturity of our team, we might not have been able to overcome that.”
It’s happened. Brian Carlwell, all 6-11 and 300 pounds of him, has sat in a middle seat on a commercial flight on an SDSU basketball trip.
“It’s not fun,” Carlwell says, “not fun at all. I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone … Sometimes you’ll get lucky and one of the coaches has an aisle seat and trades with you.”
Just the other day, Wyoming coach Heath Schroyer was talking about how the Cowboys’ vaunted home-court advantage is not what it once was because “teams charter into Laramie now” instead of flying into Denver, about 150 miles south, and bussing over the hairy mountain pass.
Except for the Aztecs. No team in Mountain West Conference history has chartered less. The only time they did was a midweek game at Wyoming, which they won. They’ve flown commercial to Denver and bussed the last two years – and lost both times.
Doing like Big 10 schools and getting charters — which cost $25,000 and up per trip — for the entire season is a tough sell at a state school in a major budget crisis, but selective trips might help get the one or two wins that put you into the NCAA Tournament some years. They also help reduce missed classes, since you leave immediately after midweek games instead of staying overnight and flying the next morning on a commercial carrier.
Another issue: Other schools can use it as a recruiting tool against you.
TCU generally charters midweek conference games. It says so, right there in the media guide next to interior and exterior photos of the charter jet.
“I think it depends on the type of player it is,” Carlwell says. “There are some players who come from nothing and you can glam them with some stuff. But if you have someone who is just interested in looking for a caliber of program that can compete for championships, they’ll overlook those things.
“Me, I’m all about rings.”
SpartaRick offered this in reply
When president Steve Weber of SDSU “bit the bullet” and hired Steve Fisher it turned the entire Aztec athletics program around. SDSU could not “afford” Fisher’s salary but they did it anyway and it is paying HUGE dividends! Viejas Arena (cap. 12,500) is filled for every game and there is competition for tickets. Fisher’s salary is more than covered.
That success prompted Weber to hire Brady Hoke for football (another big salary guy) and, in two years, he was copying Fisher’s success on the gridiron. Now SDSU has the highest football attendance in the MWC (mo’ money, mo’ money). SDSU football had been awful for way too many years before that. Unfortunately, for the Aztecs, Hoke got hired away to Michigan and their football might have trouble maintaining its momentum.
SJSU might want to mimic what Weber did.