June 7, 2001
Q: "When is Louisville's men's basketball team coming to Diddle?" -- question submitted by Clint Dockery (Morgantown, Ky.)
"We have a contract with U of L to play in the newly-renovated Diddle Arena on Saturday, November 30, 2002. We hope to complete our $22 million renovation of Diddle Arena by late August of 2002 so the game between WKU and Louisville will be one of the first men's basketball games to be played in the refurbished arena. We appreciate U of L agreeing to help up us "re-open" Diddle in such a gigantic way as tickets to this contest will be virtually impossible to get, unless you are a season ticket holder. Louisville gets the right to purchase up to 500 game tickets so there will still be plenty of Cardinal red among the 7,500 seats in Diddle arena. However, with a reduced capacity, shrinking Diddle from about 10,000 seats to 7,500 seats, we anticipate a scramble for these tickets .... like the good old days! Hope to see you in Diddle on Saturday, November 30, 2002."
Q: "I was just wondering if WKU football will join the Sun Belt Conference in football. If they do, when do you think they will join?" -- question submitted by Keith Mills (Glasgow, Ky.)
"Thanks for your excellent question. Our current plans are to become the most successful Division I-AA program we can. We would like to compete at the top of the Gateway Conference on a regular basis which would put us among the nation's elite.
We have made great financial strides to build our football budget from about $1 million just a few years ago to $1.5 million for the 2001-02 season. The increase funding and improvements to our facilities (we plan a new synthetic turf for Jimmy Feix Field in the immediate future that will allow us to practice and play at the same quality site) will help us be more competitive and attract top quality student-athletes.
While our budget has made great strides in recent years, we need to build our base of ticket support and increase operational revenues to allow for better salaries for our coaches (they still rank toward the lower portion of the Gateway) and a higher quality of life for members of our football program.
The I-A budgets at the lower end of the spectrum are about $2-2.5 million, so we are getting much closer to looking like a I-A program financially. Typically, the major difference between I-A and I-AA is the facilities .... stadium, practice fields, weight rooms, and football support complex. We are making plans to improve all of those areas.
The last piece of the puzzle revolves around the NCAA. No one is certain what a I-A program will look like in 3-4 years. In the future, I-A may not be defined by football but the overall breadth of a program -- i.e. total number of scholarships granted (160 or more), total number of sports sponsored, overall athletic budget, etc. Thus, I-A could be defined in the future not by how many seats your football stadium has, or how many fans you average at home for football, but through the overall intercollegiate athletic commitment an institution places behind all of its athletic programs.
For all of those reasons, we are sitting contently on the sidelines until the landscape better defines itself and will try and do our best to bring national attention and success for WKU in what is now termed as I-AA football. If the day ever presents itself where classifications in football are removed, or we do become I-A, we have the perfect football home in the Sun Belt with a guaranteed bowl game. However, we are not pre-occupied with I-A thoughts at all right now.
Thanks for your support of WKU football, bring a friend to Smith Stadium this year. It should be an exciting season."
Q: "Since we are now a member of the Gateway Conference in football, what will be the team travel arrangements to the Gateway cities? Will it be by bus, air or some of both?" -- question submitted by George Wells (Bowling Green, Ky.)
"The Gateway was kind to us and allowed us to enter the league by splitting the four furthest road trips so that we have two real lengthy ones each year, not an imbalance on any particular year. Thus, we anticipate at least one flight within the league each year. If we bus the second long trip, that offers considerable budget savings and an ability for football to accomplish some initiatives that may have otherwise been unbudgeted or impossible. Any travel savings can be applied to other critical areas of need for our program.
The key for football will be the ability to sell more season and single-game tickets. We have already been rewarded with Gateway membership by picking up two regular season TV appearances, one at home versus Southwest Missouri State on September 22, and one on the road versus Illinois State the following weekend. Both games are set to kick off at 1:30 pm (CT) on Fox Sports Net.
We will be playing one of the best schedules in the country and trust our fans and local college football followers appreciate and respect such an effort manifested in increased ticket sales and attendance in 2001. Thanks for your interest and support. Bring a friend this year to Smith Stadium."
Q: "I was wondering about your upcoming women's soccer team. What can you tell me about it and how do you think they will be the first year?" -- question submitted by Krissy Meadows (Vine Grove, Ky.)
"Thanks for your question about our women's soccer program and our upcoming inaugural season. Women's soccer begins in early August for WKU as our 20th intercollegiate athletic program (10 men and 10 women).
Last November, we hired one of the best young coaches in America to start and direct our program. Jason Neidell, whom we lured away from the highly-successful women's program at the University of Tulsa after he had concluded a fantastic professional soccer career upon his graduation from Yale, is the ultimate player's coach and one of the nation's best recruiters.
With a soon-to-be finished multi-million dollar soccer complex, complete with practice facilities, natural grass and synthetic practice surfaces, locker room and office complex, lighting and cozy permanent seating close to the field, we expect to quickly become one of the premier women's programs in the Sun Belt Conference and a destination program for some of the best women's soccer athletes in the country.
Many of academic programs at Western are ranked among the very best in the nation with our school of broadcasting and journalism ranked as the best in the country. Combine the academic resources of WKU, a $75 million on-campus dormitory renovation project, a new program with great facilities, and a young, dynamic head coach and you have all the ingredients for success.
We have over 20 women signed to athletic and academic scholarship support for 2001. Plenty of "walk-ons" will compete for practice and playing time. Many of these women were highly sought by numerous state flagship institutions. As we begin to build an identity for our program and our style of play, we will no doubt fill our roster with the quality and quantity of young women necessary to accomplish our competitive goals.
Thanks for your interest in our new women's soccer program. Come see us some time -- here's a link to our first-year schedule:
P.S. We have been selected as host for the Sun Belt women's soccer tournament in 2003, which will be at the end of just our third season of competition. The tournament will be played in Bowling Green on November 5-8, 2003, and the winner gets an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament."