Here is a fairly recent interview with the Tulane AD:
The Hullabaloo Online (Tulane)
Interview with athletic director Rick thingyson
By Benny Powell
January 30, 2006
"The theory that lightning never strikes twice in the same area, as hazardous as it sounds, is currently being tested by the Tulane University Athletic department. Having their NCAA Division-1A status threatened in the summer of 2003, the Green Wave could be heading down the same path, after suspending eight of their sports to rebuild from Hurricane Katrina.
Helping to sustain the school's athletic history two and a half years ago, with University President Dr. Scott Cowen, Athletic Director Rick thingyson is preparing to possibly face the challenge again. thingyson recently spoke with The Hullabaloo about the arduous summer of 2003, and the Green Wave's future.
H: Entering the 2005 fall semester with hiring head coach Dave thingyerson to Men's basketball, starting renovations to the baseball diamond, also signing a 10-year deal for the football team to play LSU, how did it feel entering the athletic season?
RD: We had a neat wave of positive things that had happened. We were coming off five or six conference championships, we were coming off of academic success with over 300 student athletes getting over a 3.0 average, and we were starting to see some physical growth with the baseball stadium being renovated. There was a lot of optimism. We went into the year anticipating that it could quite likely be a bowl year for football.
A lot of things we worked hard for, we were in the position to see the benefit of it, and that's difficult and disappointing to not see that happen, but you don't look for blame, but you look to keep it in perspective and say how do we endure and persevere through this, and not say we lost everything and throw in the towel. This is the bottom time, the cycle has hit bottom, everything we know and work for was temporarily taken away, stiffen your backbone and get through this. Do you run and hide, or do you say, I know we can do it, because we've done it before, even though the circumstances are different and probably tougher, how do you step up and do it now? And I don't think that's a bad thing. I probably wouldn't have chosen it, but I'm not afraid of it either.
H: How did the process of getting the athletic department to compete without the university being open after Katrina happen?
RD: I had to go to President Cowen first, and get his blessing. I went to him and said I believe that at a time like this, this university needs something that can keep the story alive to the country, and I think we can do that successfully. Two, it can be a rallying point for all of the displaced students, faculty, all of us that are everywhere -- that will give us something common to tap into. It's not about playing games, it's how in the worst disaster in history, this group of 300 kids showed us all how to get back on our feet and get back in the game.
We were surely bumped and bruised and we took a lot more bumps and bruises along the way, but this is how you do it. That was the message and the goal that we set out to do. This was our way to show people how to react. It's not normal; it's not even close, but it's about doing what you have to do to get back on your feet, and I think they did that. Maybe some of the wins we thought we would've had didn't happen when we started, but when you look at what they did take on, and what they did accomplish, there's no question in my mind that they were champions.
H: Reflecting on this past fall with the alterations to the department due to the Hurricane, how was that experience?
RD: Things can change in the bat of an eye. They could be very simple things (like) sleeping in your own bed, playing a home match, (or) going to your favorite place to eat. You go through life, assuming that that's just the way they are, but life can turn around and say, "I'm changing the game," in a heartbeat. Thats a good reminder for all of us. I told these kids when we started, "I'm 51 years old, I've been doing this 18 years, and I know when we started this, we took on something no one else had ever done."
We tried to stay up and running, even when our school was not, and the way we had to do it, with four campuses, us working out of Dallas. I know exactly why I�m here now that I look back. All the different experiences prepared me to deal with this. I was put in this position for a reason; not everybody can handle this. I still believe that everything I had ever done as an AD paled in comparison to all of us pulling together and getting through.
I think those kids will look back ten years from now and face some other adversities and they'll be able to say, 'I handled something a lot tougher than this.' It'll benefit them in that way. So, it didn't kill us, so we'll be stronger.
H: In 2003, during the review of athletics, there was the campaign, Perpetual Wave, to help keep the program D-1 A, which raised about $42 million in its first two years. Will any of that money be used for Hurricane Katrina relief?
RD: No. Most of that was geared towards the annual fund, which is money spent right now as we are moving forward, and then the rest was endowment. Then renovations to the baseball stadium, which when all of the construction on campus gets done, we'll start that project.
Hopefully that new stadium is in place next year. Things like renovations to Fogelman, that's probably what that last $10 million was for. We need to do that. I would think the rest of the target would be used to bring the endowment even higher to bring back those other sports, and have the endowment pay for their operation. I would anticipate we'd be looking at another, $20-30 million more than what was raised for those (previous) things.
H: How long will it take to get the $20- $30 million to bring those sports back?
RD: I believe it's got to happen in a two-to-three year period. We (previously) raised $41 million in two. For the sake of the entire program, within the timeframe of three years, it is needed and realistic. Because if we got it done in three years, that would give us time to hire our coaching staffs back, let them recruit one class, and then maybe a second class, and by that fifth year it would be feasible to start competing again. Because otherwise we can't wait until Year Five and say, 'Okay, here we are, we can compete'
H: Have there been any contributions yet to help recover from the damage of the Hurricane?
RD: A week after Christmas we got the green light to actively start soliciting, and we've received about a half million dollars, but that's mainly going towards the annual fund, (Tulane Athletic Fund). We haven't been able to get out and actively go out and seek. One reason is because we want to put a task force together. That's what I've been doing the last couple of weeks: trying to identify six or eight people, to get them involved and help us develop a strategy for a campaign, identify prospects and develop a timetable. I think that will take us a couple of months. We'll keep working the annual fund side of it, in the meantime.
H: Of the eight sports that were canceled in the fall, women's swimming and diving, and Men's golf have returned, how did that happen so soon?
RD: When the board made their decision, they said, the suspension of these sports is effective in the beginning of fall 2006. So all eight of them had the ability to compete this spring, if they chose to. What changed that was that five-year waiver that said if (the student-athletes) didn't compete this year, they would get that full year of eligibility back, like this year never happened.
So most of them decided, it's probably better to take advantage of that and don't compete. But two chose to (play), because their thinking was, we can go out and post better scores, and be more marketable for scholarships somewhere else. (With) women's swimming, it was more of they started their season in the fall and were about half way through. They were the defending conference champions, and they just wanted to bring closure to the whole thing. It was their call the whole way.
I probably got 15 calls when that statement was made, from parents, "Well, gee, you re-instated these two, how do you leave out tennis or other sports?" That wasn't the case.
H: Why was it that eight sports had to be suspended, initially?
RD: Dr. Cowen (told) Myles Brand, the head of the NCAA, our university and community has undergone unbelievable damage and change, right now we are trying to put the university back together including the athletic department. We need some relief. In Division I-A, there has to be a minimum of six teams (per school).
Another is football attendance, a stadium. We didn't have a stadium this fall, and by rule we didn't meet the criteria. So we needed relief from a lot of those things, but with the number of sports, the NCAA granted that relief and said for a 5-year period of time, you don't need to meet these criteria.
The next step was (Cowen) went to our conference commissioner, and said, we want to stay a member, but our ability to do so may be in jeopardy for a short period. They decided if we would participate in what they call the five core sports: football, both basketballs, women's volleyball and baseball, (then we could stay). Their reason was, all of our scheduling for those sports is done on a conference-wide basis. These are our flagships, and that's where our TV contracts, and money, come from. All that business that we do as a conference revolves around these five. So, if you compete in these five we'll still consider you a member of Conference USA and you'll receive your full membership dues each year, which is about two million dollars a year.
Then the board looked at, and we created several models that kept all the sports, but didn't provide scholarships, or only 50 percent, and they reviewed all of them. They even considered the option of no sports, just go in the dark and not compete for a period of time. Out of that they chose the model that was formed by the flexibility that the NCAA and the conference gave us.
It probably would have been only those five, but we didn't get relief from title IX, that's federal law, and there position is, no matter if we only offer two things, no matter what it is, it better be balanced, (so) that's when I decided if we bring back the track programs: cross country, indoor and outdoor, and it's all women. That's how we got eight.
The single most difficult part was communicating the decision of the Tulane Board to suspend competition of the eight programs. These were the student-athletes who set the bar so high in terms of academic success and conference championships. It was not a matter of who was more or less deserving. It's just the realities of what we are dealing with. A silver lining is that we could've not had anything, but the fact that we have some foundation to build back is much better. I tell myself that, but it doesn't feel great.
H: What do you say to the kids that programs were suspended?
RD: That exercise was so painful. It absolutely wasn't fair, and wasn't right, and it wasn't because they weren't deserving. It's a reality of what has happened to us, and this is the path that has been chosen. How we deal with it will leave a mark on all of us.
I've never had a day like that. For most of (the athletes), they never had in their lives a day like that. For all of us it will be a day that stays with us forever. Hopefully it'll be a day that we can draw upon to help us through another tough phase of our lives. We figured out how to survive it and not let it defeat us or stalemate us to the point where we can't go forth. We didn't die, even though it may have felt about that painful.
I think we went through all of the emotions, hurt, anger, frustration, probably hopelessness about it. It was going to end at some point anyway, but unfortunately instead of it ending at the time of our choosing, something else chose it for us. We all learned life can do that.
H: Will the eight sports that have been suspended be the same eight sports that return?
RD: It'll have to be the number eight, but as Tulane goes through, they'll have to look at the same thing that helped form us to begin with. You'll have to look at the checklist of things like; the interest and ability of the community, the facilities, and the youth programs in the region. It wouldn't make a lot of sense to play lacrosse here, because we don't have a lot of junior programs in this state.
I think it will look very similar, but the the facilities have changed. We don't know what ability we'll have to accommodate all of the same things, or do we look at different things. As we go through it, we could change the lineup some, because of those factors. But, I doubt if it would vary much, because we have great history in our two tennis programs. With women's golf and men's golf, climate-wise and profile-wise, Tulane can attract kids that excel in those programs. Soccer is one of the prominent women sports and we'll still have (Westfeldt Facility). Swimming & Diving made such a splash in two years, we seriously want to see that come back. But, we have to look at facilities and things like that.
H: With the conditions of the city and the campus, how will the department go about recruiting new players and coaches for the programs that were suspended and to add to the teams that are still active?
RD: That's the monumental challenge that we all face. Not just us (athletics), everybody, the university and city.
The only thing I can say to prospects when they come in is, New Orleans didn't do anything wrong. They didn't dial up and order a disaster. Just like the (1989) earthquake in San Francisco, and 9/11 in New York, these are catastrophic tragedies. That's what happened here; it was a natural disaster.
We were devastated by it, so if devastation scares you or if it's something that you can't face up to, than this may not be the place. We are the best example of in this area of devastation, that's right here on this campus, (of) pretty remarkable, resilient people. If you want to be a part of that, then it is the right place. Will that sink home to a 17- or 18-year-old? Time will tell. It's a different recruiting approach, but I think it's the one that is necessary now.
H: What will the next two to three years mean to Tulane athletics?
RD: The next 2-3 year period is critical for stabilizing the future for Tulane Athletics: Planning strategy for developing resources to reinstate programs to Division I requirements are critical during this time.
H: Where will Tulane athletics be once the five year- waiver that the NCAA granted is up?
RD: I can't envision Tulane not being a member of Division I with a full roster of sports offerings."