Oct. 4, 2013
A lot of questions this week, so let's get right to the topics most important to you...
Phillip (Houston): What is your view, and that of SMU, on the question of providing the $2,000 stipend that has been in the news so much lately? Seems as though Arian Foster's admission to taking cash at Tennessee at the end of the month because he was hungry and had no food seems to have resonated in southeast Texas...
Answer: Being a student-athlete requires sacrifice and commitment. It is not for everyone. I am of the belief that student-athletes on a full scholarship receive tremendous benefits in exchange for their participation under the current model. It is a story that is not well-told or understood. A very small percentage of student-athletes fit into the category most often debated as being "taken advantage of" by the institution. If a student-athlete has no food or shelter, it is likely due to his/her lifestyle choices and not because he/she hasn't been provided with adequate support. This is an important life lesson we all must learn - to live within our means.
At SMU, the weighted average value of a full grant-in-aid scholarship (tuition, fees, books, room and board) is $58,757. Student-athletes living off-campus are provided a monthly stipend check for $1,550 to apply towards other expenses. Pell-eligible (need-based aid) students receive additional stipends each semester. (A total of $356,000 in Pell grants will be distributed to student-athletes this academic year.) Conservatively, a full-scholarship student-athlete attending SMU for 4 ½ years will receive over $300,000 in direct support of expenses. Read that again. That's not the whole story, either.
Student-athletes are also provided with equipment and apparel, supplemental health insurance, advanced medical care, and can request reimbursement for items such as clothing, dental work, and school supplies. In addition to these direct benefits, student-athletes are provided access to the best coaches, conditioning programs, support services (sports medicine, trainers, etc.), life skills programming and facilities - all of which require significant investments. They associate with established brands and receive national exposure and visibility. Finally, they leave college with a quality education and no debt. What is an appropriate value to place on these two benefits? Check out Doug Gottlieb's perspective as a former student-athlete here.
Athletics offers many students access, affordability and opportunity without which they would be unable to attend college. So, while some reasonable adjustments may merit consideration regarding the full cost of attendance, I think it would be wise for us to first educate our student-athletes, and key stakeholders, of the current investments made in support of the betterment of our student-athletes.
Randy (Via Twitter): Hope you haven't addressed this already but why no football coaches lunches/chalk talks this year?
Answer: We were struggling to identify a format that provided growth opportunities and value for attendees and sponsors. We do like the access and visibility an event of this nature offers and will revisit the idea in the future.
Phillip (Houston): I was wondering if the weekly TV show on Fox Sports SW was on this season and I have just missed it, or if it has been cancelled. Will there be a similar show about the men's basketball team?
Answer: The weekly TV show was discontinued. We were simply investing too much money in a product that wasn't yielding enough of a return. We reallocated these resources to other marketing and promotional activities. We are currently talking to multiple entities about various television products across a variety of sports; however, nothing to announce at this time.
Phillip (Houston): Where is the athletic department on this mobile ticketing?
Answer: According to Quinn Branson, our ticket manager, Ticketmaster recently rolled out a mobile ticketing platform. A few select clients have been testing its functionality and all is going well. After a few upgrades, we will be prepared to utilize mobile ticketing. The Moody opening in early January may be a realistic target date to begin offering mobile ticketing to SMU fans.
Preston (Dallas): I realize that you are a very busy professional, but I do very much enjoy reading more about the Athletic departments going on and I am sure that other people do to. In reference to Ford Stadium I believe that y'all had been discussing possible beer sales earlier in the year. Is SMU still looking at this option for increased revenue/fan retention/ad revenue etc. or has the thought been dropped?
Answer: Thank you, Preston. As long as people enjoy reading my column, I will continue to write it. Regarding beer sales in Ford Stadium, and Moody Coliseum, it is something we are studying. The first step was to modify the existing Board policy to allow for the exploration of alcohol sales in campus venues. As you are likely aware, the distribution of beer on a college campus encompasses a number of issues which must be properly vetted. There is a possibility that we could introduce a controlled, responsible model as early as this January when Moody reopens.
Phillip (Lake City, CO): Really enjoyed reading about the "other" time you and your staff are doing to maintain creditability and trust for SMU Athletics. Those efforts are critical to SMU's long term commitment to a quality and comprehensive program. I appreciate it. Wanted to get your comments regarding football scheduling. A&M, Tech, Baylor, etc. are great to have to play against. At the same time, it is terribly frustrating to be defeated soundly by these teams. My opinion is that SMU keeps on playing these teams and, hopefully, the day will come when victory by the Mustangs will take place and then continue on a consistent basis. So, my questions are: What time of year do you schedule future games for the football team? And, is the consensus to keep playing our old SWC foes (which I support and would like to include Rice, Arkansas, UT in the mix) or is to explore new competitive territory?
Answer: Thanks, Phillip. There is a lot happening "behind the scenes" that some may find interesting. Regarding football scheduling, many games are scheduled well in advance. It's like a big puzzle. We are working on opponents for 2018-2022 right now. So, there is some guess work involved. That said, we would like to get to the point where we are playing two games against Big 12/SEC opponents and two games against local teams outside of the "power 5" conferences. In my opinion, our non-conference schedule this year (and last year and, potentially, next year) does not provide our team with the best opportunity for competitive success throughout the course of the season. I have spoken with several of our student-athletes about this and they agree. Competitive balance in the non-conference is important.
Please keep your questions coming. Your input is important to me. Remember, if you have a question or concern, contact me through this form, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also reach me on Twitter at @AD_RickHart.
Go Mustangs and Pony Up!
Rick Hart, Director of Athletics