The Terry Don Phillips Interview: Part I

CLEMSON - CUTigers recently sat down for a lengthy one-on-one interview with Clemson athletic director Terry Don Phillips. Up first? A timeline on the indoor practice facility, enhancements to the West End Zone and more.

Terry Don Phillips arrived at Clemson in June 2002 after serving as as athletic director at Oklahoma State the previous eight years.

Before his time in Stillwater, Phillips also worked as the senior associate athletic director at Arkansas (1988-94), and served as the athletic director at Liberty from 1980-81 and Louisiana-Lafayette (1983-88).

An assistant athletic director at Missouri from 1981-83, Phillips began his administrative career as an assistant athletic director at Florida in 1979.

A former player and coach at Arkansas, Phillips also served as President of the Razorbacks Foundation, Inc., for three years from 1988-91. In addition, Phillips has an undergraduate degree from Arkansas (1970) and a law degree from the Arkansas School of Law (1996).

Since his arrival in Tigertown, Phillips has helped complete initiatives such as the West End Zone and also hired two highly sought after men's basketball coaches in Oliver Purnell and Brad Brownell.

In 2010, Clemson was one of just eight schools at the Division I level to play in a bowl game, the NCAA men's basketball tournament and the NCAA Baseball Tournament this year. Clemson was also just one of just four schools to do that two consecutive seasons (2009, '10).

Now entering his ninth year as Clemson's athletics director, Phillips, of course, is as faced with as many challenges as ever.

CUTigers recently sat down with Phillips to talk about some of the most pressing issues on his desk. Below, you can read part one of a three-part series discussing what's directly on Clemson's horizon:

What's the latest on the facility improvements? Is there a timeline in place?
Phillips: The timeline with the indoor facility, we're working everything with the state. We believe that we'll be able to come on line -- I can't give you a specific starting date -- it's not a complex project. The academic year, ‘12-'13, somewhere within that year, we'll have it done and we'll be in there. Like everyone else, the sooner the better. It just depends on how quick we can jump through all the hoops and break ground, but we're in good shape there.

We've got final on Littlejohn [Coliseum] for basketball improvements over there, with adding additional practice gym, probably widening the other one, some dressing room re-configuration. We've gotten approval from the board of trustees. We were meeting down in Charleston, to move ahead with development of final conceptual planning. We're moving along with that.

"The timeline with the indoor facility, we're working everything with the state. We believe that we'll be able to come on line -- I can't give you a specific starting date -- it's not a complex project. The academic year, ‘12-'13, somewhere within that year, we'll have it done and we'll be in there."

Of course, the Highway 93 project. The sidewalk and the matching funds that were put in there will be the catalyst to begin improvement of Riggs Field and the Hoke Sloan Tennis Center. We're moving right along. Of course, the golf facility is moving along well. That will be done this fall. We've got the lights up on the men and women's soccer field -- we've got the lights up on the practice field. We've got the lights up on the two additional [practice] fields on football. We didn't replace where the artificial surface is. That's where the indoor facility [will be]. We didn't see any reason to put [new] lights there. We won't need them with the indoor facility.

We're pretty well on line and continuing to develop the plan with the fundraising committees with the various sports, to raise money.


How about what's left at the West End Zone and over at Doug Kingsmore Stadium?
Phillips: The West End Zone, that's a continuing project. The concourse area will be done for the first football game. That significantly help the ingress and egress around the West End Zone. That's going to be a significant thing for our fans, to have that. That allows the complete wrap around of the stadium. You get the bottleneck, prior to that being completed. That's going to be a nice addition. The training room facility that will be built underneath the space that's being developed, we're looking at a timeframe -- we're a little bit behind schedule, but we're looking at a timeframe, probably around February, to have completion of that.

Baseball, we're in the process of raising money for that. Of course, we just finished the Tom Chapman grandstands. Everything is ongoing.

I imagine the feedback from boosters and fans is pretty positive, correct?
Phillips: What has sort of amazed me, and Clemson was not unlike a lot of universities, you build something and hold steady for a period of time. When I got here in 2002-2003, it was very evident about our football facilities -- we were substantially behind. That's when I visited President [James] Barker. We were doing some things over at Oklahoma State, with regards to the stadium, the end zone. As you look at Memorial Stadium, in the West End Zone, it was a wonderful opportunity to take some plans and redevelop them from what we were doing over in Stillwater and apply them over here. That's why I tell people, even before we came on site, we were working on the West End Zone, to reconfigure and redesign, to try to get it to fit Memorial Stadium. By the time we were able to complete the capital campaign and get in there, you were talking about a five-year lag period. That's a pretty significant facility. Along with raising money for the West End Zone seats, we've been able to cash flow that facility. It's turned out really well.


"The West End Zone, that's a continuing project. The concourse area will be done for the first football game." (AP)
But, sometimes, you get the sense -- of course, we finished some facilities that had just started, like the indoor track. Had just started on Littlejohn. With facilities, they're not a quick turnaround, particularly when you talk about a development like the West End Zone. Using that as an example, by the time you work through the state, by the time you get the money, by the time you do your construction, you're three to five years. That's why you can't really get behind. It's hard to catch up. We're in good shape. The thing that amazes me is I don't think people fully understand that.

You are talking about all the hoops you have to jump through?
Phillips: Yes. You get the feeling with some people, ‘They're not doing this. They're not doing that.' I was talking at the trustee meeting, or whatever, what someone needs to do is get in the car and drive around. See what's happened over the past several years. It's taken, and I think we've turned things around pretty quick in developing our facilities. The real key is, you've just got to keep going. In these facilities that we announced back in the winter, those are facilities that we had on the drawing board. That wasn't something that we've got to develop something. These were things that were already on the drawing board to get done. We already had concepts developed. We were moving ahead. That's what you've got to do. I'm of the opinion, whether it be small, large or medium, you've always going to be doing something with your facilities.

For example, with our other sports staff in Jervey, we're developing some real nice dressing rooms. When we got football moved over to the West End Zone, we were able to free up a lot of space over here, to provide the Olympic coaches quality space, meeting rooms. We were able to clear out some things downstairs in Jervey, to develop really good dressing facilities for track and field, soccer programs, volleyball. It's an ongoing process. When you get yourself in trouble, when you get behind the eight-ball, when you say, ‘Well, we've got everything done. We're going to sit down and catch our breath.' You can't ever catch your breath. When you sit down and start catching your breath, those other people that you're competing against, they're not sitting down and catching their breath.

Do you think that was the case about 10 years ago? They were around here catching their breath?
Phillips: No. I don't mean that negatively, at all. Because, quite frankly, when I was in Arkansas, when we went into the Southeastern Conference, we were doing very well, winning championships in the old Southwest Conference, which configured into the Big 12. We had some pretty good facilities, but we weren't that aggressive in continuing to develop them. We had the Broyles Complex. It was a good facility. We put the upper deck on the east side. During that period of time, we had a great basketball program. Our baseball program was very good. We were a World Series team, but we were still playing in the old baseball stadium, before we started on Baum Stadium out there. We were still in Barnhill Arena, as opposed to the Bud Walton Arena. When things are going pretty good and you're not vigilant, you sometimes don't move with the sense of urgency that you need to move. Those things will catch up to you. It's not unique to what occurred here.

We experienced it at Arkansas. We were winning championships in football, baseball and basketball, in a pretty good league. But there were some areas that we weren't as aggressive as we should have been.

Season ticket sales for football, do you have any kind of an idea where things stand, right now?
Phillips: I talked with Travis [Furbee] [on Tuesday], to get a quick update. I haven't seen the numbers. Probably around two-percent down.

Down two-percent from last year?
Phillips: Yes. Given the economy, we're very pleased, especially when you see what's happening with the other programs.

Stay tuned for part II of CUTigers' exclusive interview with Terry Don Phillips, which will be published Wednesday.

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