Today we move on to other topics, notably scheduling and facilities. (No, there's no indoor practice facility on the drawing board). I list all the questions coming from me, although some are from listeners.
LV: Is there any chance of getting some shaded areas added to the baseball stadium?
JF: We had this conversation a thousand times, and I get it but it's extremely expensive to do it and there's really no way to do it (right) because of the way our field faces relative to the sun. Can you create some shade somewhere; we always would look at that but to totally cover our entire stadium, that's something I would not be in favor of doing.
LV: So what is the state of the program facility wise and what might be next on the horizon?
JF: You get the age old question about the (indoor) practice facility and that is on the list, but how high on the list is hard to say. We are looking at some things. I think our gymnastics studio needs some serious work. Certainly Rhonda Faehn has built a tremendous program there and we see what's happening around the league. I'm not saying we need a separate facility like some teams have, but we need to do some things over there. There are some things we need to do out at softball. I think Tim Walton needs some indoor batting cages and things like that. He's built a tremendous program.
LV: What about Ben Hill Griffin Stadium and the O'Dome?
JF: The concourse area especially in the West stands is 60-70 years old and looks it. You go in there and look around and it's really not conducive to the kind of fan experience we want. I think there are things we can do in the O'Connell Center aesthetically and maybe some things to continue to enhance the fan experience as well. We're developing that list. We don't have any major expansion projects on the list. The facilities are built. What we're looking at are things that either enhance the fan experience or brings the facility up to 21st century standards or what have you.
LV: What might happen next?
JF: We have preliminary plans for the concourse areas and that's multi-million dollars and it comes down to a fund raising issue. We want to do those things and that's when you have to prioritize and figure out what works within your budget because you can go raise money for a football front door (Heavener Complex) but trying to raise money to re-do a concourse is a very different sell.
LV: Many have complained about the first two games being at noon this year. Did you have any say in that scheduling?
JF: No, you have no say in that. We'll continue to be extremely proactive with the ice and water and misting to try and help fans keep hydrated. We'll open up the O'Connell Center for fans who find the heat too much they can go in there and watch the game. But I'll be honest with you Larry, we have many more problems in the stands and the first aid rooms with games that start at 3:00 or four o'clock then we do for noon games.
LV: Will the Gators ever drop below seven home games and add some sort of intersectional home and home series?
JF: When you are adding sports like we just added Women's Lacrosse if you go off campus it's going to cost you a couple of million dollars. Everybody says you can charge extra money here or extra money there you're still giving up two million bucks and you have bond issues and some of the projects we've talked about depending on fund raising may have to be bonded too. It's a business model. I understand the conversations completely and I understand the criticism of our schedule. I just know with the schedule we play in this league you don't have to apologize for it. You might have to apologize for the first two games some years and I get that.
So there you have sort of a "state of the union" from the Gator athletic director. Florida, coming off a No. 2 finish in the national all-sports standings is in great shape competitively and while the Gators are looking at some facility enhancements those of you hoping for an indoor football practice facility will be waiting quite a while longer. And if you're waiting for the Gators to have a regular season intersectional home and home series with someone new your wait may never end.