VandalVenue.com: Lately there has been plenty of somewhat negative articles such as budget cuts and Idaho returning to Division 1AA but very little positive news. What exciting things are happening around the Athletic Department these days?
Mike Bohn: The atmosphere in the athletic department is one of momentum and excitement. Leonard Perry and Mike Divilbiss have both brought promise and competitiveness back to our basketball programs. Tom Cable has announced the recruiting class of 2002, which probably will again be nationally ranked. Larry Foster has signed a quality group of players, many with Idaho ties. The Vandal Athletic Center continues to move forward and we have a great group of coaches, who work together and are committed to building an athletic program from top to bottom. As we continue to face situations that we cannot control (e.g. the NCAA Division I membership status, budget, and league affiliation), we daily stir our competitive juices and we are excited about our bright future. Saying that, we recognize the importance of doing a better job of cultivating donors, season ticket holders, volunteers and sponsors to help us with our vision.
VandalVenue.com: Although there are a few fans out there that want to run back to Division 1AA at the first sign of trouble, most Vandal fans want no part of it. What can you tell us about why a move back to 1AA makes no sense so we can put this argument to rest for good?
Mike Bohn: During our recent budget holdbacks, we reviewed our entire program in conjunction with the Financial Oversight Committee, and it was very easy to see that a return to 1-AA makes no sense. Approximately $1 Million would be reduced from our budget, which affects not only the football program but also other priority sports such as men's and women's basketball and volleyball and all other sports. Additionally, we would not have the opportunity to continue to compete in the Battle of the Palouse [Washington State] and against in-state rival BSU. That being said, we must continue to grow our enterprise to be successful on the 1-A level. We must sell more season tickets, generate more sponsorship revenue, grow additional scholarship funds, and develop the resources to give us an opportunity to be competitive at the 1-A level.
VandalVenue.com: What are your thoughts on the rivalry with BSU and do you support the SBOE mandating the schools play each other every year?
Mike Bohn: We look forward to having the opportunity to compete against BSU each year. Obviously, it generates an instant sell-out in Boise and normally generates one of our larger crowds up here on the Palouse in football and we enjoy the relationship that we have in volleyball, men's and women's basketball, and soccer. The rivalry is healthy and we look forward to continuing with the competition.
VandalVenue.com: Are there any changes to the football schedule over the next few seasons?
Mike Bohn: Our football schedule strategy was designed to provide opportunities for us to grow our program, our budget and provide the revenue needed to fund numerous projects in support of the football program (e.g. summer school, new strength coach, increased salaries for coaches, travel, and recruiting). As we built these budgets, we expected over time that our revenue sources from student fees, sponsorships, General Ed, and contributions from alumni and fans would grow so that we would not be forced to play four revenue games on the road. Commencing with the 2003 schedule, we play two marquee games and begin to create a balanced schedule, which allows us to be more competitive.. We will obviously continue to play the Cougars and the Broncos every year, Washington three out of the next four years, and it is yet to be determined exactly what league schedule we will have in the future.
VandalVenue.com: A number of fans are complaining about the reception of the radio broadcasts in the Treasure Valley. Is something being done about this so we can have better coverage in the area?
Mike Bohn: We are so thrilled to have a relationship with Horizon Broadcasting in Boise. We are featured on the strongest FM radio signal in the state. In the last several months, they have invested approximately $200,000 to improve the signal throughout the entire Treasure Valley. We are delighted with this partnership and know that our fans and alumni in the area will enjoy their superb signal as well.
VandalVenue.com: Is recent announcement to have 2002 home games in the dome a permanent move and how much does the $35,000 savings per game help the budget cut problem?
Mike Bohn: We have not made any formal announcement, but we are exploring playing all of our home games for the 2002 season in the Kibbie Dome. A conflict of doubleheader dates with Washington State on three of these dates causes some problems associated with game management issues. Additionally, we believe the Kibbie Dome is a great place for us to create an environment to help our program be successful. We will save approximately $100,000, which will help us, deal with a $500,000 reduction in our budget.
VandalVenue.com: The NCAA is going to require the addition of more sports at the UI in order to remain at a 1A level. What sports is the UI considering adding?
Mike Bohn: It appears the new NCAA Division 1-A legislation will require the addition of one sport. We are exploring different options, but are leaning towards adding women's swimming and possibly women's water polo as new intercollegiate sports at the University of Idaho.
VandalVenue.com: Conference re-alignment has been a pretty quiet topic around the nation lately. Has there been anymore talk about Idaho joining a more regional conference?
Mike Bohn: Conference re-alignment continues to be fluid across the country. Numerous discussions are being held within virtually every Division 1-A conference across the country related to potential expansion. However, it is unknown whether some institutions will move into a new league, which creates a domino effect for the University of Idaho and the possibility of being invited to a conference with a more regional flair. We continue to be active in our pursuit of membership in a conference to alleviate these issues. We will pursue conference affiliation that allows us to maintain our Division 1-A status. We are hopeful that in time we will receive an invitation to a league that allows us to pursue our long-term goals.
VandalVenue.com: On a day-to-day basis what seems to be the most difficult part of your job?
Mike Bohn: I believe I am very fortunate to work in an outstanding profession. I enjoy working for Bob Hoover and the numerous constituent groups associated with the University of Idaho. The team of administrators at the University of Idaho are dedicated professionals with a passion to helping our university grow, and their willingness to be engaged with athletics certainly outweigh any difficult aspects of my job. I do not see any aspects on a day-to-day basis that are more difficult than others. We have serious issues with significant impact on the future of our institution and we have a serious approach to solving them. I look forward to the challenge of meeting those high expectations and demands each day.
VandalVenue.com: What are the best and worst parts of being an Athletic Director?
Mike Bohn: I believe the best part of being an Athletic Director is you have an opportunity to compete each day on many fronts. We keep score on our business and it has been a real joy to take significant steps in allowing the University of Idaho to grow in so many ways that will allow us to be successful for the long-term. Many of our victories and areas of growth are not reflected on the scoreboard at this point. However, in the long-term there is no question that our future is bright. That being said, it is probably the worst part of being an Athletic Director is being patient enough to see all of the hard work of our staff, coaches, boosters, alumni, fans, student-athletes, and students pay off.
VandalVenue.com: Is the 2002 or the 2003 football schedule more indicative of what we are trying to schedule in the future (2002 is brutal, 2003 is more realistic)?
Mike Bohn: I addressed the football scheduling philosophy earlier and again our goal is to have a balanced schedule. If a balanced schedule is really important to our fans and alumni, which I believe it is, the best thing they can do is buy season tickets and attend games, so we can continue to bring in teams like San Diego State as a non-conference home game and give our team an opportunity to be successful rather than to have to play more road games than home games. Our institution needs a balanced schedule and we must encourage as many people as possible to Get-into –the-Game with us and help meet that objective.
VandalVenue.com: It was recently stated that due to budget cuts we are getting rid of 3 fundraisers. What are these 3 fundraisers and how does getting rid of 3 fundraisers help our money position in the athletic department?
Mike Bohn: Part of our plan to address our budget reduction is to not fill positions that have been vacated. We are not letting any development staff members go, we simply are not filling some positions that have been vacated and reorganizing. Jim Senter, our No. 1 external employee, has moved to Boise and will handle the market that represents two-thirds of our support base. He will continue to oversee all our external enterprise that includes Pete Isakson, who will covers Northern Idaho, Seattle, Tri-Cities, Portland, and some additional hot-pockets for Vandal support. Jeff Pilcher will assume a majority of the marketing and sponsorship responsibilities and help build the revenue streams. Part of this reorganization will require that I be more involved externally. I expect to continue to handle some of our major accounts, television, parts of our radio network, responsibilities in fundraising in conjunction with Jim Senter related to the Vandal Athletic Center. Jim, Pete, Jeff, and I are excited and optimistic about our external efforts. Additionally, our head coaches and administrative staff will be more involved in helping us generate external funds and serve our loyal booster base, alumni, and season ticket holders. I believe our volunteers recognize the importance of their leadership and willingness to be great ambassadors in helping us inform others of our fiscal issues and the importance of new people "Getting-in-the-Game". We continue to look at other ways to reorganize within the department, to streamline our operation and to be as effective as possible without compromising service to our student-athletes. We must ensure that our student-athletes continue to receive support in the training, academic, coaching, and travel areas that allow us to continue to be competitive. We view the external reorganization as an opportunity for adjustment rather than a cut-back on any of these vital areas.
VandalVenue.com: If no regulations changed governing 1-A athletics (i.e. if 1-A Requirements stayed exactly the way they are right now), would Idaho be OK for the foreseeable future? I'm not talking about building a stadium or adding a sport or those kinds of things...I mean, do we make enough money to get by at this level. Obviously, we want and need to grow the program, but are we sustaining our lives at the 1-A level right now?
Mike Bohn: We are excited about the challenge and recognize that the Vandal spirit, generated by alumni, fans, and supporters, will help us through this difficult time (as they have before, to include most recently the attendance requirement of 2000). In a perfect world the NCAA membership criteria would not change, however, I anticipate that this April the new membership criteria legislation will pass and be formally adopted in October. It will probably not be the last change for Division 1 membership. However, these new criteria will not change our goals to raise our athletic budget to $10 Million. Four years ago our annual budget was $5.3 Million. We are now just over $8 Million and on our way to reaching that $10 Million goal. For us to continue to keep quality coaches, staff, and fund our programs at the highest level with scholarships, travel, recruiting, and scheduling, we must continue to expand. We must sell more tickets, we must raise more money, we must cultivate additional sponsors and we must be more creative with collaborative efforts throughout campus. We will continue to do all of those things and work hard to generate additional revenue. One area we are not satisfied with is facilities. We must complete the Vandal Athletic Center. Anything less is asking our coaches and student-athletes to compete on an uneven playing field. Programs we recruit against have superior facilities. We have great coaches, a great institution, and we now must honor our commitment to our student-athletes by providing a viable academic center, weight room, training facilities, locker rooms, office space, team meeting space, a Hall of Fame, which this institution deserves to preserve our proud athletic heritage. When we have the tools to support our coaches that our competition has, I am confident we will win more than our fair share of contests both on and off the fields of competition.
VandalVenue.com: Are there any funding campaign changes in store to help bring the VAC to a close? How much more needs to be raised so that we can finish it, and what is the time frame to get the building finished?
Mike Bohn: We continue with our campaign for the Vandal Athletic Center and are working to close gifts to this paramount effort. We have raised over $8 Million and we have $5 Million left to raise. We anticipate breaking ground on the second phase of the Vandal Athletic Center in the next couple of months. We do not, however, have all of the funds in place to complete the project. We will progress based on the amount of funding that we have. We are thrilled with the response and feedback from our fans related to the Cowan Spectrum upgrade for men's and women's basketball, in which we invested $1 Million. We will work hard to wrap up the Vandal Athletic Center campaign and then begin to look for additional ways to always improve our athletic facilities. We will then move to a football practice field project, soccer pitch, lighted fields and upgrades to Memorial Gym. We continue to make progress on all of our facilities areas, but we must complete the Vandal Athletic Center first.
To learn more about donating to University of Idaho athletics, contact the VSF representative in your area.Western WA:
Willie Alderson, Development Assistant (208) 885-0230
Pete Isakson, Assistant A.D. - Dev. (208) 885-0258
Southern ID and the rest of the US:
Jim Senter, Associate A.D. - VSF
(208) 885-0252 (in Moscow, ID)
(208) 364-4027 (in Boise, ID)