Deace: 2004-05 was a very productive and blessed year to be a Cyclone.
Van De Velde:It really was. We had a great year and were very competitive. Our sports information director, Tom Kroeschell, came up with this stat that we were just one of eight schools nationwide to have won a bowl game and had our men and women's basketball teams in the NCAA Tournament. Beyond that, our Olympic sports were successful, too. Our gymnastics team went to the NCAA Championships and wrestling finished with a 16-2 dual record. Altogether it was probably one of the most successful years in our entire history.
Deace: How did you manage of this success given your limited budget, which is the second-lowest in an elite league like the Big 12?
Van De Velde: We've always had that against us. But our fund-raising tripled this year compared to last year and our National Cyclone Club membership has improved by 1,700 members compared to five years ago. We're raising $1.2 more per year than we did five years ago, too. Revenues continue to grow, but unfortunately so do expenses like tuition and travel. We do get a lot of bang for our buck here, and the credit goes to our coaches and student-athletes. The coaches do an extraordinary job and the student-athletes perform. There is a lot to be happy about.
Deace: You've told me in the past that you need 25,000 season-ticket holders a year in football to get the program to the next level and maintain the current standard of success. Are you going to get there this year?
Van De Velde: We're on course to probably shatter that mark with close to 26,000 season-ticket holders this year. I'm probably never going to be satisfied, though, until we sell that stadium out with season ticket holders. We have enough alumni in the state to do that, we just have to get them to buy. We've been filling the stadium up the last few years sporadically, but we need to do that regularly.
Deace: Obviously the success of your football team last year was one of the big stories of 2004-05. It was a stark turnaround from the year before and entirely unexpected. How did it happen?
Van De Velde: I think Dan McCarney did a great job of providing strong leadership at the top. Our young people believe in him. We had a young team and it probably took them a while to jell. We have a lot to look forward to this coming season with a lot of good players coming back.
Deace: Looking back on the finale last season against Missouri, when that interception in overtime ended ISU's bid to win the Big 12 North outright it was like a funeral procession at Jack Trice Stadium. Were you as depressed and crushed as everyone else was?
Van De Velde: No, my first thought was let's go win the bowl game. That's exactly what we did, and I wouldn't have traded beating Missouri for the bowl victory.
Deace: You've been around football a lot as a coach and an athletic director on the elite college level. Do you think this year's team is a top 25-caliber squad and Big 12 North Division title contender?
Van De Velde: I'm really pleased with the younger players we have coming back. With our skill positions intact from last year, a maturing offensive line, and a solid defense we're going to take some people by surprise. I think we are a contender in the North Division, which is very balanced. I wouldn't sell us short. If things come together and we catch a few breaks I do think we can find ourselves playing in the Big 12 Championship Game.
Deace: With the expectations higher this season, do you worry if fans will be disappointed if you finish 6-5 and head to the Houston Bowl, as opposed to finishing 8-3 while vying for an upper tier bowl?
Van De Velde: If we have a winning season and get back to a bowl game that's a milestone. We've accomplished that, and want to take that next step of winning 7-8 games in the regular season and get to that next level of bowl game, like the Alamo, Holiday, or even the Cotton Bowl.
Deace: Dangling out there is a very tempting carrot named Jason Berryman, the 2003 Big 12 Freshman of the Year and team MVP. He's spent eight months in jail for felony robbery and is trying to get himself back into school. One of the things I've always been proud of in regards to this program and admired is its strong stance on character and discipline. There's a lot of discussion on Berryman's future here, does he have a future at ISU?
Van De Velde: The first thing I would do is assure you and all Cyclone fans that Coach McCarney will continue to run a tight ship. With that said, Berryman's situation is a two-part process. We can't discuss his role as an athlete until his role as a student is addressed. He has to be re-admitted and that decision is to be made by student-affairs and the campus judicial system. If that happens and he is re-admitted, then I will sit down with Dan McCarney and we will talk about how we want to evaluate Jason's possible participation as an athlete, such as what are the things we're going to look for that over a period of time might allow him to earn his way back onto the program? But that hasn't really even been thought through yet.
Deace: In the past we've seen Mac run guys who later on were adjudicated or had their charges dropped because they had broken their vow of trust with the program to represent this university. You understand, of course, that if you bring Berryman back folks will say although your record was exemplary up until now, Berryman is just too good and too tempting so you just couldn't say no. Do you have a response to that?
Van De Velde: Sure, each situation is different. I trust Dan to make the right decision and I support him in whatever decision he makes. He will visit with me and the right people at the university when or if the time comes. In Berryman's case, not to defend him or advocate for him, but he has paid his price in terms of being punished and his debt to society has been served. But it's all speculative right now until he has been re-admitted to the university. We will be evaluating Jason, Dan will be evaluating Jason, and his teammates will as well. If he gets this opportunity he'll have to earn it.
Deace: As an athletic director, are you comfortable giving scholarships for a free education at taxpayer and ticket-buyer expense to players already past strike two that have already committed a felony while at ISU? Might there be a way to tell Jason Berryman that he has to not just earn back his spot on the team, but earn back his scholarship as well?
I don't think you can make one hard and fast rule for every situation. Each situation is different and has to be treated accordingly.