CN: First of all, just give us an update on some of the key developments in terms of your initiatives. We had the focus on season tickets, and the special commemoration for Iowa with new uniforms. So, just update us on some of the things that have been happening.
JP: Well, to me the three most symbolic updates are season tickets, at 34,500 which is nearly 7000 more than two years ago, the number of donors in the National Cyclone Club . . . nearly 7500, which is over 2000 more than two years ago. And most importantly to us from the bottom line, is the annual donations are $5.4 million this year from the Cyclone Club, which was about $1.7 million more than two years ago. So to me those are mass metrics; they measure the . . . what's the critical mass doing, and the critical mass is buying tickets, joining the Cyclone Club, and supporting our vision.
CN: Now, we know one of your priorities is closing in the stadium. Explain why that's so important.
JP: Well, it has several important reasons. One, symbolically it sends a message that the momentum is moving forward and we're moving forward on the capital projects because that is probably the most-asked aspect of our capital projects plan is, "When can you bowl in the end zone?" And then the second reason is, as we continue to sell season tickets and have crowds like we did last year for UNI and Nebraska, we're getting to the spot where we're selling out of the reserved seats and all we really have are those hillside seats, and so as you look to grow the product and grow revenue, we're going to need to put seats in that end zone, because we can get more money for the seat than we can for a hill.
CN: When we look at the need for more season ticket sales, and the importance of people getting on early, one of the symbols of the growth of this program is the Iowa game, and I have to make a comment on this. I love the fact that you informed our House Speaker that he can buy season tickets. Talk about why, again, you made that decision with the Iowa game and what the response has been.
JP: Well, it's simple. It's . . . you're trying to change the paradigm, trying to change the course of history. We've done it the other way for years and we've seen where it's gotten us. If you take one game and try to make as much money off of one game as you can, well then it's selling as many tickets at whatever price you can. But what you fail to capture when you do that is having somebody buy in for the season. Oh, and then by the way, they join the Cyclone Club. If you combine our increase in season ticket sales and our Cyclone Club donations, we are so far ahead of where we would ever be by just trying to sell that game out, on one single game. And so it really brings everything together, and the reason we had to . . . kind of hold the line on that is we had to find a way to get people to change how they think about that game historically. And it took something that monumental to be able to do it.
CN: When we look at the Iowa-Iowa State game, the importance of that . . . we know it's important on the field, but how important is it to begin changing the branding? And I ask that because I went to . . . not Hickory Park, I went to Hickory Park today . . . I went to Cracker Barrel, and as I was leaving, I saw all this Iowa paraphernalia, and how important is it to . . . not only in terms of on the field, but beginning to brand this a Cyclone state?
JP: Well, that game's always going to be important, especially the week of the game. I mean, it means a lot to the kids that grew up in the state of Iowa and play football, but if you were to ask, on either roster, a kid from Texas, it's just another game and they would tell you their conference games are more important, because those are the games that are going to get them to a bowl game, or a better bowl game. But on that week, yeah, it is a very important thing, because it's ‘bragging rights' . . . it's bragging rights for a year and there's a lot of pride. But come Monday after that game, win or lose, you move on. It's only one game on the schedule.
CN: But, I mean obviously making this a Cyclone state is important to you, because you made that statement when you put the billboard on I-80. So, what else needs to happen to make this a Cyclone state?
JP: Well, what that game allows us to do is it allows us to promote football, and the other sports, year-round. Because it's not just about that game when it comes to marketing the Cy-Hawk Series, the Hy-Vee Series with all the other sports involved. And so it's a great vehicle for us to be able to promote college athletics in this state, for both programs. Clearly, you know, we understand our place, and we are the little brother, and sometimes it's good to be the underdog and look up and so we've used that, in what I'd call a game of chess, to our advantage . . . and tried to use that to motivate our fans to stand up and try to claim their place back.
CN: How's the campaign going with the throwback uniforms?
JP: From all accounts that I've heard, really good. We took them on the . . . we took a sample on the tour this summer, on the Tailgate Tour, and fans really liked that, our movement back to that type of color . . . the true cardinal and the true gold . . . versus what we've maybe moved to, which has been more of a red and yellow. And so the excitement behind that, I think, will only build leading into the game, and the fact that we'll get to have Coach Bruce back for the game and also to have that team back to honor them. Those are great things that we try to do to keep our history in the present.
CN: When we look at the football program, reestablishing tradition, going back to the school colors, some of those things have been emphasized. Are there any other innovations that you see in terms of really driving the point home, keeping this program in front of the public?
JP: Well, we're always going to continue to think of ways to stay in the media, because that's part of marketing. But what will be coming here in the next couple weeks is we'll be introducing on the web site the three concepts that we‘re paring down the new uniforms for next year to look like, and I think that will create some excitement this fall as people start to envision what that could look like going forward. What goes beyond that, it's too early to tell, but we'll have something.
CN: Now, you have a new look on the web site. Talk about that. I really enjoy it, but talk about that to our audience.
JP: Well, first of all the technology of using the web is here to stay, and it's only going to grow in the future, so what you have to do is to continue to refresh it, because people visit it numerous times times during the day, I mean, I'm on it numerous times a day looking at our web site. So you always have to keep it fresh, and what we did this past month is we re-launched it under a new browser, which allowed us to have some more features and then we also really tried to make a movement to that cardinal and gold color. And you're going to see us continue to use the web as a way to promote the athletic department and allow fans throughout the country to be able to track us, engage and interact with us.
CN: Obviously we won't know what this team is going to perform like until we see it on the field, but you saw these guys in the off-season when Coach Chizik arrived. Now you see them out here in the summer. How do they rate in terms of the ‘eye test'?
JP: Well, the coaching staff has been everything I thought they would be and more. It starts with Gene. He's just . . . I've said this to numerous people . . . he does not act like somebody that's never been a head coach. He clearly has waited for that right opportunity, and fortunately for us, Iowa State was that opportunity. But he has conviction, confidence, and just a sense of control about him, but . . . you know I've told people if he tells you something I think you can take it to the bank. And so from that perspective, I've just watched how he's interacted and led his staff, and that's a big part of being head football coach. As far as the team, this is my first day out looking at them myself, so I'll leave that to the coaches to decide.
CN: One addition to the staff that he wanted to bring in was . . . I believe they call it the life skills coordinator? Talk about the importance of that position.
JP: Well, Coach Chizik just believes that there's a bigger role than just being the football coach, that he's responsible for taking boys and making them into young men and great citizens in this country. And what happens when you're in that role as head football coach, they tend to bring a lot of issues to you . . . a lot of social issues, a lot of economic issues, a lot of physical issues that they just have had to deal with and they're looking for somebody to help get them to the right person or the right resource. And having a person on our staff that is a former football coach, that can develop a foundation with these kids based on football and mutual experiences, that they feel comfortable enough going to if they so choose, is just a great resource. It's another opportunity to help these boys turn into great young men.
CN: When we look at some of the . . . you mentioned the Cyclone Club earlier. If individuals want to contribute, if individuals want to be a part of this growth, how do they become a part of it? What would you recommend to them in terms of making a contribution to Iowa State?
JP: Well, our goal is to just get people to think about joining the Cyclone Club, not necessarily for what it's going to get me for my tickets, because not everybody . . . the people that have the tickets right now are joining because they want certain access to tickets, but there's a whole other population out there that are either Cyclone alums or connected to the program, that we want them to think that their involvement with us is helping the greater good and getting behind the cause. We have 50,000 alums that have joined the Alumni Association. That's 50,000 people that have activated their affiliation with this institution and we need to get many of them to think about that, for $100 just to join the Cyclone Club to help support this greater good, which is what Cyclone athletics can do for Iowa State University.