TIGER RAG Q&A: Skip Bertman, Part 2

The second entry of this three-part series with LSU athletic director Skip Bertman covers the progress of facilities at LSU, the success of women's sports and the future of LSU Men's Basketball.

Tiger Rag editor Matt Deville had the opportunity to sit down with LSU athletic director Skip Bertman on Tuesday afternoon. In that discussion, Bertman chatted about the last two minutes inside the LSU football program, the departure of Nick Saban, the hiring of Les Miles and the fallout that followed. Also, the fourth year AD discussed the major construction projects currently underway at LSU plus the success of women's sports, the future of the men's basketball program and an array of topic surrounding baseball. Enjoy part two of this three part series.


Deville: You can't help but notice the construction going on around campus. Although this is a question more suited for Major Gen. Ron Richard with TAF, but can you give us a brief update on the construction projects?

Bertman: The west side addition is supposed to be ready for the first game and it is close. It will not be finished finished but everybody will be in a seat and everybody will be pleased with it. That is a great thing that allows the TAF to income some more money that they couldn't do because they have club seats rather than regular seats.

The Tiger Cage or habitat is coming along and will be finished by Sept. 1 and that of course costs $3 million.

The football operations center should be finished around the end of August so all, three of them should be finished around Sept. 1, second third or fourth. Then we have the assembly, our own project paid for by the Tradition Fund project, starts in late April to be finished by next season.


Deville: Exactly what does the renovation of the Maravich Center include?

Bertman: All the seats will be changed or repaired and the structure of the thing changes a little bit. Capacity will go down from 14,262 seats to about 13,200 seats so that handicapped seating can be placed in the correct corridors and the aisles can be corrected. It is around a $5 million project that is funded by the Tradition Fund dollars from football.


Deville: Will their be any type of premium seating or suites like in football?

Bertman: There are no suites of any kind. There are elevators, which they don't have now, and bathrooms will be completed, painted to look nice. It will look like a brand new arena.


Skip Bertman and Tiger Rag editor Matt Deville. (MJBrown)


Deville: Any word on when the construction of the new baseball and softball fields will begin?

Bertman: The softball field starts this spring and that is also from Tradition dollars. The softball field is not slated to be finished until 2007, even though it starts now. And the baseball stadium, which is being built from bonds, being repaid by the athletic department and private funding, is 2008. So those are the things that we have planned right now.


Deville: Is the construction of the new baseball field any more special to you due to your involvement with baseball over the years?

Bertman: I think that you can't do much better than the baseball teams does here (at LSU). They have the most fans in NCAA history. If anybody should have a stadium, it should be our baseball team. But it was put off for the football operations center.


Coming back to it and buying the land from the university on which to place it, that is what the Master Plan states, which means the next 50 years. The athletic facilities are gradually shifting to the west leaving parking spaces and room for buildings, which ultimately will include the track stadium or the fieldhouse, which would become an arena for just students. It would be like the one over by Dalrymple (Parade Grounds), but it would be the one on the west side of campus. That is what the plan is for the future.


Most people only know about football, but the truth is the university goals have been funded pretty much by football. For instance, in the last five years they have put $2.5 million – from football – into the beautification of the campus. They stopped people from parking on grass and flowers and trees and wherever they wanted and the campus has never looked better. There has been $2.5 million given to the chancellor's excellence fund. There is $500,000 a year going to the building fund and some other things like that.

The athletic department has been real good to the university.


Deville: Have you or your staff felt any backlash from those fans who are disappointed about moving Alex Box Stadium?

Bertman: There was a lot of talk, but quite honestly when you do a study which costs $10,000 and the architect does it cheaply, it should cost more than that but he does us a favor, he works for about four months and they give you a plan that it would cost $14.6 million to fix Alex Box over a three-year period. And it still looks like Alex Box and can't seat anymore. There is just no room. There is no room to go this way because home plate is too close to the street. You can't go the other way because you have apartments and other stuff in the way. Then you can build a new one for $16 million, it just doesn't make any sense. Then the students can park there (where Alex Box currently sits) until they build some buildings there. It doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Now consequently, I haven't heard anybody say it is a bad idea once it is properly explained. Now a lot of people said, ‘why would you build only 8,000 seats? I can barely get in there (to a game) now.' Well we haven't built it yet so we don't know what it looks like yet. Architects are in the planning stages right now. But there is no doubt WHERE it is going. It is going 2,000 feet south of where it is now, where that pasture is out there. It is going to take up a lot of space, but there will be plenty of parking and other things that will be used.


LSU athletic director says women's basketball is very

popular because the Lady Tigers are No. 1 in the nation. (MJBrown)


Deville: What an amazing year for women's sports on campus? Comment on the success of women's athletics at LSU right now.

Bertman: They have always been pretty good. They really have. Of course now, (women's) basketball is exceptional because they are No. 1 in America, which is exception. But when you consider they finished No. 3 in America last year in the final standings, that is outstanding. I think softball finished No. 3 in America, in the finish and had the most valuable player. And of course gymnastics was two-tenths of a point form making the final six, she was seventh and that was her (D-D- Breaux) best finish ever and now she is still No. 3. The women's tennis is pretty good, they are in the top 25, but men's tennis is probably a little bit better. You know, women's golf is in the top 25. But they have always been there. But nobody has ever paid any attention to it.


Deville: But now folks are taking notice.

Bertman: Like the coaches said, but there are only two sports in LSU – football and spring football. You know what I mean, there are hundreds of thousands of fans that are involved in football, maybe half a million, maybe more if you go around the United States. And no matter how good they do in gymnastics o softball, they can only have a couple of thousand, and that's a lot. But in the sense, that is what you are talking about. They just don't get that type of publicity. When you are a writer, you write about what the people want to talk about. For her (Pokey Chatman) to get your attention, she had to win every single basketball team. Same for softball, they had to go to Oklahoma City and have some girl throw three games in one day to get the attention of the media – and they did. They made the front page. It is harder for them. Now in football, they sign some kid from Central Florida (Rickey Jean-Francois), or from Miami wherever he was from, to a football scholarship and it makes front page news. (laughs) This is a nutty kid that didn't even know where he was going to go and again it was on the front page. Or, Les Miles hires a defensive coordinator and it is on the front page. So naturally they feel slighted. It is okay, they understand the economic value here.


Deville: While women's hoops is flourishing, the lack of dominant success for the men's team and coach has been a hot topic of conversation for some time now. Can you comment on that?

Bertman: That is a tough issue. One of the problems that coach Brady has is the success of football, baseball, women's basketball and gymnastics. Basketball has high visibility. Not many people know if we do well at soccer or volleyball or swimming nor do they probably care. But basketball is out there, whether he does it well or not and that is the bad news for him, which make this a sensitive. The answer is I am just going to wait until the end of the season and talk to the coach and the staff and then make a decision.


Deville: There is speculation that John Brady has to make the NCAA Tournament to keep his job, is there any truth to that?

Bertman: That is never done and I don't believe in those things because if you set a number of games for a football coach or a (NCAA) round for the basketball coach, that is so silly. The ball can rim out or an official calls a charge instead of a block and a guy loses his job and his career changes. That is not right. We will make a decision in the end, sit down and figure things out. But there is still a long way to go (this season).

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