A Q&A With MSU SR Assoc AD Bo Hemphill

Mississippi State athletics Senior Associate Athletic Director for Development Bo Hemphill talked one-on-one with Gene's Page about the different ways Mississippi State fans can help Mississippi State athletics financially.

As Senior Associate AD for Development, what is your primary job?
"My number one priority is to talk to friends of the MSU athletic department about projects that need private funding. Those could include opportunities such as facility enhancements and improvements, new facilities, and making sure we have funds necessary to stay competitive with our coaches' salaries. Any private fund-raising that the athletic department needs to do, then that obviously is what we trying to accomplish and build upon. Our ultimate goal is to grow our private funding while continuing to enhance the overall fan experience."

Facility-wise, obtaining the funds to build the Football-only facility is a major job of yours right now.
"Coach Mullen and his staff have done an outstanding job. This football facility will help us recruit the kind of players we need to compete against the Tennessees, Georgias, Auburns, Alabamas and LSUs of the world. We have done some touring of some other universities. Auburn was one of the places that we visited to look at their facilities. Once you see a facility of that kind, then you understand how important it is. While it's used for recruiting purposes, it's also a logistics issue. Right now, our coaches' offices are in the Bryan Building, our players have their locker room, sports medicine and strength training in the Holliman Center and the Shira Building, and the practice fields are across the track facility. It's a fairly detached setup. What this building would do is establish a location that is a football operations center. It would have your strength and cardio facilities, class rooms for football, offices for coaches, training rooms and would also overlook our three state-of-the art practice fields all located adjacent to the Palmeiro Center indoor facility.

"Also, when the football coaches move to the football operations building it will obviously open up prime office space in the Bryan Building, it will open up the Rouse weight room, a great weight-training facility in the Holliman Athletic Center and it will open up a new locker room and dressing facility. This move will impact all of our Olympic sports coaches with their recruiting and training efforts. This one building will give everybody an upgrade in facilities. That's why a facility like this is so important."

Another facility that you are working on is the football stadium expansion.
"Stadium expansion will be funded a couple of different ways. The ability to offer public bonds might be a way to generate funds to expand Davis Wade Stadium. You can also generate revenue from the stadium itself. But there will be a private-giving aspect as well.

"We are looking at some designs on the stadium expansion and making some significant headway. Our campus master plan architect Bob Luke has brought in nationally-renowned firm, Populous, to help us look at not only the first phase of this expansion but the second and third phases as well. We not only want to know how many seats we need now but how many we will need 20 and possibly 30 years down the road. It's very possible, based on past and recent history, that we will need a stadium that needs to have a capacity of 80,000 seat range at some point in the future. "

Scott Stricklin said the first phase will include somewhere in the 7,000 range as far as seats are concerned. And the first phase will include enhancements to the west side of the stadium, won't it?
"That's correct. In the first phase you are looking at a 7,000 seat net gain. You are adding 10,000 seats but you are taking away the 3,000 current north endzone seats."

How much will the first phase of the stadium expansion cost?
"We are currently working with the design team on expected cost, however, much will depend on how much money we can raise. We just have to wait and see how much we can generate through all avenues before we know for sure."

The west side stadium enhancements will be a large part of your expense in the first phase won't it?
"It will. The west side will be an extremely expensive fix. There is only one elevator on that side. We may need up to a total of four. The current pressbox area needs to be addressed, concession and restrooms need to be updated. Once again, the scope of work will be largely determined by the amount of funds we generate."

Where do you stand as far as the money to expand the stadium?
"On the facility side of our fund-raising efforts we are focusing on the football specific building as well as the stadium expansion. Right now we are probably at 60% of our goal."

Scott Stricklin said the football-only building will cost around 25 million dollars.
"We are a little over halfway there, which is a great start. We are meeting with individual donors as we work to close solicitations that we have out. These major gifts take a long time to get closed. There are a lot of things that must be considered. We are excited about where we are, but have some work still to do."

"I want to emphasize that every gift is important to our overall fundraising goals, but a project that is in the 20 to 25 million dollar range, has to have those significant gifts in place that are going to allow you to make the project work. And those type gifts can sometimes be very complicated."

Why does it take gifts like that so long to close? Why can't a person simply say I want to give a gift of 5 million dollars, then hand it over to you?
"Sometimes it works that way, but very rarely. You may visit a donor, deliver the proposal, and they want to do it, and the process moves somewhat rapidly. But, for the most part, these type gifts take a significant amount of time because a lot of things come into play. Sometimes, you are working with a family foundation, sometimes you are working with multiple family members, maybe corporations or foundation boards - sometimes you are working on a gift where the donor is waiting on the stock price to get to a certain level before they can transfer it to you. Some of these major gifts involve estate planning and complicated tax implications. We are talking with individuals about very significant gifts, program changing gifts. We are asking them to consider making a significant investment over a period of time and that takes great thought and careful consideration. It's not like someone writing a 25 or 100 dollar check - although those gifts are just as important for our everyday operations."

Speaking of major gifts, there are obviously people we already know about who gives large amounts. But isn't another aspect of your job, cultivating the next wave of MSU folks who will contribute major gifts in the future?
"Absolutely. Prospect development is a huge part of our job. Obviously, we have a great group of supporters who have been with us for a long time. They are still very, very important to us, but, at the same time, we spend a lot of time every week looking at new names. And we get a lot of those names from current donors. We also look through a list of alums who are buying season tickets, alums who are buying bowl tickets and we look at friends of the program who get involved."

We know about the football facility and the stadium expansion. Are there other projects on the horizon?
"Yes, there are. One thing about private fund-raising is it never ends. We have to be very aggressive in our facility efforts, our private fund-raising efforts, and our Bulldog Club memberships. The Mize basketball facility will enhance the ability of our men's and women's basketball team's and their recruiting efforts. Obviously, the new track facility is something that we are very proud of. The surfacing of the track is going on now but there are other opportunities to do some great things with the track stadium in regard to providing a place that will make it a very attractive and inviting stadium to watch track and field events. When you look at men's and women's tennis, you see that we need to improve our facilities, especially our indoor facility. We are currently working to enhance some of the golf practice facilities. Soccer recently got new turf and other enhancements with their field but we will continue to work and make that a first-class facility. We've made some upgrades for volleyball, and baseball as well with the additions of the new chair back seats. All facilities and sports have to be upgraded on a continual basis in order for us to remain competitive."

How can people contact you if they want to give Mississippi State athletics a major gift?
"Scott always emphasizes this as we all do, buy season tickets, when possible make financial contributions to the Bulldog Club, and get others to do the same. Then, if you want to help with the facilities campaign specially, then you can call or contact me, Michelle McBride, or any of our team members in the Bulldog Club. We will be more than happy to discuss opportunities for support.

"Call or email me anytime. My office number is 662-325-1533 and my email address is bhemphill@athletics.msstate.edu."

Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the GenesPage.com website, the source for Mississippi State sports on the Scout.com sports network. You can contact him by emailing swindoll@genespage.com.

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