Mississippi State University President Dr. Charles Lee spoke at the Columbus, Mississippi Rotary Club's Tuesday luncheon. Included are several points he made during his speech and an interview I did with him after the meeting."> Mississippi State University President Dr. Charles Lee spoke at the Columbus, Mississippi Rotary Club's Tuesday luncheon. Included are several points he made during his speech and an interview I did with him after the meeting.">

Dr. Lee's speech and interview

<img src="http://www.genespage.com/images/admin/charleslee.jpg" align="left"> Mississippi State University President Dr. Charles Lee spoke at the Columbus, Mississippi Rotary Club's Tuesday luncheon. Included are several points he made during his speech and an interview I did with him after the meeting.

Points made by Dr. Lee during his speech.

  • He commended MSU fans for supporting MSU sports by attending games.
  • The attorney working for MSU in regard to the NCAA investigation is a former NCAA employee and knows the ins and outs of the agency.
  • Students enrolling in MSU have the best overall ACT score of all of Mississippi's public institutions.
  • MSU's graduation rate is 58%.
  • MSU has hired a national consulting firm to help with its recruiting focus for new students.
  • Mississippi's legislature will allow a new, one-time scholarship next year for a student who has a 22 to 25 ACT and a 3.5 or better GPA.
  • The new capital giving campaign will focus on more scholarships.
  • MSU is 32nd in engineering research.
  • There are currently 1,100 jobs in the research park that is located across the highway from MSU. Due to his help in obtaining governement funds, the park has been named after Mississippi senator Thad Cochran.
  • MSU's Legislative Budget Committee has tentatively set the MSU eduation budget at 20 million dollars less than last year.
  • MSU, through salaries to its employees, provides 5 million dollars to Oktibbeha County. There is also an additional 600 hundred thousand dollars generated from students who are fulltime residents.
  • MSU's staff has only had 1 raise in the last 5 years.

    My interview with Dr. Lee after the meeting.

    You mentioned in your speech to the Rotary Club that Mississippi State will have a new capital campaign soon. Have you set a dollar amount, yet?
    "No, we will set that goal sometime next year, probably in the third quarter of next year. The goal will be dependent on the economy and other circumstances.

    "Athletics is a part of that. In fact, we met yesterday (Monday) to talk about how we might approach people who have an interest in both academics and athletics. We are now in the, so-called, silent phase of the campaign. We had a great December with some of the private gifts. I don't think there is any quesiton that athletics will benefit very significantly from the next capital campaign."

    Specifically, how will the campaign benefit MSU athletics?
    "Coach Croom has some thoughts about facilities that he thinks would be more appropriate for football athletes. It has a price tag, I believe, of 3.5 to 4 million dollars. It is an expansion and remodeling (of Shira Fieldhouse). We had a recent gift for some parking lot improvements at the football stadium and, maybe, to create a welcome center that would be oriented around athletics for people who come for tailgating every weekend. We also have to continue to enhance our scholarship base. Everytime tuition goes up that is another hit to the athletic budget."

    You mentioned a few things about the NCAA situation. Do you have an idea when it will be completely resolved?
    "Yesterday (Monday) I asked Larry (Templeton) where we are with our response. He said the attorneys are working on it but he wasn't sure when the response would be ready. I hope it will be settled by gametime this fall."

    One of the biggest concerns MSU fans have is the status of Coach Stansbury contract. Talk about where that is at this time.
    "He is in the second year of a four-year contract. He has had significant changes in compensation the last couple of years. Like a lot of other home grown people, salaries lag behind where they might be if you brought someone in from the outside. I think there is a certain amount of that in our situation.

    "None of this has to do with the institution's failure to appreciate his value and what he contributes. Nor does it have anything to do with my sense about what he does for Mississippi State or the athletic director's or anybody else. That has never been any part of the discussion. The discussion is about resources and what an institution that has a giving base like ours can do. Our practice for many, many years is that salary supplements are paid for by contributions by people who care about Mississippi State. We have been blessed relative to our institution size and the number of graduates that we have out there as far as that is concerned.

    "The giving base for basketball has not been as explicit as it has been for football and I would submit that the way fans can help us the most in regard to the future of our basketball program is to help us accumulate, on a recurring basis, a better level of support for basketball. It takes great people, great facilities, equipment and a lot of other things to have a winning combination year after year. We are very pleased with our recent gifts that will let us put a jumbotron in (Humphrey Coliseum) and some other things of that type. But we, basically, have to find ways to broaden the private support base of Bulldog athletes, period, across the board. And we are working on that right now from several viewpoints and we have an ongoing conversation with the coach. We are working toward a situation that fits what the rest of the SEC is doing with coaches compensation and what is consistent with what we are doing with Coach Croom and is also within our means."

    Is his contract situation closed to being resolved? Without going too much into detail, my understanding was there were some serious talks this weekend about solving this situation soon, maybe within a certain timetable?
    "Yes, we received some commitments this weekend that I think will help us get close to what I understand to be the coach's expectation but, in fairness to him, we are talking about things that are normally private between an employer and employee."

    I'm sure Coach Stansbury understands the financial situation of Mississippi State and that MSU can't pay its coaches what the Tennessee's, LSU's of the world can. With that said, is Mississippi State trying to get Coach Stansbury's salary compensation to where he will be at least in the middle of the pack in the SEC.
    "We are trying to get him to where he should be relative to his performance and the means we have available to us."

    Is one of the problems Mississippi State running into a lack of available funds due to the hiring of new football coaches and the buyout of Coach Sherrill's and his previous staff's contracts?
    "There are several things at risk for the athletic budget that we have no control over. At the time last spring when we started hearing all this about doing something different for (Coach Stansbury) we did have a lot more uncertainty associated with the NCAA investigation. And we certainly didn't know at the end of last year's basketball season where we were going to be on this. And not all of that is gone yet. We have never been bashful about that. That could have a very serious financial consequence for us because of the way SEC revenues are distributed. And the other thing was we did not know the circumstance of settling with the outgoing coach or bringing in the incoming coach. The reason we are where we are today is simply because we have a little more confidence about all that. I think we now have a little more comfort zone and we have done some work. We have had some very responsive donors that have stepped up to the plate. I would like to get this settled soon, obviously. I get mail about it everyday, some of which is out of phase with the facts. But that's just another example of the enormous attachment that people have to intercollegiate athletics."

    Earlier, you mentioned that you would like to see more Mississippi State fans get involved with the giving part of the basketball program. Can they designate any increased donations that they give to the Bulldog Club to the basketball program?
    "I don't know of any institution in the land where you can't prescribe where you want your money to go. Sure, they can do that. What we need is to broaden our (giving) base and have some new supporters who build up a (financial) support for basketball, not unlike what we have had over the years with football."

    Can they specifically say that they want it to go for a coach's compensation package?
    "If they want it to go to the coaches package, that's fine. But it's never just the head coach, it's also the assistants. But, yes, they can do that. However, I think it is important, if they are comfortable in doing so, to leave the decision about how it is used within the program to the athletic staff."

    Gene Swindoll is the owner of Gene's Page, the unofficial source for Mississippi State sports on the internet. You can contact him by email at swindoll@genespage.com.

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