Approximately 100 Aggie fans and Big Blue Club members met at Layton City Park on Wednesday night to hear from football coach Mick Dennehy and Athletic Director Rance Pugmire regarding the state of Aggie Athletics, the football team in particular. Even the most pessimistic Aggie fan had to leave Wednesday's meeting with some semblance of optimism, as Pugmire made it known that there was a plan for Utah State athletics, and that progress was being made in many facets of the department.
Dennehy went into detail on many of the new recruits who will be entering the football program for the 2002 season as well as introduced a quartet of Aggie seniors who expect to get a great deal of playing time on the 2002 squad: Returning Quarterback Jose Fuentes, Linebacker Jesse Busta, Punter Steve Mullins and All-American candidate Wide Receiver Kevin Curtis.
A question from a fan to the coach regarding junior college transfers struck a sore spot with Dennehy. Dennehy discussed his tendency to shy away from late J.C. players, and how he is still waiting to receive the results of some of his transfers AA tests. The coach commented that if many of his J.C. recruits don't show up in the next few weeks, some of the assistant coaches are going to have "some red butts."
The highlight of the meeting came when Rance Pugmire spoke to the crowd. Pugmire started off by recognizing the academic and social achievements of Dennehy's football squads. He said that in the two years Dennehy has been under control there have been "no hiccups" with the athletes downtown (no player troubles) and that the team has had a 79% graduation rate, more than double the rate before Dennehy arrived. Pugmire thanked Dennehy for his work with the players off the field as much as on.
The Athletic Director then announced that the television contract the university had with Sportswest was not renewed and a new contract was created with KJZZ. Pugmire announced that KJZZ would broadcast the USU/Utah game, but Sportswest held the rights to the USU/BYU game. Pugmire also mentioned that KJZZ would broadcast various other football and basketball contests throughout the year. He talked about how KJZZ was very aggressive in their desire to broadcast Utah State athletics, as they were in contact with the university months before the previous television contract expired. Also included in the partnership with KJZZ is a deal where USU merchandise will be sold at various locations throughout Salt Lake City, with the revenue being split between the university and KJZZ.
Pugmire continued on by telling that a new radio agreement with KVNU was on the way, as well as a chance that the Aggies may soon be broadcast on FM radio across the state. He briefly mentioned that negotiations were ongoing with "two major sports stations" (presumably 1280 KZN and 1320 KFAN).
The next topic which Pugmire touched on was conference affiliation. He assured the crowd that a wave of changes was coming in the next 18-24 months that that USU would be on the wave. Pugmire also assured the group that the fact that Utah State is an independent in football is not the result of anything that USU did or did not do. He pointed to Pacific, Long Beach and Fullerton dropping football as well as Boise State and Louisiana Tech being selected to the WAC by virtue of location and a bowl game. "When we look at academics and all the other criteria we were light-years ahead of them. I saw the criteria, I saw how they were ranked, it was us and there wasn't really a second," Pugmire said regarding the alleged criteria the WAC had in their selection process.
The topic of dropping to 1-AA was brought up and Pugmire shot that idea down quickly. "We've been 1-A for 100 years, we will be 1-A for the next 100," Pugmire said. Pugmire assured that Utah State will have no problem meeting the new criteria for maintaining Division 1 status. The only criteria which the university hasn't met as of yet is five Division 1 home games each year. Pugmire did say that they only need one game each in 2004, '05 and '06. "1-AA doesn't have any identity in this state."
Pugmire then talked about facilities, mentioning the new facilities for soccer, softball and track that are being constructed. He then touched on the ever popular topic of Romney Stadium renovations. Pugmire talked about a "three phase plan" that is in place, but said it is all a matter of funding. "A few of you have been in the press box, a few of you have sat under it...you're very brave!" Pugmire said about Romney Stadium's current condition. He said that elevators, restrooms and concessions were the top priorities now. The Athletics Director mentioned that he has a set of plans in his office showing everything from five to fifty million dollars in improvements to Romney Stadium, some that could make it "look like Tampa Bay's stadium." As for improvements to the football stadium this year, two new sets of aluminum bleachers will be installed in the student section.
Money was the next topic discussed, and it was noted that this coming season will be a very good revenue year, but the money earned this year will need to be saved to fund the year after which will be a tight revenue year with no Utah or BYU at home, and a home schedule featuring Idaho State, North Texas, Idaho, Connecticut, Troy State and Wyoming. Pugmire addressed the 1-AA opponents and said there will never be more than one from now on, and none unless they have five 1-A home games.
Pugmire wrapped up the meeting by fielding questions from the crowd. The meeting concluding with socializing and the children receiving autographs from the Aggie athletes.