WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — It’s a busy couple of days for Wake Forest athletic director Ron Wellman.
He announced Thursday that Wake Forest would become the first Division 1 football program in North Carolina to allow beer and wine sales in the stadium. The Deacs will also have beer and wine sales at Joel Coliseum for basketball games, and are considering the move for baseball and soccer games as well.
Additionally, Wellman will be a part of an ACC conference call regarding scheduling Friday morning. It’s believed that the two choices in front of the group of athletic directors are moving toward nine yearly conference games, with one additional mandated Power 5 contest or remaining with an eight-game ACC slate, with two additional games against Power 5 programs.
Demon Deacon Digest spoke with Wellman about this issues during football practice Thursday night at the Doc Martin Football Practice Complex.
What led to the move to sell beer and wine at the venues and what does it do for Wake Forest athletics
Wellman: “We’re always looking at how we can improve the fan experience, and for the last couple of years we have been studying this, looking at this and considering it. We’ve talked to other schools and talked about what the results were there. We’ve surveyed our fans and talked to a lot of people both internally and externally and decided that as a fan amenity it would be received very well, so we decided to move forward with it.”
What about this move would give you concern
Wellman: “You always want to protect everybody’s experience and hope that they’re having a great experience. When you introduce a new product like this, there’s always the possibility of it not being used in manner that we want it to be used, but we feel we’ve protected against that. We’re going to have a fan experience team going throughout the stadium and the stands to make sure we’re abiding by all the policies and procedures, and that the fan behavior is what we want it to be.”
On what other benefits there are to the program
Wellman: “Well, obviously there’s a revenue component to it. We don’t know what that is going to be. We have some projections, but until you go through a year, you don’t know what the results are going to be. Of course, weather can impact that as well as how the team is doing. The size of the crowds and all of that will affect all those revenue projections. But we didn’t do it for the revenue. Our primary purpose was to provide an amenity for the fans that we believe that they want.”
Is the ACC scheduling debate down to those two choices and where does Wake Forest fit in the discussion?
Wellman: “We’ll know tomorrow for sure. We’ve only talked about those two choices — the 8/2 model where we have eight conference games and two against Power 5 institutions or the 9/1 model where we play nine conference games and only one against a Power 5 program. Our fans would like to see us play conference games. Those are the most attractive games of the schedule. With as many schools as we have in the conference - we have 14 now, there will be times with an 8/2 setup that you wouldn’t see a team for a generation or two. In fact, we think if we go 8/2, with the non-divisional, non-rivalry games we’d only have those teams in our stadium once every 12 years. I’d like to see those teams come to our stadium more often than that.”
On if the extra conference game would be a rotating, or a common opponent every year?
Wellman: “We haven’t decided that. I think I would be leaning toward the common opponent, because I think that rivalry is important to us.”
Perhaps a team that wears sky blue?
Wellman: “We’d love to play them. Sure. That’s why we’re playing them in a non-conference game. We felt that rivalry is very important to us. So even though it’s not a conference game, we scheduled them in a non-conference game. Now whether that game remains as a result of whatever we do tomorrow remains to be seen. We’ll know tomorrow. We’re excited about playing them whenever we can play them. We’re excited about playing every ACC team whenever we can play them.”
On if they go to a 9/1 model and play Notre Dame, if that would be the ‘1’
Wellman: “Yes. That would be the ‘1.” Of course, if we go to the 9/1 model, the teams with the rivalry games are concerned, and I can understand that. When Clemson is scheduled against South Carolina, then they have Notre Dame and then nine conference games, that’s 11 games that are tough games. That would be a concern, and they’re going to express that tomorrow, obviously. In our situation, it’s not quite the same level of concern as them because of that rivalry game. I think we have four schools in the ACC that play those rivalry games, so I’m not sure what their attitude will be in the 9/1 versus 8/2 debate.”
On what he’s seen at football camp that has him excited
Wellman: “Dave Clawson. I talk with him after practices and between practices, and he is very encouraged by what he sees. I’m encouraged too, but I don’t have the expertise that he does. When he tells me we’ve got great competition at most of our positions, that the players have a great attitude and are working hard. I can see the athleticism is a step up. I’m very encouraged, and we’re still going to be young this year. We are on a trend line, I believe, that is going to excite our fans.”