De Carolis keeps on hammerin

OSU athletic director has projects aplenty to improve facilities
by: COURTESY OF OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY, Oregon State AD Bob De Carolis has directed the renovation of Reser Stadium among other projects during his tenure. With the first phase of the Gill Coliseum annex wrapping up in the next few months, De Carolis has about $40 million worth of other construction scheduled for the next three years.

CORVALLIS - A college athletic director's life is one of high style and opulence, right? How, then, to explain the temporary work digs of Oregon State's Bob De Carolis - in a trailer across the street from Gill Coliseum?

'Yeah, big-time Division I athletics,' De Carolis says with a grin, explaining the move was necessitated by renovation of his office at Gill.

It seems as if just about every athletic facility at Oregon State is being touched up or replaced. A laundry list of $40 million worth of construction is on the docket over the next three years.

And De Carolis has been the man behind the moving and shaking since 2002. That's when he took over for Mitch Barnhart, who had brought him to OSU in 1998 from Michigan as his top aide.

In a decade, De Carolis has seen a mountain of change - and helped bring the Beavers out of the ice age in terms of facilities. OSU has seen the raising of Reser Stadium and the renaissance of football, the emergence of Goss Stadium and two national championships in baseball, and the return of track and field.

Men's basketball has been the major disappointment, and De Carolis' next task is to find a coach to rekindle the glory of Slats Gill and Ralph Miller.

De Carolis sat down with the Portland Tribune for a wide-ranging interview about the state of OSU athletics.

Tribune: First, a personal note. How are you feeling? Word is you spent some time in the hospital recently?

De Carolis: I'm fine. I was in overnight for tests regarding some sleeping issues (mild apnea) I wanted to get checked out. It's a pretty common problem. I just have to get used to the breathing apparatus.

Tribune: What's your take on the overall health of the athletic department?

De Carolis: It's good. We've done a lot of great things and will continue to. A lot of how you get judged is by how well your high-exposure sports are doing.

The football season was great. (Coach) Mike Riley has been doing an unbelievable job. If you'd told me we were going to win 19 games in two years, finish third in the conference back-to-back, win two bowl games and be top-25 twice - I'd take that in a second. With football, it's been not only on the field, but there's been improvement in the classroom and with the off-the-field stuff.

Basketball has been a negative - we'll see what happens there - but the rest of the sports, mostly it's been good. The goal is to get every team in the postseason. A lot of teams are there, or are moving in that direction.

Tribune: What is your biggest challenge?

De Carolis: Sustaining the financial model. It was kind of disappointing last year, coming off a 10-win football season, that we sold 3,500 new season tickets but lost 2,000 in the renewal process. That's a huge number (of losses). It'll be interesting to see what happens this year.

We're going to call out our fan base a little bit. We need them to get behind us, because we have a good product and things are going well.

Tribune: How many season tickets do you have sold?

De Carolis: Last year, we were at about 23,600. We'd like to get that to the 29,000 or 30,000 mark, which would mean an extra $4 million revenue per year. It can get you to the point where you can breathe, so that not necessarily every decision is a financial decision, and the margin of error is not so on the edge.

Tribune: What is the annual athletic department budget, and where does that rank among Pac-10 schools?

De Carolis: We're at about $45 million. I suspect that's in the middle of the Pac-10, or just south of the middle.

Tribune: How close are you to being in the black?

De Carolis: For a time there, we were in the black, before we started the (recent Reser expansion and Gill annex construction). We're back in the red by about $3 million, but we have a good plan with the university to get that taken care of. We'll be able to balance this year and cut into (the deficit) at least halfway. Probably the following year we'll be able to get back to even again.

Tribune: That's a far cry from the deficit when you arrived in 1998.

De Carolis: Our debt was at $12.5 million. We got that down to about $6 million before the first Reser expansion. We got the other $6 million taken care of through the process of raising $33 million (for Reser).

Tribune: How is athletic fundraising going? What are your numbers there?

De Carolis: This past year, our annual fund - tied to (football season) tickets - was at $11 million, which is an all-time high. Before the Raising Reser project began, we were at $5 million. We've more than doubled that. We should be at least at $11.7 million this year, if not higher.

Tribune: What is the cost of Raising Reser, phase two, and the Gill annex?

De Carolis: About $31 million. I'm going to say the annex itself was probably in the $11 million to $12 million range. That should be done in April.

Tribune: What is being housed in the Gill annex?

De Carolis: In 17,000 square feet on the first floor, we'll have all of the weight-training facilities for all sports. The second floor is 7,000 square feet for the wrestling practice facility. Eventually, in a second phase of construction, there will be locker rooms for the wrestling team and the weight-training staff, and practice floors for volleyball and basketball.

Tribune: How is the construction at Goss Stadium coming along?

De Carolis: We're close to being on schedule. Our first-base side should be done by the first home game in March. The third-base side is expected to be completed in May. The total cost is about $6 million.

Tribune: How did you fundraise for that?

De Carolis: (Coach) Pat Casey deserves all the credit. When he first came to me about it, he said, 'Let's strike while the iron's hot.' I said, 'Great, but we have all these other projects, $40 million worth of facilities out there. I can't have you cannibalize the donor base for baseball money. You have a stadium already.' He said, 'Great, we'll go out and get new people.' And he did. It's been amazing.

Tribune: What else is out there on the construction front?

De Carolis: The second phase of the Gill annex will cost between $10 (million) and $12 million. I can't say when we'll get to that. We're going to have an academic success center, a joint venture with the general student body. We have the lead gift on that, and we're hoping construction will start within 12 to 18 months, at a cost of between $12 million to 15 million.

The first stage of the new track will cost $3.5 million, the whole thing $6.5 million.

We have to refurbish the (crew) boathouse at $2 million to $3 million.

A Gill exterior project will begin in July. It was painted seven or eight years ago, but they didn't do a great job with it. We'll have a different color palette, paint it, put on new doors, new windows, an elevator for (disabled) accessibility and hopefully landscape to dress it up. We have approval for $4 million tied to a 25 percent increase in ticket sales for all sports in Gill, with basketball being the one that's going to carry the weight on that.

Tribune: That's a major undertaking.

De Carolis: The challenge when Mitch and I first got here was, not only did we have a financial crisis, we had both of our major sports in peril. And we had this infrastructure in two of the major facilities where little had happened. Plus we were trying to catch up (with facilities) in some of the other sports.

The list was kind of daunting. But the donors have been great, and having a comprehensive capital campaign has helped attract athletic donors to other pieces of the university. That has resonated with people very well.

Tribune: When will men's track and field begin?

De Carolis: It will come back based on some financial benchmarks (fundraisers) we need to reach. If we have $5 million in commitments by 2010, we can hire a coach, start the program in 2012, and by 2016 we would be fully funded with scholarships.

Tribune: Might women's coach Kelly Sullivan spearhead both programs?

De Carolis: It's something we will look at. It works well in a lot of places. Kelly has been on both sides (men's and women's) of the equation. It's a pretty good model.

Tribune: You gave basketball coach Jay John a five-year contract extension after the NIT tournament in 2004-05. …

De Carolis: Actually, it was during that season. He had beaten UCLA and USC back-to-back to open the Pac-10 season. My thought as I saw those two games was, 'This thing's lined up like we can have some success. This guy may end up being a hot property, and I want to get the opportunity to lock him up so we don't have him looking someplace else.' It was a good move at the time. Things were positioned to continue to have success, even with losing David Lucas. We did the paperwork after the NIT was over.

Tribune: Do you regret giving John the extension, which means you'll have to pay him for two seasons after this one?

De Carolis: It was the right decision. You can look back on a lot of decisions and say, 'We should have gone a different way.' At the time, the logic or decision-making process was fine.

Tribune: Do you feel the rest of your programs are on solid ground?

De Carolis: I'm encouraged by where we are, but we certainly have room for improvement in a number of areas. We're fighting hard every day, which is kind of emblematic of what we see in our teams. They fight through things. It's the Beaver way.

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