Finances, new projects, health on Beaver ADs radar

In his 12th year as athletic director at Oregon State, Bob De Carolis has overseen an array of changes unprecedented in the school's historical sports landscape.

De Carolis has hired most of the department's 16 head coaches, spearheaded construction of many new and refurbished facilities, and navigated the Beavers through financial minefields in trying to balance a budget of about $57 million.

The Philadelphia native and Bloomsburg State grad, who turns 61 next month, sat down with the Portland Tribune for a question-and-answer session about the state of the department entering the 2013-14 academic year.

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - De CarolisTribune: You recently attended the Division IA Athletic Directors Association annual meeting at Dallas. It's the organization in which former OSU athletic director Dutch Baughman is executive director. Was the meeting productive?

De Carolis: It was. There were representatives of 118 of the 123 Football Bowl Subdivision schools there. It was about eight hours of good discussion over two days. The last couple of years, athletic directors have felt marginalized as far as not being part of the process. It's our own fault, but we've been pushed aside a bit, and we're trying to get back into the process. It's good for (ADs) to discuss the issues that are cropping up each day.

Tribune: I'm assuming pay-for-play was one of the major topics?

De Carolis: Yes, the whole idea of the stipend, which is connected to the haves and the have-nots of college sports. One thing that is not going to happen is (the haves) breaking away from the NCAA. Nobody is interested in that. We had a dialogue about (pay-for-play). If we're going to do this, how do we get to it?

Tribune: How do you feel about paying college athletes?

De Carolis: Given that the scholarship has never changed since who knows when, there's a way to do it under the guise of cost of attendance. The general student's full financial-aid package contains the scholarship figure, plus cost of attendance, (which covers) travel home and back, money for this, money for that. So we could offer the student-athlete a stipend through that. (At the meeting), there was a proposal of $2,000 per year. That was kind of the median number. If you don't have a standard number, there's the possibility of a big-time recruiting advantage. If school A is giving $6,000 and school B is giving $2,000, that's a problem. But the concept of having a level playing field is starting to weaken. There isn't such a thing. Some schools have built-in advantages.

Tribune: Would the stipends be given only to scholarship football players? Would men's basketball also be included? Or would it be everybody?

De Carolis: You have to give it to every scholarship athlete, otherwise Title IX comes into play. The safest mode is to do it for all student-athletes based on financial need. RIght now, a student-athlete can get a Pell Grant above the scholarship up to $5,600 a year based on need. We have about 100 kids on that program at different levels.

Tribune: Is $2,000 a year enough?

De Carolis: The Tulsa World wrote a series on the subject last week, interviewing a number of athletes. The majority of them talked about managing the money as more important than the amount of money. That was their premise.

Tribune: My line of thinking used to be that a scholarship — worth upward of $100,000 nowadays — was enough compensation. But with the proliferation of TV money in the major conferences, it has changed my opinion. More athletic departments are able to make net profits now. Some of that should go to the athletes.

De Carolis: That changes the game, along with the fact that some of our coaches are making salaries of $5 million. Then there is the settlement of the Ed O'Bannon case (a lawsuit regarding likenesses in video gaming and college licensing of sportswear, etc.). What is that going to mean? Is there a way for student-athletes to cash in, even if the money gets put in a trust? That sounds great, but what kind of influences are going to be out there in the recruiting process? How does that all play out? If you're going to do it right, it's a very complicated process.

Tribune: Should there be a higher division within the FBS — perhaps the top 64 teams in four super conferences, as has been suggested?

De Carolis: There certainly could be within the NCAA — one for the big boys. That's quite possible. Working within the system is the preferred mode of operation. There could be some sort of different level. I think there is a very good chance of it happening.

Tribune: What kind of timetable might we be looking at — five years down the road? Ten?

De Carolis: Who knows? I really wouldn't even be able to offer a prediction at this point.

Tribune: How do you feel about the overall state of the athletic program entering the 2013-14 school year?

De Carolis: We came off a great year, with Pac-12 championships in baseball, gymnastics and wrestling. It's the first time in school history we've had three. The football turnaround was a good thing. We opened four new or renovated facilities — basketball, track, the student academic center and the Prothro practice field with lights. We had a good year academically, with 140 kids being named academic all-conference. All that stuff was good. We look for more of the same this year. I feel pretty bullish about that.

Tribune: What is the financial picture looking like heading into the new academic year?

De Carolis: We've balanced the budget. Because of the TV deal, we were able to cut the annual subsidy from the university from $10 million to $4 million last year. We're moving in the right direction. We're scheduled for (a) $4 million (subsidy) this year, but we're holding serve.

Tribune: How much will you receive for this academic year from the Pac-12 TV contract?

De Carolis: There are two pieces to that. From the ABC/ESPN/Fox package, we'll get between $16.5 million and $17 million. (Minus debts), it's $9 million of new money. You take $6 million of that off to pay the university and we're down to $3 million. With the payroll and scholarship increases, there won't be a lot to reinvest into the program.

Tribune: When will the Pac-12 Networks money kick in?

De Carolis: They broke even last year, which is pretty good for the first year. This year, they're increasing (production) from 550 to 750 live events. That helps. And they made a deal with AT&T that will generate almost $1 million per school per year. We should start to see at the end of this year a little distribution from them. The bigger question: is DirectTV going to be a part of their distribution? That could mean maybe $2 million per school per year.

Tribune: How much did you increase the football budget this year?

De Carolis: Somewhere between 15 to 18 percent. Football has been an initiative for us, between the budget and specialized fundraising. We've added a number of things within the program, including advanced technology and (additional) recruiting. We've hired undergrad interns, administrative aides for each of the assistant coaches. We've hired Jay Locey and Scott Spiegelberg within the leadership program. We're constantly investing back into football.

Tribune: And there is the Valley Center renovation project, which is ticketed for 2015.

De Carolis: We were the standard in the conference when Mike Riley came in 1997. Since then, we've grown tremendously in our football staff, plus our video staff, so we've outgrown the building. Plus, everybody else in the conference in the last four years has either built or is about to build a new football operations building. We're falling behind. When somebody builds a better mousetrap, you have to at least keep up with it. What we have now is functional, but barely. We'll gut the north end zone (of Reser Stadium), take some seats out, double the space of the locker room and the football medical center and increase the equipment room from 4,000 to 13,000 square feet. We'll create a concourse that will connect the new (east) side to the old (west) side of the stadium. There will be a new coaches' locker room, a new war room, a media room, a theater, meeting and staff rooms — everything.

Tribune: Cost of the project?

De Carolis: Between $25 million and $30 million. All fund-raised.

Tribune: Will it affect the capacity at Reser?

De Carolis: We'll lose some seats — about 1,900. When we renovate the west side, we'll pick that up and more.

Tribune: You averaged 41,370 for your first three home football games. Are you on projection?

De Carolis: Yes. I was happy with Colorado, for sure (44,279). The weather worried me. We've contracted with the students for 6,000 and gave them more, and 7,500 used them. I was encouraged by that. I think the conference has to be careful with late starts and everything being on TV. It gives people a reason not to come. We do the best we can to make it a great experience while they're here. We're opening up the Truax Center to the public before games. Some people think it's a donor-only function. There is no admission charge. Everyone is invited. We're ahead of projection, with three good games coming up.

Tribune: Where are you with OurBeaverNation membership?

De Carolis: We lost 200 to 300 this year, which is pretty consistent for a non-Civil War year. We have about 6,300 members.

Tribune: How about season football tickets?

De Carolis: We're down about 800, again consistent when the Civil War is in Eugene. We're somewhere in the 25,000 range.

Tribune: Where are you with plans to renovate Reser Stadium?

De Carolis: We're doing a feasibility study right now. We sent a survey out last month to 120 people (with season tickets) on the west side, asking if it were similar to the east side, utilizing this year's cost map, where would you want to be?

Tribune: What is the estimated cost?

De Carolis: It's $115 million in today's dollars. It will probably get up to $125 million to $130 million by the time it's completed.

Tribune: When is the project scheduled to happen?

De Carolis: Somewhere between 2019 and 2021, because of retirement of debt we're paying off for operating costs.

Tribune: Craig Robinson is beginning his sixth season as men's basketball coach, with one winning season, a 78-89 record and no NCAA or NIT tournament appearances. How are you feeling about the the program?

De Carolis: I'm hopeful they're going to turn it around this year. We were really close most every game last year. There's that proverbial question: How do you learn to get over that hump to finish those games that we let slip by last year? It's obvious we have some talent. The question is, how does that talent come together? We'll see what happens this year. I feel like he's the right guy as the coach.

Tribune: Craig has four years remaining on his contract at $5.2 million. If he suffers another losing season, could his job be in jeopardy?

De Carolis: I'm not going there. I'm not thinking that way. If it goes that way, it's a decision I'll have to make.

Tribune: You were diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 2011. How is your health?

De Carolis: Good. I'm staying with my workout program. The doctors seem happy about it. I'm going to hot yoga five days a week, doing Pilates two days a week, going to the gym six days a week. I'm trying to keep it going.

Tribune: Your contract runs through 2016, but you told me last year you'd like to go beyond that. Still feel that way?

De Carolis: Yes. I would like to open up some talks with the university about an extension — especially since we're going to try to do the stadium expansion project.

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