Last week, Minnesota Director of Athletics Norwood Teague unveiled a new athletic department strategic plan at a meeting of the University's Board of Regents. The proposed facilities plan is aimed at better connecting athletics facilities to the university and its neighborhoods as well as allowing the university to attract and retain talented staff.
Not long on the job, the size, scope and cost of the strategic plan turned some heads.
"More than anything, I wanted to show that we're going to be aggressive and be committed to doing the best we can and stretching ourselves all that we can to building something like this," Teague said. "Am I guaranteeing all of this is going to get done in eight years? No. But that's our goal."
If new Boston College athletic director Brad Bates is looking for a blueprint for the athletic department's own strategic plan, set to be released in "early fall," this wouldn't be a bad place to start.
I've always thought of Boston College and Minnesota as kindred athletic spirits, in a way. Both athletic departments are northern outposts in their conference. The halcyon days of each school's football and men's basketball programs are now a distant memory.* Both are short on conference championships, in part due to the fact that both school's most successful athletics programs don't play in their primary athletics conference (something that will change for Minnesota this year with the inaugural Big Ten Hockey Conference season).
It would seem to follow that Bates and Boston College athletics could stand to gain from borrowing from Teague's vision of the future of Gopher Athletics.
Phase one of Minnesota's strategic plan comes with a hefty price tag of $190 million, all of which will be privately funded. The fundraising campaign is set to last from six to eight years. Included in the first phase of the project:
-- Academic Center
-- Training Table
-- Football Complex
-- Women's Gymnastics Facility
-- Olympic Sports Indoor Practice Facility
-- Outdoor Olympic Sport Track
-- Men's/Women's Basketball Practice Facility
-- Wrestling Training Facility
A few of these sports like wrestling no longer apply, and a strategic decision needs to first be made on whether BC will continue to offer other sports in the future. What use is having an indoor track & field, tennis or baseball/softball program** when the school invests the bare minimum -- or nothing at all -- in dedicated, on-campus facilities?
Still, it's my hope that Bates is working towards a similar strategic plan in size, scope and cost for Boston College athletics.
The one area where Minnesota is way out ahead of Boston College, other than a dedicated women's ice hockey arena!, is the Gophers' football stadium. TCF Bank Stadium, the Gophers new home, opened in 2009 with a $288.5 million price tag, $86 of which was raised through a private fundraising campaign. They serve beer. The University has even begun renting out the facility for everything from weddings and bar mitzvahs to movie nights and award banquets. Minnesota has collected nearly half a million dollars in stadium rentals this fiscal year, giving the school yet another revenue stream to line the athletic department's coffers. By comparison, Boston College's Alumni Stadium is woefully behind TCF Bank Stadium and nearly every other peer school.
With BC's short-term athletics future secure with the ACC's Grant of Rights agreement and a healthy stream of revenue coming in with the ACC's newest media rights deal, it's high-time to reinvest in the product. I'm not sure Boston College can afford to fall much further behind its conference peers and similar athletics departments like Minnesota.
For more on Minnesota's strategic plan, check out The Daily Gopher.
* Minnesota claims seven National Championships and 18 Big Ten titles in football, but none as recent as 1967. The Gophers have never won the Big Ten Tournament in men's basketball (which began in 1988) and the school's most recent regular season championship came in 1982. Gophers baseball is decent, however, as far as Big Ten baseball programs go.