If you find the Board of Trustees Athletics Committee meetings as exciting as an Medieval Lit class taught by PriceWaterhouseCoopers middle managers with chest high pants, skip this blog post. I'll have my usual pregame blog post up late Friday night (or Saturday morning depending on how many $5-$6 Central Indiana Long Islands I gulp).
I happen to find these meetings interesting, if for nothing else than they act as truth serums on the department suits and coaches. It's as honest as they'll be in a public forum.
I arrived about 20 minutes late Wednesday -- school dropoff duties and I'm not making my kid cut sleep short for this. Now, if I thought someone might spike the coffee and a toga party broke out with, say, Senior VP for External Relations Sandra Gonzalez-Levy and Committee Chairman Jorge Arrizurieta leading everybody in The Wobble, different story.
I knew that wouldn't happen this morning when I saw the chairman parking seconds after I did. Each of us hustled into the Graham Center Ballroom in time to hear the end of the department report from Athletic Director Pete Garcia.
Then, it was time for the Compliance Update. This used to bring about much shame from Athletics and Compliance and uncomprehending indignation from various board members at the variety of goofups costing FIU money, athletic talent and esteem (people in the business notice).
Hank Harrawood took over in February 2014 and turned Compliance around before leaving this summer. Arrizurieta said Harrawood, now UNC-Charlotte's Director of Compliance, left FIU when his spouse got a job back in his native Carolinas. His replacement, Jessica Reo, said she's two people short in the department, but "all kids are eligible right now" after this round of certification. She also noted she's got blood tethers to the region -- her parents live in Jupiter.
After some yada, yada, yada concerning post graduate placement for student athletes and some billing issues with Baptist Hospital over athlete rehabilitation, we got the closing act: Van Wagner Sports & Entertainment's Senior VP for Collegiate Serivces Mark Donley and Executive VP for Collegiate Services Michael Palisi answering questions from the committee members. The tone of the questions could be summarized as "What are you doing with us, how are you helping us make money and how much control do we have over what you do?"
FIU's outsourced its suite, signage, naming rights, etc, and media rights sales to Van Wagner. Palisi stated that 90 percent of the FBS schools outsource this work. The company pays FIU $550,000 per year plus a percentage of what it sells. Athletics estimates it was making only $400,000 from those streams, so the guarantee alone puts more money in the department's pockets.
The figure FIU and Van Wagner throw out for the deal's worth is $9 million in revenue and savings to FIU over seven years. Palisi called the figure conservative. Under questioning from Kathleen Wilson, Donley estimated 30 percent of the $9 million is savings to FIU in staff costs and 70 percent is actual incoming revenue.
Pete Garcia said the money would go toward satisfying the yearly $900,000 to $1 million cost of attendance nut when FIU starts doing that en masse.
Donley also promised that the school will be kept fully and continuously apprised of the Van Wager folks' activities on FIU's behalf. "There will be nothing we will do, no sponsorship we will sign that the University does not have complete knowledge of."
The Committee wanted quarterly reports on Van Wagner's doings.