March 25, 2009

Questions for the Athletic Director on Official Visit

My daughter has an official visit coming up soon and we will be meeting with the athletic director during our visit. I want to learn about the university's commitment to the volleyball program - especially with several schools dropping volleyball recently. How nosy can I be? Can I ask for the trends in the volleyball budget over the last five years, for example (with specific numbers)? What else should we be asking of the AD?

I am impressed that you were able to schedule time with the Athletic Director during an Official Visit - Good job! Now that you have been invited in (to use a vampire term), you are free to ask any and all questions that you wish - nothing should be out of bounds because this is the future of your daughter.

I can understand your concern with the reports of NCAA athletic departments cutting women's volleyball. This in itself puzzles me because women's volleyball is a relatively inexpensive sport to fund, yet gives great return with superior graduation rates, low salaries and student-athletes that don't commit criminal acts.

First of all, be prepared for the politically correct answer to any of your questions - The majority of Athletic Directors have reached their position because they are very good at answering questions that give the correct impression, while it may not be the actual truth. For example, if you ask about the budget, the AD could rightly say, "Our Volleyball team enjoys wonderful support." Well, compared to who - a high school team? The school's rowing team? You need to be able to have a follow-up question along the lines of, "Great to hear, can you tell me where the school ranks in comparison to the rest of the conference?". If the AD says they are #8 out of 9 teams, then you know the AD was blowing sunshine at you!

Some questions that I would ask if I were a parent:

1. Does the Head Coach have a multi-year contract? If so, what is the length and what year is she/he on right now? If not, why not? I guarantee you that ZERO football and basketball coaches not on a contract at any NCAA school, so don't accept the answer that coaches don't get multi-year contracts.

2. Is the volleyball program fully staffed? This means a Head Coach and two assistant coaches. This is another indication of how well the program is supported.

3. Where does the volleyball program rank in term so budget support within the conference? If they don't know, they are not being truthful because the AD knows. If they duck this question, then ask for the exact team travel, recruiting and equipment budget amounts. Those are the big three that determine how well a team travels, how well the coaches can recruit and are the players getting enough shoes for the entire year or are they trying to stretch one pair out all year?

4. With the current economy, has the volleyball program taken a mid-fiscal year budget cut this year? If so, what was the amount? If not, will there be a budget reduction for next year? If so, what do you anticipate? These are tough questions but my feeling is that a number of schools are using the economy as a fulcrum to squeeze the budgets of athletic departments. This in turn translates to athletic directors squeezing the budgets of the Olympic Sports. In the end, the bottom line is your daughter will be affected. The safety on the football team won't be affected - He will still stay at the Hilton, airline and bus charter in and out of the game and have a late night snack delivered to their hotel room (I am not kidding), while your daughter is now taking a van instead of a bus and eating MacDonalds after matches for dinner.

5. If the facility is shared with Basektball(s), ask about how this is handled after October 15th? Some schools support equal use of the playing/practice facility when Volleyball and the Basketball(s) are all in their NCAA Traditional Season, while other schools suddenly get a case of amnesia with volleyball, who has to shift to a 6 a.m. practice time.

6. Does the Athletic Department put a priority upon the success of the volleyball program? This is an open ended question that means you will need to have a follow-up question - i.e., Does this mean the department will be increasing support, garnering sport specific donors, implementing a comprehensive marketing and promotions plan? Ask for details.

7. Is summer school funded for the volleyball team? If so, does this include classes and a room board stipend? This is becoming a serious issue for many volleyball programs which want to have student-athletes on campus over the summer for classes and lifting but get told "we don't have the funding", yet the entire incoming freshman football class and more than half the current players all receive summer school scholarships!

Those are just some thoughts about what I would ask, but don't hesitate to ask anything you feel concerned about. I promise you that when a new football or basketball coach is hired, they don't hesitate to demand anything and everything they could possible think of for the team or themselves.

Remember that you have no downside - The volleyball coach is not going to upset about you asking these questions, in fact, they will probably be cheering inside! These are questions which get volleyball coaches termed as selfish or not being team players by the AD's. But, you are just a concerned parent!

Good luck and have fun with it!!!