The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

SMU Athletic director discusses move to Big East

As SMU prepares to join the Big East Conference, athletic officials are pushing to get attendance numbers higher, build the brand of the university, create a better fan experience and generate revenue, athletic director Steve Orsini told a faculty group on Wednesday.

Orsini, who spoke at an SMU Faculty Club luncheon, said joining the Big East is the school’s “biggest accomplishment to date,” not only because it offers increased exposure and financial benefits, but because it secures SMU a spot in the top tier of NCAA Division I Football Subdivision teams.

According to Orsini, being a member of the Big East stabilizes SMU at the highest level of competition in the nation from now on.

“[The Big East] doesn’t kick people out,” Orsini said. “I call it the ‘Old Men’s Club.’ They don’t kick people out unless you really do something wrong, and we don’t plan on doing something wrong.”

Temple University, however, was kicked out of the conference in 2004 because of its lack of attendance at football games. Knowing this, the athletic department changed its priorities after SMU was accepted as a member in the Big East — replacing generating more revenue with increasing attendance as its number one objective.

Orsini feels increasing attendance will help better represent SMU.

“SMU isn’t a place that people don’t want to come and check out, so we want that reflected in our crowds,” he said. “And yes, I want that home-court or home-field advantage because we want to win more because that projects the image of excellence, which is what SMU stands for.”

According to Orsini, joining the Big East was a strategic move led by President R. Gerald Turner and the board of trustees to help brand the university from coast to coast.

The Big East includes teams from all over the nation, making it the first truly national conference. Orsini believes this will be beneficial because teams will be traveling to target markets for prospective future students, faculty and staff, which will help better promote the university. Orsini also announced that the university has a $40 million renovation planned for Moody Coliseum to enable fans to have a better experience at basketball games.

Orsini also shared information about the future of college athletics and the NCAA as a whole. He mentioned recent reforms created by NCAA President Mark Emmert surrounding the legislation and enforcement of NCAA rules. According to Orsini, the NCAA is focused on creating academic reform by adopting a more stringent admissions process that will require universities to enroll student athletes with the ability to be successful in the classroom, not just on the field.

He also talked about the NCAA’s mission to enhance the welfare of student athletes. Scholarships for student athletes have recently been changed to multi-year scholarships that guarantee financial aid until graduation. In the past, student athletes had one-year renewable agreements. According to Orsini, there is also talk about giving student athletes a $2,000 a year stipend in addition to a full scholarship to help cover the total cost of attendance. Orsini said it is important to address the economics of college athletics today, especially when it comes to supporting the student athletes who need financial aid.

According to Orsini, the athletic department has an approved budget from the university of a supplemented $12 million for student athlete financial aid. There are 460 student athletes at SMU.  

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