The 2021-22 school year is coming to an end at Oregon State, so it seemed like a good time to take stock of how things are going in the athletics department with AD Scott Barnes.
In this Q&A session with Barnes, we covered a number of topics including name/image/likeness, the transfer portal, evaluating basketball programs, Reser Stadium updates, the next major athletics capital project, and the 2023 budget.
(Answers have been slightly edited for brevity and clarity.)
The Oregonian/OregonLive: OSU has embraced name, image and likeness with efforts like wood shop. But in recent months, the NIL has become more of a tool that, in a nutshell, buys recruits. Oregon seems to be falling behind in this regard. How do you get your sponsors and fans to see this as important when you really can’t be involved in it?
Scott Barnes: When the name, image and likeness walked out of the gates on July 1st of last year, we all supported it. With that, remember what the NCAA said, that they would apply pre-registration incentives and pay for the game. The NCAA did not do this. So, it’s the wild, wild west. It’s out of control and it’s unsustainable. The NCAA is not intervening, not even to slow it down. It created chaos in college athletics.
The premise of a collective that stakeholders, donors, fans can come in and (provide) a pool of money, eg current student-athletes for name, image and likeness activities is great. Letting recruits know that when you come to our university, we have these opportunities. But what is happening is different. It feels much more like an incentive. The NCAA has suggested that this is not allowed. However, it is happening and they are not enforcing it.
How do you control NIL recruiting incentives because it looks like the NCAA isn’t going to do anything about it?
barnes: You are in a difficult and difficult circumstance when you need to rely on Congressional intervention in some ways. One is competitive equity protections and standards across the country. We use a patchwork of different rules in different states. We need to bring some national standards to this dilemma. And we need to do it in a hurry. At this point, our only opportunity may be a congressional intervention. We all know there is a lot going on around the world. So where this is a priority is the challenge. On that note, Congress showed interest but showed no action.
Regarding the rapidly evolving transfer portal, are you concerned about the current environment, good coaches will eventually raise their hands and say, “Am I out of here?”
barnes: College athletics is at an inflection point in many ways. We have to slow down this train that is out of control. What we did was pass legislation without really understanding the unintended consequences and negative impacts it had.
Things are becoming so different that leaders are asking more often, “Is this something I want to deal with?” That’s not what many people got into the business for. I was a student-athlete for a long time (basketball at Fresno State), and I shared that with our coaches. Look around the room. Most of us are where we are because of our experience as student-athletes. That was the experience we had in the collegiate model where we learned these life lessons. We are legislating some of them. It is becoming frustrating for many, and we need to deal with it.
Give us an update on the construction progress of the Reser Stadium. How long will you continue construction until it stops for the 2022 football season?
barnes: We will continue construction throughout the football season, just making sure entry and exit is clean and simple during game days. We will not work on game days. We are on schedule and on budget. We’ll have the new graphics card, which is sort of a separate project, working for the first home game. You will see a tall steel framed mound and Beaver Street which will house (the media) for the next year.
The price of renovation seems to be changing. What is it now?
barnes: We are at $160 (million) right now. It originally cost $153. Escalating costs, market conditions, led to just over $160. We raised funds to absorb all of that. Exceeding our fundraising target, originally of $85 million. We’re at $91 million and really counting. There’s a little more to do there.
When Reser ends in 2023, what will be the next big capital project?
barnes: We have in-progress, track bleachers, and we’re designing for that. We have a softball graphics card coming. We are an early project for a baseball batting building and rowing training facility. All this does not go forward without lead gifts. We are moving forward as quickly as possible as we put the fundraising plan into action and secure the gifts.
The next big project after that is a field sports building that will house all outdoor sports – football, track and field, softball. He will accommodate your needs at that location instead of having to come from Gill (Coliseum). Team meeting rooms, changing rooms, coaches, offices, all of it, a training center.
Where are things with the Gill Coliseum. Will it continue to be a series of updates or will there be a new Gill Coliseum?
barnes: We have in our facilities masterplan (10 years) a Gill renovation. Originally, when we launched the masterplan in 2018, 2019, it was two buildings. A leadership build that would move a lot of our administration and, ultimately, a total overhaul of Gill. That won’t be for the next two or three years, but well after Reser is treated.
Let’s revisit Gill. Ultimately major renovations to the basement and then focusing on fan amenities. In Gill, there are no premium seats. There is a place to go before the game and at halftime for the donors. Let’s revisit all of this. It would be the biggest kind of Gill revamp ever. This will be a huge project and more studies need to take place.
Do you have a price tag on something like this, or at least approximate value?
barnes: Saying what it would be now is difficult. In terms of reach, maybe $35-50 million. That’s not next. Let’s get on this well after we reopen the Reser.
Men’s basketball… obviously nobody liked what happened this season. Has there ever been a consideration of making a change with coach Wayne Tinkle?
Did you ask Wayne to make changes to the team?
barnes: In my career I have never forced a coach. Ultimately, it’s the coach’s responsibility to build their team. But we had long conversations about what it took to affect change. And we both agreed that changes in coaching were needed. So, we walked in that direction together.
Why do you think the men’s basketball season fell apart?
barnes: What happened, is not a thing. There are many contributing factors. They’re not excuses. The transfer portal, our inability to assess and meet recruits in person. Now everyone had the same problem, that (the recruits) could not be brought to campus. But I will say that with Wayne’s training philosophy and what he’s looking for, it’s even more important that the fit is right. Obviously we lost there. We made some mistakes. The chemistry never worked out and that is ultimately the responsibility of the coach. What was a problem in chemistry turned into availability of players. We walked out of the gates losing our starting center and point guard, and then we were down to just six scholarship students in February. We could never find that moment to turn the corner. Player availability really impacted finishing.
Those are just parts of it. The key is to peel off all the layers and how you impact the change right away. I think Wayne did a good job of looking in the mirror and evaluating the whole show.
What would be acceptable to you in the 2022-23 men’s basketball season?
barnes: I don’t normally attribute wins to progress. What I’m looking for is what made Beaver Nation proud of our athletic programs. That’s the chemistry, that’s the struggle, that mentality of killing yourself to put yourself in a position to be successful. Defining that in wins, I won’t say what that means other than on-court product, and the effort, unity and joy in how they play and how they’re coached is where my focus is.
What was your assessment of the women’s basketball season?
barnes: Obviously Scott (Rueck) isn’t happy with where we ended up, but again, we had a lot of problems. Scott has performed at an extremely high level, so expectations are really high. It kind of creates a monster, and not meeting those expectations is hard. I have great confidence in your ability to retool. In today’s panorama, we talk about the transfer portal, about name, image and likeness. We all have to adapt and make changes in how we train, how we lead, how we connect with student-athletes. I know Scott is working on it.
How are things working out on the 2023 athletics budget?
barnes: We are close and looking much better after two years of revenue shortfall. You remember, (fiscal year) 2020, we had at one point a deficit of $35 million; We’re in our 20s. This year, our projected deficit was $17 million. We’re gonna beat this. As we wrap up this year and look forward to next year, we’ll be in a place where we’re much more likely to hit our balanced budget going forward. We will be back in the black in the next two to three years.
What is the revenue projection for 2023?
barnes: Improve. You look at our football renewal rates and new tickets, we’re in a place we haven’t been since probably 2013. Baseball was great. Our concession revenue remains at an all-time high. We will try to recover men’s basketball revenue from a ticketing point of view. All in all, I’m very satisfied with the trajectory. It’s just getting back to normal, but we’re seeing growth. So you think about Reser, and not just the $91.6 million we’ve raised in philanthropy, but we have less than 20 seats available out of the 640 premium seats. Beaver Nation jumped into our premium product like no one else.
–Nick Daschel | email@example.com | @nickdaschel