GW unveils 5-year plan for improving its sports
By JOSEPH WHITE AP Sports Writer
WASHINGTON (AP)—This is one George Washington idea that’s not revolutionary.
After a year of studying sports at the university named after the first president, a special committee came up with a wish list that would reflect the desires of many athletic departments around the country: more money, more winning and a deal with Nike.
The Colonials will get at least two of those three. The five-year strategic plan unveiled Friday announces more fundraising, more spending, the addition of sailing as a varsity sport and an agreement with Nike to provide uniforms and equipment for all 23 of the university’s sports teams.
Now the basketball teams just need to start winning again, at least to the point that sports fans will instantly recognize, for instance, that GW is located in the nation’s capital - and isn’t just a place for top-notch academics.
“It’s about winning,” said New York Yankees President and GW alumnus Randy Levine, the chairman of the committee. “Look at Butler. Nobody heard of Butler, really, unless you were a fan and maybe during the movie `Hoosiers.’ Or really today look at Baylor in Texas. It’s been around forever, Big 12, but nobody paid attention to it until they started winning in football and basketball.”
To win, the program needs more resources. The operating budget for GW’s teams currently ranks 13th out of the 14 Atlantic 10 schools. GW wants to move up into the top-third of the conference. Fundraising, overlooked in recent years, has been stepped up. There used to be one fundraiser working in athletics; there are now five. A new Athletic Development office has a goal to generate at least $2 million annually by its fifth year.
The money will be used for just about everything: coaching, recruiting, travel, marketing, technology, per diems. Many of the head coaches’ salaries rank at the bottom of the A-10, and in many cases the teams don’t employ the number of assistants allowed under NCAA rules.
Much of the work has already begun. The Smith Center has been renovated, and Athletic Director Patrick Nero and men’s basketball coach Mike Lonergan were hired for the two highest-profile jobs. The men’s basketball team has more television appearances this season, which should help recruiting.
It might take a while for Lonergan to turn around his program, however. His Colonials are 8-16 and have lost five straight.
“People want something to cheer for and root for,” Levine said, “and we have a plan to be executed to get all of those things to happen on a regular basis.”
Just as notable is what the committee decided not to do. GW doesn’t plan to add football. It plans to stay in the A-10. It decided not to try to save money - and deplete morale - by cutting sports. Sailing was already getting money as a club sport, so funding it as a varsity sport won’t create a significant increase in the budget.
Football was ruled out, Levine said, because the huge investment required isn’t practical at this time. He added that “everybody seemed to think the Atlantic 10 conference is the right place to be.” GW Board of Trustees Chairman W. Russell Ramsey noted the recent fallout when Maryland announced it was cutting sports teams to save money.
“It’s been about four or five months since Maryland has had to cut those sports, and it’s just a constant daily negativity,” Nero said. “It’s negativity for the students on the campus. It’s negativity for alumni. We considered that - it just wasn’t enough of a savings to make it worthwhile.”
Joseph White can be reached at http://twitter.com/JGWhiteAP