Friday, October 29, 2010

The Quote Machine Strikes Again

During the first intermission of Penn State's 7-3 win against Liberty Thursday night, Steve Penstone interviewed Hockey Czar Joe Battista, as well as former Club Sports Director Vance McCullough (interview starts 50:20 in). Here are a few highlights, starting with Battista.

On whether he's focusing on large or small gifts to meet the goal of raising and additional $10 million to help finance the Pegula Center and scholarships:
"Well, we take 'em all. [Laughter] When it's all said and done obviously, it'll be easier to go after as many of the major gifts prospects as you can, and we'll have a plan in place to allow people that want to give - can't do it at the seven-figure level, but still want to be involved, and I don't think anybody out there that's supported the program should think 'well, my little bit isn't going to make a difference,' but I think a lot of people don't realize that the way our system works for pledges, you can give over a five-year period. So you can pledge X amount of dollars over a five-year period, people that are retired can do estate gifts...obviously we've got a core base of fans here that absolutely loves the game. I think if you haven't been turned on to hockey, once they see the building, once they start to feel the atmosphere of that Big Ten hockey, they're going to fall in love with the sport. Because it's essentially, in its simplest form, it's wrestling, football, soccer, lacrosse...all combined."
Gotta love Battista. As always, he'll answer your question and give you the answers to about eight more you didn't even think to ask. Back in the day, I'd be able to get enough material for about three articles by saying all of six words. And does anyone doubt that he has $10 million more in fundraising up his sleeve?

Did he let something slip regarding the Big Ten? Probably not, when putting it together with what he just told the Duluth News Tribune.

On the arena progress:
"November 4th is when we interview the three finalists for the architect, and then we'll be just a couple weeks later looking to pick the construction management group, and that's not typical, because normally there's a design period, and then you hire the construction team."

"We've got tons and tons of pages of notes and over a thousand pictures [from visits to other facilities around the country]...and we're not going to have the biggest arena in the country, but we're going to do our darndest to build the best arena in the country."
A flaw in the recording chopped out about 20 seconds between those two paragraphs, but I think the gist of it is intact. It's great to hear things are moving along, and even better to hear the amount of work being put into ensuring that the Pegula Center is the best facility anywhere.

On the head coach search and timeline:
"There'll be an open, national search. [It's not begun yet?] No, and we will, in all likelihood, hire a national search firm to narrow the list down. We're going to give a lot of thought to what is it that we think is most important, and I believe in my heart that the single most important thing at the college level is the ability to recruit athletes - student-athletes. Because we're going to expect things a little different here, we gotta bring in the kind of kid that can handle the Penn State academic rigors and still excel at the Division I level, and I think fans would say that we'd all be disappointed if a coach came in and tried to cut corners and take shortcuts, and it's our job as the stewards of the program to make sure that doesn't happen. We're going to start this process probably in late February, that way coaches will be able to consider it, but we're going to wait until late April or May to actually make our decision, so we can include potential coaches that are either in the Frozen Four, or maybe even in the NHL, you never know."
NHL coach, eh? Interesting...

It's hard to use graduation rates in college hockey to measure emphasis on academics, since hockey loses a ton of players early to pro careers, especially at the highest levels. But Mark Johnson's Wisconsin women's team posted a 100% GSR in the recently-released 2003 cohort data. Just sayin'.

On a related note, McCullough fielded a question asking whether there was concern about players leaving early for professional careers:
"With this being a start-up program, I don't think there's any real danger of that right off the bat. They're going to ramp the scholarships up relatively slowly. It's not like we're going to bring in 17 kids right off the bat. So I think there will be a developmental phase for this team...there are maybe going to be hard knocks on the way on the ice, but I think they'll reach their potential and be among the great Penn State teams."
Maybe I'm naive, but this was actually news to me - I wasn't sure how we were going to handle bringing in a roster full of NCAA-caliber players. I just hope that a perception of the first couple years being throwaways doesn't result from that approach and damage the initial recruiting efforts.

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