Interim Athletic Director Jim Hackett and Liz Barry, special counsel to University President Mark Schlissel, discussed ideas for improving sporting venues, the recruitment process and the importance of a transparent relationship between the athletic department and students at an open forum Wednesday.
The discussion was coordinated by Central Student Government as a venue for students to bring up topics pertaining to athletics as the University transitions to a new athletic director, Warde Manuel, next year.
CSG President Cooper Charlton, an LSA senior, said the idea for the dialogue was generated last semester to insure the inclusion of student opinions on athletics decisions.
The tenure of now former Athletic Director Dave Brandon, tenure prior to Hackett, was surrounded with controversy and ended in his resignation in October 2014. During Brandon's time in the position, students spoke out against Athletic Department moves such as higher student section ticket prices, advertising campaigns that offered free tickets with Coke products and the decision to put quarterback Shane Morris back in a game with a possible concussion.
“We wanted to avoid the tumultuous situations we got into in the past,” Charlton said. “We really wanted the students to feel like they are part of the process.”
Several students in attendance offered ideas to improve student seating at various sporting events, including basketball and hockey. Currently, student sections at Yost Hockey Arena and the Crisler Center are spread out and divided across the seating space, which students said diminish from the overall bonding and excitement.
Hackett said the excitement of the student section is a vital part of the University’s sporting event experience for both students and other attendees.
“I love when we go crazy with the students,” he said. “That’s what makes me want to go to the games: to watch you. Not only does the team feed off of it but the rest of the fans do too.”
Looking at recruitment — specifically football recruitment — Hackett said the values the University was built on, such as integrity and academic excellence, are important when looking for prospective players.
“It goes without saying that the standards here are pristine in terms of integrity,” he said. “It’s a 150 year old program, and it’s the underlying values that make it great.”
The discussion of recruitment followed the University’s Signing with the Stars event earlier Wednesday for National Signing Day, which featured University alums Derek Jeter and Tom Brady.
Barry also highlighted the importance of an open route of communication between students and the athletics administration, especially with the ongoing transition from Hackett to Manuel.
She said Manuel will be willing to work with students, but that students also need to actively share their opinions on these matters.
“Warde is hard wired to be connected,” she said. “But I think this is kind of a shared responsibility. You guys reaching out is half the equation.”
CSG Vice President Steven Halperin, an LSA junior, said he appreciated the work Hackett has done during his time at the University, but is looking forward to seeing what new leadership will bring.
“He has impressed me and the rest of the student body,” he said. “We are all going to dearly miss him, but we are excited for Warde too.”