Can you site a few specific examples of how technology has impacted your role in recent years?
Mike Dalgety, University of the Pacific - Technology has played a role in allowing for easier benchmarking and comparative analysis of financial information among institutions. Resources such as Win AD and the NCAA Presidential Dashboards have been a benefit to our department in terms of benchmarking and strategic planning. On a personal level, technology continues to allow for greater remote access to the office. That can be both a blessing and a curse, and I’m sure many others feel the same. While it can be convenient to work from literally anywhere in the world, it is extremely difficult to ever completely get away.
John Mocek, UT Arlington – There is now a wealth of information in monitoring up-to-the minute costs and expenses within the department. Providers such as Win AD have become invaluable for us to make knowledgeable comparisons in all areas. That information makes our jobs more encompassing as we have more resources to fall back on to make informed decisions. All of this information and technology has made our SRE more precise and has allowed us to make the process of compiling and reporting this information a much easier task to the NCAA and the Department of Education.
Dallan Moody, BYU – Everyone wants the latest technology. Coaches want iPads to enhance their recruiting and training efforts. Administrators want smart phones to stay better connected when out of the office. Fans want to see games broadcast in HD or be entertained by giant video boards inside the stadium. Because technology is expensive and ever-changing, we have had to be very specific, proactive, and purposeful in our budgetary process. As we strategically anticipate technology needs, we are better able to make sure that the right technology is available and the required funding is attainable and sustainable.
Marvin Lewis, Georgia State - Technology has changed the way that I communicate and share information while increasing my overall efficiency and ability to provide accurate information in a timely fashion. With the recent purchase of an iPhone and iPad, I have been able to utilize various applications to organize my daily “to-do-list”, maintain my professional and personal calendar, take notes electronically, and share files with my staff in a “cloud” environment. As an example, I was in a meeting recently and there was a question asked of me that I couldn’t answer off the top of my head. In a matter of minutes, I was able to pull up the information on my iPad and answer the question accurately. In the past, this would have been an unanswered question that either resulted in another task on my “to-do-list”, an extra phone call, or the scheduling of another meeting.
Scott Herring, University of North Dakota – Technology has helped our administration stay more connected in a number of ways. We supplied coaches and key administrators with iPads, which makes staying connected while traveling much easier. We’ve also upgraded our online video services for our teams for sharing and editing videos of recruits and current players, which has helped us reduce hardware and software costs. Ultimately, technology makes us more efficient and provides better tools to help us do our jobs. Winthrop Intelligence is a great example. The Win AD tool has been incredibly helpful for us in recent years by giving us quick access to great data.
John Jentz, UCLA – In recent years mobile technology has created exciting opportunities for teams, and interesting challenges for CFOs. Tech-savvy employees now look to have three devices provided and supported: an office computer, a smart phone, and a tablet, which are the tools required to take advantage of today’s technological innovations. While the competitive results are measurable, so are the demands on the financial and human capital needed to provide these resources.
Describe one critical characteristic of a successful CFO?
Mike Dalgety – I can’t think of a more critical characteristic for a successful CFO to possess than integrity. In order to instill confidence and trust in an athletic department’s financial operations among departmental coaches and staff, university administration, donors, and the public, integrity is fundamental.
John Mocek – A critical characteristic of the athletic department’s CFO should be the ability to communicate and explain the budget to each sport and other leaders in the department. The CFO needs to have full knowledge of all the universities regulations, procedures, policies and practices and also be able to communicate them to the same constituents in an understandable manner. The CFO also needs to be able to explain fiscal responsibility, and present the financial plan of the department to the athletic staff and university leaders.
Dallan Moody – It’s critical for a CFO to know his audience because an athletic department has many stakeholders. A successful CFO needs to be able to effectively communicate with each type of stakeholder – whether it’s providing a high level financial summary to a university VP, giving a monthly budget update to a coach, or helping put together an annual report for donors. Because financial data can often be complex and detailed, it’s essential for a business officer to present information in an understandable format. Putting accurate and usable information into the hands of decision makers allows the department to function at its intense pace and stay financially sound.
Marvin Lewis – A successful CFO must be a great listener and problem solver. One must be able to listen to all constituents (coaches, administrators, Athletic Director, etc.) and then ask the right questions to determine the best way to resolve an issue or create a solution. A majority of the time coaches and administrators just want to know that you are listening, understanding their issues, and working hard to meet the needs of their program or area.
Scott Herring – You have to be able to relate to non-financial personnel and speak their language. Communicating effectively helps you build relationships and be helpful to non-financial staff. You also have to go beyond just providing pages of numbers and spreadsheets in order to give meaningful ideas and input to assist in strategic decision making.
John Jentz - Ethical creativity. University policies and procedures, particularly in the large public sector, weren’t designed with market-driven, multi-million dollar business enterprises in mind. Successfully resolving a compensation issue, purchase, or capital improvement often requires a creative application of policy, but must be held in check to prevent violating the intent, or worse, jeopardizing the trust of campus colleagues.
What is the next big trend you see in college athletics, and how are you preparing for it?
Mike Dalgety – All signs seem to be pointing towards the impending deregulation of at least some areas of NCAA legislation. Fortunately, our department undertook a massive effort to completely revamp our departmental policies and procedures last summer. However, as NCAA deregulation could result in an increased burden or reliance on departmental or institutional policies and procedures in the absence of prescriptive NCAA legislation, we will be revisiting our policies and procedures to make sure we are as prepared as possible for any changes that may occur at the national level.
John Mocek – The next big trend seems to be headed in the direction of allocating more resources for student-athlete welfare. These fall into the areas of academics, as more student-athletes are going to summer school and providing specific educational needs , enhanced athletic facilities, more practice time with their coaches (i.e. men’s and women’s basketball during the summer for two hours a week), a greater emphasis in strength training and nutrition and an increase in resources available to the student athlete and coaches necessary to succeed. I can see the day in the not too distant future when we hand each student-athlete a laptop for their use.
Dallan Moody – Recent media rights agreements, particularly for football, are creating record revenues for many athletic departments and conferences. Increased spending and the feeling to “keep up with the Joneses” quickly follows. Most athletic departments struggle to maintain a balanced budget, with the rate of expenses escalating quicker than the rate of revenues. Resisting the urge to outspend the competition is difficult. Accordingly, we have placed an increased emphasis on building a cash reserve as a result of several solid financial years. In addition, we have improved our ability to sometimes say “no” when prioritizing spending requests. Just because something is good doesn’t necessarily make it the best use of finite resources.
Marvin Lewis – Conference realignment has been a trend over the past couple of years and will continue to be a major item in college athletics over the next few years. For our program, moving from an FCS to an FBS conference will provide additional revenue opportunities but also increase costs. Therefore, we are currently working to build a five-year budget model that can maintain a reserve balance to fund any major one-time expenses that may arise during the transitional years of FBS.
Scott Herring – I don’t know if it’s the next big trend, it’s probably something that’s been going on for a few years now given recent economic conditions, but I think athletic departments will need to generate a higher percentage of their overall revenues, which will decrease dependence on university support and student fees. We hired a full time ticket sales person a year ago and recently finalized an agreement to partner with a third party on sponsorship sales to get us headed in that direction.
John Jentz – A renewed focus on ticket sales. An interesting byproduct of the conference media contract explosion has been the impact TV scheduling has had on home game attendance in football and basketball. Getting back to the basics of selling tickets and getting fans to attend the games have re-emerged as priorities on campuses. At UCLA, after talking to several peers and listening to potential vendors offering services, the decision was made to create an internal model with university employees. Going back to #2 above, creating market-competitive, incentive-laden administrative positions has been no easy task in a university setting.
Discuss how difficult economic conditions altered / impacted your strategy in recent years?
Mike Dalgety – Admittedly, as a private institution in California, we have been very fortunate in recent years. Overall, we are an enrollment-driven institution, and our enrollment has remained strong. As a result, we haven’t felt the same economic impact as our counterparts in the state university system. We have experienced some declines in specific sources of generated revenue, such as donor contributions, as have many institutions. In order to connect better with our donors, our development area has been transitioning from a transactional approach to giving to a more philanthropic approach whereby the impact of contributions on the lives of our student-athletes is highlighted more than benefits a donor may receive as a result of their contribution.
John Mocek – The economic downturn of the last few years has put many areas of budget planning in a holding plan with little or no growth. We have had to consistently review our financial needs in not just expenditures but to just maintain the status quo. As we developed our financial plan for the future, we made sure we did not fall back into former patterns that we could no longer tolerate. We realized quickly that with these new procedures we were now travelling on a different path of fiscal awareness, and need to maintain these practices to achieve our goals on and off the field of play.
Dallan Moody – BYU has always been a very fiscally conservative institution. During these past few years of a difficult economy, we had a long hiring freeze at the university. With an attitude of doing more with less, we were able to benefit from significant savings by going without certain positions for a time. We also froze or cut certain budget categories in a belt-tightening effort to balance our budget, and were sensitive to the economic impact on our fans when setting ticket prices. Working in a tough economy isn’t easy. Our coaches and other personnel responded well to the difficult challenges. They were invaluable in helping us reach our financial objectives. We were able to remain competitive at a high level while staying within budget each year.
Marvin Lewis – The difficult economic conditions have required us to aggressively investigate cost cutting strategies that do not noticeably diminish our brand nor impact the overall student-athlete experience. Diligent budget management has also been a priority to ensure that funds are allocated effectively and meeting the growing demands of the department.
Scott Herring – This relates to my answer to the last question, but we’ve had to learn how to sell and generate new revenue. We’ve hired a full time ticket sales associate, whereas previously we were more passive in this area. We went from taking orders to aggressively pursuing new sales opportunities. We’ve also been much more open to getting outside assistance with things like outsourced sponsorship sales. On the expense side, we haven’t made significant cuts, primarily due to our transition to D-I. However, we work directly with coaches to review the impact that every expense will have on the department and student athletes. Our goal is thoughtful, controlled growth while increasing revenue.
John Jentz – One potential upside of a difficult economy is that it seems to have created greater accountability with respect to resources. As resources become scarce, more attention is given towards how they are allocated and the results that follow; creating a foundation for a healthy discussion about priorities and future direction. At UCLA, consideration towards building a reserve in the good financial years has enabled teams to continue to win national championships in a time of economic crisis. Maintaining that philosophy, of not reinvesting every dollar received immediately, will be key to the long-term financial and competitive health of the organization.
Name one recent innovative initiative you have implemented, and discuss the impact it’s had?
Mike Dalgety – Part of my role involves overseeing our summer camps and clinics. Three years ago, in collaboration with our PacificCard Office, we were able to offer online camp enrollment and payment processing for the first time. The impact of the implementation of our online camp registration has been nothing but positive. Customers now have the convenience of a web-based enrollment mechanism, while I have access to real-time camp reporting, which also eases the burden of some camp reporting from our coaches. Together with the PacificCard Office, we are continuing to explore ways to expand our e-commerce capabilities throughout the department.
John Mocek – As we have moved from a regional conference to one that has more national exposure ( FBS / Sun Belt ), we knew we had to develop a plan that allowed us to increase our efforts in marketing and promotions, along with our needs to compete with schools who were investing more resources at the time than us . We increased our budgets, with the university’s assistance, but made sure as we added staff, resources and services, we did not lose sight on how to accomplish our goals and stay within our new financial parameters.
Dallan Moody – We have increased the transparency of the department finances so that coaches and other employees better understand our financial health. In our monthly coaches meetings we make a presentation, complete with charts and graphs, to help minimize the mystery that often enshrouds athletic department finances. We report revenues, expenses, and cash-flow, hi-lighting the good and the bad, in order to provide everyone with a clearer picture of our financial standing. When people understand the overall financial position of our organization, they are more likely to buy-in and willingly participate in helping achieve the financial goals of the department.
Marvin Lewis – More recently our department has worked with UPS representatives in conducting an inbound freight cost analysis for promotional items, equipment, and uniforms that include freight expenses. The analysis included a review of prior year invoices and determined that we could save over $100,000 by utilizing our state contracted shipping rates. This will require us to educate our staff on new processing procedures and negotiate with vendors to utilize our state UPS account, but we feel that this could be a great savings for the department moving forward.
Scott Herring – Historically we’ve provided our team budget reports at the end of each month. This caused a significant bottleneck every month to process the data and generate financial reports. It took us 2 - 3 weeks to turnaround the financial reporting every month. To streamline this, we took each team and each administrative department and divided them into 4 groups. One group receives their reports the first week of the month, the next group receives their reports the second week of the month, and so on. This spreads out the workload and drastically reduces the turnaround time to get information processed. Coaches and administrators now get financial reports back from us in 2 days, rather than 2 weeks, which means more current information in a more predictable timeframe.
John Jentz – Timely financial reports and accurate long-term projections. I view my role as being responsible for the long-term financial welfare of the program, and as such my goal is to provide coaches and administrators the tools they need to understand their piece of the financial picture, which ranges from how much is left today in the recruiting budget to what impact scheduling a certain opponent in football five years from now may have on when we decide to move forward on the next capital project. Check back with me in a year on timely financial reports; as we are exploring new approaches to take advantage of technology to improve the timeliness and usefulness of the information. As for long-term projections, not a day goes by where I do not tweak, or give consideration to tweaking, one of the many key indicators in that self-made tool created through many years of experience. As for its impact, at the end of the day, having a certain comfort level with how that report looks is what allows me to get to sleep at night.