Spartan Nation EXCLUSIVE: MSU AD Mark Hollis
Q: Mark, good to see you again. What makes Jud Heathcote so naturally funny? Has he always been a funny guy? Is he a student of comedy?
A: I’ve gotta think it’s his looks more than anything. He says things that I think anybody else can say and they’re not humorous. But when Jud says them, it’s that dry delivery that just makes him hilarious. When you’re around him you really appreciate the loyalty and the connection that he provides to almost everybody.
Q: What about Big 10 revenue? Are we getting to a point where we’re gonna need to see more revenue sharing within the Big 10, or otherwise we may see more of a have and have nots within the Conference?
A: I think you’re gonna see continued revenue share. That’s the way this Conference was built. The beauty of that from an Athletic Director’s perspective is year in and year out it gives you some semblance to be able to keep a level budget versus having to guess what you’re gonna have based upon success of teams. I think the great thing about the way that we do our system is each school has the opportunity to drive revenues through their ticket sales above a certain threshold. The other thing we’re watching closely is this past year for the first time our revenues from television super-ceded that from the gates. It’s kind of something that we wanna watch and continue to watch. Fans in the stands are our number one priority but the revenues that are coming in very strong from television… As you make your decisions you have to be aware that those are two very different audiences and you have to deliver the best that you can from a fan amenity. That’s why we at Michigan State are going through the process right now of working with Disney, of talking with fans, of doing customer surveys on what’s important. Right down to what kind of food do you like to how comfortable are you in the stands. We’re gonna have to address issues over the next ten years that respond to some of those. The most obvious one was removal of the gas tank that’s under the stadium that’s been there since the stadium was built, frankly, as a motor pool facility. But with Homeland Security and safety… That’s something that Athletics stepped forward and said, We need this moved. We’ll pay for the removal. And that’s being done this summer.
Q: What else is going on at the stadium this summer that fans may look forward to come fall?
A: This June we’re going to the Board and anticipate approval of a facility on the north end zone. It’s one of those that’s difficult to raise money for because it’s operational in orientation, yet so critical to the future of our football program. That’s what we’re trying to send that message and many folks have stepped up. But it incorporates locker rooms for the home and visiting teams that haven’t been improved since the 60’s. You’re looking at a facility that has a media center versus the trailers that we pull in for press conferences. And it also touches the fans with concession improvements, with restroom improvements, and a recruiting facility that will kinda be an engagement center for all 25 sports that we currently have at Michigan State, to come in and talk to the AD, talk to the President, interact with prospects from other sports and really welcome them into the family as a prospect even before they make that commitment to become officially a Spartan.
Q: Did you watch the Masters this year? Did you see what happened to Tiger Woods on Friday? Do you think he should have disqualified himself or done anything different?
A: Jim Reinhart is a Spartan and is on the rules and he was one of the two guys making the ruling. I think they handled it perfectly. I think it was done the right way. I think as you walk through and you look at the decision making at any point in time things were done the right way. My daughter’s middle name is Augusta, so yes I watch the Masters every year. She’s 18 years old. I’ve been a fan of that event. But specific to Tiger’s situation I thought the Club, based on the information they had at any point in time… And I think it’s good that fans were interacting, watching it on television or watching it in person, that information is coming in. I think that’s a new world that we live in. We do the same on the NCAA Basketball Committee where we pull information from spectators and fans, and gather as much information. I think Tiger handled it the right way and I think the Augusta Committee handled it the right way.
Q: We are about 5 hours or so away from the low country. Any chance we may see another Spartan basketball game on an aircraft carrier? And if so, in the low country?
A: I don’t think on a carrier. The challenge of doing the aircraft carrier games in the east is your time and the condensation that can form on courts. That’s one of the reasons we chose to move from Mayport in Jacksonville to San Diego, was we could start the game earlier at the local time while still having a national prominence with an evening game on the east coast. We did that with a purpose and a reason. We’re looking right now… If you look at our track record, we do things once and then we kind of move on to what’s the next thing. There’s a lot of causes out there. There’s a lot of causes yet to be determined. One is in Greece, partially because of the Spartan name and partially because it’s a country that needs to be rejuvenated. If Michigan State can go back to Sparta, go back to the ancient Olympic stadium in Athens, I think that would be a pretty special event. I think it would be special to incorporate USC so you would have the Spartans and the Trojans playing a basketball game outside under the Parthenon. That’s one we’re looking at for a memory-maker for the student athletes. But there’s others along the way that we’ll continue to try and hit things for the right treason and continue to promote Michigan State and the sports that we have.