Monday, August 28, 2017

SCU Athletics - The Co$t to Becoming National

Got $100,000,000?  Please call Renee Baumgartner ASAP!

That's a good number.  Openers.  My estimate to endow a national level Men's Basketball program to be perennial NCAA tourney candidates. 

At SCU's current endowment payout rate, that's another $4.25 Mil per year to fuel a MBB program in catch up mode in the WCC.  Add that to the current budget growth targets and you've got a top 20 budget in the $9 Mil range and more "buttons" to push to sustain national.

I told you last article to bring your "tums!"

Some examples:  As of July 2016* 

SCU Men's Basketball Budget:  $3.34M,  WCC Rank:  6th
Gonzaga:  $7.3 M  
BYU:  $6.1 M  
USF:  $4.2 M

SCU Basketball Revenues:  $3.9 M
Gonzaga:  $12.1 M  
St. Mary's:  $4.25 M

SCU Operating Expenses:  $340K, Rank:  6th
Gonzaga:  $1.5 M
St. Mary's:  $440K

Spending more doesn't always get you more wins, but you must have a budget that can create opportunities to succeed.  Sources inside SCU athletics are adamant that budgets are seeing "substantial" growth now and going forward.

“We’re going to treat this as a top-20 program,” Baumgartner said. “Coach Sendek will have the resources to be successful.”

Everything is moving from lean to buffed up - staff, facilities, marketing, and most important - culture. Whining is out, doing is in.  Excuses are out - execution is in.  This is a major rebuild for a program anxious to shed the "mid-major" label with a plan to get us to the "dance" floor.

The budget growth in Athletics is a real leadership test at the top levels in the President's Council and Trustees.  Budgets in some areas like the Leavey School of Business and School of Engineering are shrinking due to fewer students enrolling vs budgeted in those schools.**

As season ticket holders, we think that SCU is "printing" money through operations, donations, and endowment.  Not so.  While major donations have been a big help, they don't offset the voracious appetite and need for financial aid.  A $900 M endowment seems like a deep pockets source of cash.  It isn't. Everybody wants more, but there's "less" more to go around.

Endowments have restricted funds and when donors give, their expectation is that the donation lasts forever.  Using SCU's current endowment payout rate of about 4.2%, that's only $38 M for scholarships on a total University FY '18 operations budget of $469 M or 8%.  Small.  Even more daunting, the planned financial aid for FY 2018 is estimated to be $100 M.  


Athletics is targeted to receive 3% of endowment for non- scholarship financial aid, $1-$1.5 M for a Leavey face-lift (interior work is mostly complete).  There's $20 M in capital project money slated for facilities through 2019.

In addition, there is finally some decent budget for game guarantees.  Want to play a Pac-12 or Power 5 level team?  Either you get lucky with a home and home; no cash changing hands or it's "show me the money." Game guarantees is what St. Mary's has used for the past 5 years to "pump" their RPI by bringing in opponents with a decent ranking that they know they can beat.  

All of the above was conceived in 2014 as part of the Santa Clara 2020 strategic plan, goal # 6; "Excellence in Intercollegiate Athletics" as a key driver of enhancing our national reputation.

SCU students have yet to buy in to the increased focus and money for Athletics.  They're not old enough to have experienced the past 20 years of an athletics program adrift.  

Fewer students choose Santa Clara for it's athletic reputation and therefore are unaware of it's potential impact on everything.  

Back in 1999, Gonzaga took a different approach.  National Men's Basketball success catapulted the Zags to higher rankings; not just in MBB, but academics as well.  

It's not a coincidence that their regional Forbes top University ranking has risen to #4, or better, in the West for the past 18 consecutive years mirroring their NCAA tournament run.  In fact, their Engineering school and Applied Science is ranked #28 in the nation.  BTW, SCU's regional Forbes ranking is #2.  
You can read about it with this link. 

Frankly, I gag when I read this stuff.  

BUT, at least our MBB train has left the station after nine years of ignominity and twenty-one years of being wallflowers - no dances.  There are stated goals.  National in MBB.  For the first time, those goals are being directed and driven from the top - the President, Trustees, quarterbacked by Renee and orchestrated by Coach Sendek.   That's a team we've never fielded for Athletics.

The make-over will take time.  Probably more time than season ticket holders and fans want after so much angst.  That's OK.   Angst, impatience, and some paranoia is good.  Like a wild horse in the corral who just wants to bust out...

Maybe not this season or next.  But when that Bronco busts out, the rough riders, season ticket holders, fans, and alums will finally have a "horse" in the race to National.

$100 M or 46,000 Bitcoins.  Send via a check, Apple Pay, or Paypal.

* Pre - Coach Sendek.  The above numbers are sourced from 2 national education data collection foundations that collect information submitted by the Universities each fiscal year.  The numbers are representative but may not include other revenues and expenses.  For example coaches salaries are usually not in the operating budget or expenses. 
** Enrollment in the School of Business and Engineering continues to grow - yet short of actual budgeted targets.

Monday, June 19, 2017

SCU Athletic Director Renee Baumgartner Recaps Major Sports

Athletic Director Renee Baumgartner will be two years into the A.D. job within the month.   I recently had a chance to get her perspective and outlook for the future of major sports.

The new P.R. mantra for athletics is "Stampede Ahead," yet the season's results indicate that while there's a lot of action and commotion going on in the Bronco Corral, the Stampede has yet to break out.

In 2016-17,  SCU major sports produced some major highs and some major disappointments.  

Within the "major" marquee sports - Men's Basketball, Women's Soccer, and Women's Volleyball had strong seasons; all things considered.  

In coach Sendek's first season, MBB showed coaching and connecting with players matters.  After key injuries broke out, it would have been easy to pack it in.  No one did.  They were year over year + 6 in wins including over Valpo on the road and a BYU blowout at home gave fans tangible evidence that the program is on the way up.

Women's Soccer just kept on rolling.  They sent #1 ranked Stanford packing in the post season on the way to the NCAA Elite 8 where Georgetown ended their run.  They also beat the eventual NCAA champion, USC.   Final ranking #12.

Women's Volleyball got off to a hot 9-0 start, then was "spiked" by injuries, but still finished with a wining season.  Coach Wallace has 13 NCAA appearances in 18 seasons - a proven winner.

Women's Basketball hung tight in the WCC at 9-9 in Coach Carr's first season.  

In Men's Soccer, the year just never came together, but the program has been a solid NCAA level team. Their most recent appearance was in 2015.

The major outliers were Men's Baseball and Women's Softball.
Both had another in a string of poor seasons and now both coaching positions are open.

Right up front in our conversation about things that need to get better, Renee said, "we have to change the culture about athletics across the board, both inside and outside the department."
Net, net this means coaches will be given resources and expected to compete for WCC titles and NCAA berths.  Witness the coaching changes being made in Baseball and Softball.

This culture change inside the department is palpable.  Since starting the Bucking Bronco, I've rarely heard coaches or athletic department staff say specifically "we need to get better" when it comes to a major sport. If they said it, was an "off the record" quote.  Not now.  

For season ticket holders, fans, students, alums, Trustees and the Administration it's about "buy in."

The Sr. Administration and Trustees are in and have ponied up, but the rest of the above list, to use a poker analogy, wants to "check" before raising to see if SCU is bluffing or has the cards to go national.

When asked about the appetite for continued funding for Athletics among the senior administration, Renee said, "there's been no backing off the commitment to go national."

Now that doesn't necessarily mean there's a pile of cash waiting to be spent.  Let's be real.  

Budgets are growing.  Sources show our Athletics' budget was about $21.6 M in FY 2016.  Better.  Even more important, we are closing the gap on the athletic scholarship deficit with our peers in the WCC for our other sports like M/W Golf. 

My next article will probe DEEP into the numbers so we all can digest the magnitude of the road ahead.  Bring your "tums."

For now, in major sports, we're making major investments.  In Silicon Valley parlance, seed funding.  The $$ are flowing, evidenced by a sizable line item allocation in a recent budget for Athletics master plan funding.  The vital signs of a rising Athletics' program that was once on life support is steadily improving.  

The bigger challenge remains:  how to resuscitate the students, alums, and fan base to, in poker terms stop "checking" and raise their stakes to again believe we can be national.   The below article in the student newspaper is telling.

As Renee says, "culture change" is difficult.  IMHO, the "Stampede" will happen when we reach the inflection point fueled by sustained major sports' success, in particular Men's Basketball, and students, fans, showing the same pride for Athletics as they do for Academics. 

That's when the "horses" will be out of the barn!

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Saturday, May 13, 2017

SCU Men's Basketball - It's Time for Major R & R

One of Coach Sendek's most important team goals is learning.  

The 2016-17 season was the first chapter in what we hope becomes the story of SCU Men's Basketball returning to national relevance.

So, what did we learn from that first chapter? 

We have a proven coach and a staff that develops players and can win despite LOTS of obstacles.   The days of "O-fer" are "O-ver."

Gonzaga's run for the NCAA title was great for the WCC, but also laid bare how far we have to climb to erase 20 years of a lack of inertia and oh, of course, investment.

So, it's time for Major NOT Mid-Major R & R!



And to do that, we have to Recruit...

This will be Coach's first incoming class.  Currently there are four players committed; three underclassmen and a graduate transfer from Princeton.  With the departures of Tony Lewis and Akil Douglas, two spots are open.  

Here's what Coach Sendek told me about the recruits.  To view their video package, please click on the provided links.

Shaquille Walters 6'5: "he's long, athletic, very quick, can shoot from range, slash and finish, and we loved his feel for the game."

Josip Vrankic 6-9: "very versatile, strong Bball I.Q. and a great passer.  Can play lots of spots on the floor."    

Matt Turner - 6'3: "a premier shooter, can also slash, and we love his competitive spirit."

Henry Caruso - 6'4: Transfer from Princeton
"Princeton was one of the best stories of the season, winning 22 games and nearly upsetting Notre Dame in the NCAA Tournament.  The crazy part is it happened without Caruso.  The 6-4 wing led the team in scoring (15 ppg) and rebounding (6.2 rpg) in 2015-16, but a foot injury cost him most of the 2016-17 season."*

BTW, he shoots it at 52% from 2pt and 45% from 3pt for an EFG%** of over 58%.  Translation - a much needed offensive boost.

Mid Major Madness comments Re:  SCU Recruits:
“Two three-star guards that turned down Power Five’s could make an instant impact for the Broncos in Matt Turner (offered by Seton Hall, Pitt, Virginia Tech) and Shaquille Walteres (offered by Arizona state).  Turner is a combo guard that can shoot it with the best of them, while Walters is a 6’6 English wing that is still growing into his game.  Canadian Josip Vrankic started for the U18 FIBA Americas runner-up team.  The Combo forward has a ton of upside to his game.”

It's nice to see our newcomers getting some good "ink."  What's really nice is that the staff has been able to get recruits who could have an impact NOW.  On paper, a MAJOR upgrade.

More good news is we have up to six open spots for 2018-19. Replenish, Recharge, and by 2019-20, hopefully, be Reckoned with.

While, my confidence level is high that the coaches will reinvigorate SCU "on" the court, we all still have major work to reinvigorate and re-engage the SCU fan base "off" the floor.

This may be the bigger of the two challenges.

Just as we've lost our way on the court for the past decade or so, we've also lost our way, our voice, and pride off the court.  Fans, season ticket holders, students, faculty, alums, the community near SCU, have forgotten what it's like to have something to cheer about.

It's like we've become a bunch of Eeyores.  We're "conditioned" to expect mediocrity, afraid to stand up and be heard.  A "doubting Thomas" syndrome.

Pride is a tough thing to lose and hard to get back.

It takes not just courage, but BELIEF.

You know, the coaches and players feel it.  The team always plays hard, but they'll play even harder if they feel we've got their backs by making noise and creating a "home court" culture like we had in the Awtrey, Ogden era.  When it meant something to be a Bronco and teams coming to our home court (The Civic) knew they would face a tough team and oppressive fans in their face...

We all have R & R to do.  This is our part of the "learning" process that Coach teaches:  to learn to trust and believe.

To become Bronco's again.  Loud, rough, impatient, and hard to handle; both on the floor and in the stands...

* Source:  Mid-Major Madness
** EFG% - Effective FG % takes into consideration the extra value (50%) of 3pt shots made in addition to 2pt shots.

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Tuesday, April 4, 2017

SCU's MBB Coach Herb Sendek's - Season Recap

Before I met with coach Sendek, I did my homework.  I looked at comparative statistics from so many angles you'd need a Geometry whiz to figure all the intersections.

Problem was, I met with coach "Zendek" vs coach Sendek.  I mean, I was all puffed up ready to recite stat after stat, but after my opening question, It was apparent none of it mattered. 

It wasn't a full Phil Jackson Zen, but it was definitely Yoda-like.

I asked, "What insights do you take away from the season statistics that you felt were most important?"  Coach Sendek, "we don't really focus on "a" stat or two, rather we focus on the process and our goals to learn, improve, connect, and to serve." 

So, the year to year improvement in seven major statistical categories, wasn't a source of pride among the players and coaches?
"Whenever you see the process work and players improve it's a rewarding experience. We spend a great deal of time on how we can make each individual player better and become a better teammate."  


But, what about wins and losses?  A six game win improvement and a five game WCC improvement?  And, how were you able to get there with so many key injuries?  What about beating Valpo on the road and BYU at home?  What about the obvious improvement in Nate, Jarvis, and "E"?  What about? What about? What about?

Same answer.  With an adder, "in a season you experience some joy and a few thrills.  You know there is a difference."  Are you kidding me?

So, I had to bite.  Joy is connecting with the players and seeing the team and a player rewarded for the effort and commitment to getting better.  Beating BYU and Vandy - those were thrills.  

Ok.  I kept trying.  Then how do you deal with the stark inconsistencies of athletic performance?  You blow out BYU making everything and then lose to San Jose State shooting less than 29%?

Sendek, "that's sports, at any level, it happens. When we shoot the lights out, we're the best coaching staff you can imagine.  When we can make a thing, well, we're not very good.  But we don't focus on making shots."  Excuse me?  

Now I'm looking around to be sure I'm in the Men's Basketball offices....

There's more.  "No player wants to miss a shot.  We can't control if any player is going to make the shot.  What we can control in practices is their shot preparation, making sure that we do everything to get the right player a good shot."  

That's the long and short of it all.  Working within the process on what the coaches can control.  Don't get me wrong.  This "process" is very detailed.  EVERY aspect of every player is constantly evaluated and refined.  

Nate shot zero three point shots the prior season, Jarvis one.  "E" shot 42% from the floor and 41% from the FT line in 2015-16.
In 2016-17, Nate shot 117 - 3's making 42%, Jarvis shot 52 making 37%.  "E" shot 56% from the floor and 55% from the FT line.   

I HAD to get some stats in here.....

Why?  You  guessed it -  the process. They learned and improved.  Confidence builds.  Not only did they shoot more, but did so with no hesitation when they had the opportunity.  No head hanging.

It's why players buy in and why they will want to come to SCU.  It's also why we survived so many injuries and still competed and won more games.  Players know the coaches are truly there for them.  

SO, When will we be challenging for the top of the WCC, I asked?

By now, you know the answer.  "When the process and the players come together and take us there."  

Phil Jackson says, "The most we can hope for is to create the best possible conditions for success, then let go of the outcome."

Or we can go full Yoda. "Do or do not, there is no try."

Or John Wooden. "Don't let what you can't do interfere with what you can do."

All the stat geeks will, of course measure the outcome. Rightfully so. 

Wow, I too have a lot of learning ahead. I better get with the "process." Unfortunately, I'm still too old school and have to go "anti zen" and take the mantra of the great Papa John's credo. Instead of better ingredients, better pizza, Papa John's.

How about, better players, better process, better Broncos!
There you have it....

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Monday, March 6, 2017

SCU MBB vs Gonzaga - "4" of a Kind is Tough to Beat

The Vegas odds of beating 4 of a kind in a five card poker hand are astronomical.*   That's the "hand" the Broncos face tonight against the Zags.  Only two things top 4 of a kind; a straight flush or royal flush.

For the "straight flush" to get it done, the Broncos will need not only our #1, 2 and 3 positions to go off, but get a huge "draw" from the 4 and 5 positions to stop the pounding in the middle from the Zags.

The Zags have a two-way "4" of a kind.

Their first "4" of a kind?  Their 4 bigs.  In our previous two meetings, they are 34-53 (64%) from kick in range and hold a 9 point free throw advantage vs ours.  

Their second "4" of a kind, their 4 guards.  They shoot it at 45% and can defend, drive, dish, or finish.  

It's a stacked deck.....I guess that's why they're ranked #4 in the nation.  

More 4's...

We are the WCC #4 seed, playing a nationally ranked #4.  I just wish the game was at 4:00 - cosmic karma!!!

Even though the odds are long, it CAN be done.  Gonzaga just lost to BYU in the Kennel.  In the last two minutes of that game, the "dogs" played with their tails between their legs:  soft.  

We beat BYU and they know it.  Mark Few may believe the burden of the NCAA  #1 ranking may have made them "roll over" against BYU. 

It does cast some doubt in their minds.  Our win against BYU was no bluff; it was solid.  We will need all of that tonight.

I hope it's like the 2015 World Series of Poker; where an unknown high school football coach, Jeff Tomlinson, took down the best poker pros in the world.  Down 3:1 in total chip count in the finals, he turned the game upside down to win; not bluffing once.  He just played his hands.  

The Zags biggest fear is "which" SCU team will they play.  If we play like the team that rolled Pepperdine and BYU shooting lights out, our odds drastically improve.  IF, we can get them to the last two minutes with us tied or slightly ahead, we might see them "whimper" from being challenged.  

That could put us in the position for a Jared "Royal Flush" finishing shot as he's proven he can do...

Game on.   Our Deal...

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* Odds of beating 4 of a kind in 5 card poker: 1 in 72,193 with a Straight Flush or 1 in 649,740 with a Royal Flush.

Friday, March 3, 2017

SCU Men's Basketball & the WCC Tourney - Unfinished Business

Before the season started, I went on record as saying a 16-15 regular season record would put us on "schedule" to start our going national ambitions.  

Well, 16-15 is was.  Improvement?  Certainly.  Given all the changes in new staff, system, culture, and injuries with the same roster, a progression.  You can read the October prediction using the link below.  

Maybe it's just me, but I'm not happy.  

I hope the coaches feel the same way...


Because, for the first time in nearly a decade, we witnessed a team with real potential.  It was at the same time exciting and frustrating. We "saw" the emergence of players unshackled by the former system; doing things we never knew they could do.  It made us want MORE.
A team that blew out a hot Pepperdine team.  Beat Valpo and BYU for the first time.  Then went off the rails in stinging losses to SJS, USD, LMU, and @ Washington State.  

I'm just gonna say it:  20 wins was there to do; even with all the injuries.  After beating BYU, I think it got in our team's heads.  "It" meaning the dreaded "E" = expectations.  A load they're not used to and TBH = didn't handle well.

So, I'm sayin' there's unfinished business.  We're not going to win the WCC tourney this year.  However, sending the Dons packing in our first round would be getting some season "ownage" and be crushing to a team that has NIT hopes.  Unfinished business.

If we down the Dons, then we meet the "semi" in the semis - Gonzaga.  They have a truckload of talent and now something to prove after letting a weakened BYU team off the hook in the last two minutes in Spokane. Getting another shot at the Zags and playing them close would send another message - we're coming up!

Maybe not to the top next year, but better, higher.  Maybe we'll become the "dog whisperers" who show the Dogs who's in charge...

Unfinished business...

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Friday, February 17, 2017

SCU Men's Basketball - Winning Numbers

Everybody likes winning numbers; whether it's a Power Ball Lotto, raffle, super bowl pool or SCU Men's Basketball.  

Stat rats analyze every nuance of game numbers to predict wins or losses.  There's SO much data out there that gets massaged to evaluate, rank and, in the end, select at-large teams to the NCAA tournament.  

IMHO, most of "statisphere" predictions are not only wrong, but irrelevant.  

Just ask St. Mary's with their NCAA snub last year.  The data (a convoluted strength of schedule formula) said "maybe."  Their win percentage was booyah.  In the end, it was the 'humans" that didn't like the WCC - in some national circles labeled the "Weak Coast Conference."  

"Blue" nearly always gets the NCAA nod.  Think, Duke, Kansas, North Carolina, Kentucky and UCLA.  The Gaels wear some blue, but aren't in the "blue blood" lineage.  

Or, fathom this year's WCC upsets when the "stats" would predict a convincing win that became losses.  BYU losing to us, San Diego, and Pepperdine after blowout home wins.

There's so much focus on stats and number of wins that we overlook the human element in deciding games on the floor.  More specifically, the situational standard deviation of athletic performance.  

All of us have lamented, "how can we play so poorly one night and like basketball savants the next?" Imagine Pepperdine last Thursday night coming into Leavey, brimming with confidence after beating BYU and having more players healthy.  They were swept away by a tsunami of 22 three pointers and a 75% first half shooting percentage!  Try to find that on a stat sheet for SCU who ranks 7th in shooting in the WCC.  

For SCU Men's Basketball, you don't need IBM's "Watson" to figure it out.  Just think C + T + D = W's.

That's a winning formula for the top teams in the NCAA and the WCC.  

OK quants, have a field day with this one.

Consistency + Talent + Depth = Wins

Consistency:  they shoot, defend, at a high level most every night.
Talent:  they get players who can perform to the formula.
Depth:  they go 8 - 9 deep, sharing minutes without a huge drop off.
All of the above, with a small standard deviation game to game.

The Zags and St. Mary's have it.  

Compare the Zags vs SCU using the formula?  
The Zags shoot it at +10%, have a roster of four potential pros, go nine deep vs six and with a -10 minutes/player average.  That's not a gap, it's a chasm.  Imagine Jared's play with an extra 103 minutes of rest!
This is what top level, per game, winning numbers look like:

FG 52%, 3PFG 38%, Off. PPP* 1.12, Poss/Game 73

St. Mary's
FG 49%, 3PFG 39%, Off. PPP* 1.12, Poss/Game 62

FG 42%, 3PFG 36%, Off. PPP* 1.0, Poss/Game 66

If we shot the same field goal percentage as the Zags, that's 130 MORE shots we would have made.  BIG.

Our C + T + D has yielded 15 wins so far.  Not being negative here, but this is not Coach Sendek's and his staff's team.  It is the same roster as last season; hampered by season long key injuries.  The major C for us this season is not the consistency C; it's Coaching.

The "learning" that we've heard so much about is happening.  The strides are visible.  One piece of evidence: Emmanuel or "E." Always athletic, now he is becoming a basketball player.  

The other C  - Consistency - has been illusive.  The highs have produced two signature wins and the lows a few head-scratching losses.  Our range differential in "off" night shooting percentages to "on" nights needs to be less than 8; not 15%.  

Learning is contagious.  As the players are learning skills to be more consistent, we as season ticket holders and fans are learning that the resuscitation of our MBB program is real and has begun. This coaching staff has a history of producing winning numbers and is moving the needle up.

Chapter one is nearly complete and the story is developing.  Our odds of hitting the winning numbers to become contenders is improving.  Now, in the stands, heads are up.  There is more chatter, banter, and even a little more Cheering vs Complaining.  

And that's a C that's been missing from the formula for a very long time!

* Off PPP = Offensive points per possession.  
* Poss/Game = Number of possessions per game