Mississippi State AD Greg Byrne got back yesterday from a three-day tour of several universities and their athletic facilities. He was joined by football coach Dan Mullen, baseball coach John Cohen, president Mark Keenum and others. The group visited (in order) Bayor, Oregon, Oregon State, Nebraska, Missouri and Arkansas.
Byrne talked about the tour and how it will help MSU as it develops a master plan for upgrading and adding to its own athletic facilities. One of the first questions that comes to mind is, why those schools?
"We tried to get to places that budgetarily were in our ballpark," Byrne said. "Nebraska and Arkansas were on the high end of that, but most schools we looked at, their budgets were in the $40-50 million range." MSU's budget for the coming fiscal year will be around $40 million.
Also, he picked the Oregon schools because of that state's similarities to Mississippi in regards to population and income levels.
Byrne said that as for MSU's "master plan" for its athletic facilities, the school is currently in negotations with a company that will help develop the plan, and once the partnership is finalized, it will be about a year before the master plan is set and ready to be put in motion.
The emphasis of this plan: connectivity. Learn that word, because Byrne will be using it a lot when addressing this subject. That, and flow. For instance, he said, "Baylor's done a very nice job with the flow of their facilities – brickwork throughout, and a constant theme."
What else did we learn from Byrne today?
• He said he's not sure what the "definite" next step would before for upgrading Davis Wade Stadium, but he'd like to look at the west side and north end, as well as the locker room.
• The basketball practice facility is awaiting design approval by the Bulldog Club board. MSU's also in final negotiations with a contractor and is finalizing a finance plan. The cost of building the facility will be $11-12 million.
• Football season ticket sales are, as of today, at 35,291 (including 10,000 student tickets).
Some other excerpts from the interview:
• On finding a unique identity, like Oregon: "Part of the thing we’re going to be working on is what we want to represent, and how we’re going to go about getting there."
• On Dudy Noble Field: "Dudy Noble certainly has the atmosphere and feel we’re so proud of and don’t want to ever lose. At the same time, too, what are our next steps with that to improve the facilities long term?"
• On Nebraska's facilities upkeep: "They do a good job of keeping things up-to-date to where things get eight, nine, 10 years (old), they’re saying, ‘OK, what’s the next step with that?’ That’s one of the things we’re working on as well with the future here."
I'll have more on this topic at a later date.