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The Good Word

TO: Fans, Friends, and Supporters of Georgia Tech Athletics

FROM: Dan Radakovich, Georgia Tech Director of Athletics

Almost not a day goes by that you can’t read somewhere about another college athletic program making drastic budget cuts in the face of our struggling economy. I wrote in this space a few months back that here at Georgia Tech we were trying to get out ahead of the curve in taking a serious look at our budget, not only in the short term (FY ’09), but also to try to avert a potential freefall going forward into 2010.

You probably remember the frank discussion I led more than two years ago about shoring up the financial stability of our athletic program. It was at that time that we introduced our TECH Fund seat donation program, which has proven to be a steady source of support. We also set about to get a long-overdue adjustment in our annual student fee support. That too, has moved in a very positive direction. We continue to seek further support from the Institution itself. The plan we introduced in 2007 was well on the way to producing a sound financial foundation for Georgia Tech Athletics.

These basic principles remain a staple of our future and will serve us well for many years to come. But no one could have anticipated this deep recession and the spiraling downturn in our economy. You may remember that I have written and said many times, we are in no way immune to its effects. While we can’t stop the current disturbing trend, what we can do is buckle down and do everything possible to make sound decisions going forward. That is our greatest challenge.

Going back as early as the fourth quarter of 2008, we began to ask coaches and staff to curtail all but vitally necessary expenditures. We put a hold on major purchases, have stopped unnecessary travel, have adhered to a strict hiring freeze and have generally instructed everyone within our walls to operate in the most fiscally expedient manner. That includes everything up to and including the admonition I used to hear from my dad that when leaving a room – turn the lights off! I appreciate the effort our coaches have made in this regard and can honestly say we have improved our efficiency greatly.

Thanks to some good fortune and hopefully, good negotiating, FY ’09 will not be the financial shipwreck that many athletic departments are experiencing. Our newly announced partnership with ISP has been a help. So have newly improved corporate partnership deals with Russell Athletic and Coca-Cola. A one-time distribution of excess reserve funds from the ACC also has helped our bottom line. Without these enhancements, shortfalls in our 2008-09 ticket revenue and a substantial hit to our investment portfolio would have been much worse to our bottom line.

The nagging issue is how do we move forward into FY ’10 beginning in July? Clearly, life will be different around here. I have asked our senior administration to join me in scrubbing every area of our athletic program and to identify areas of savings. I have written in this space before that, as an AD, I loathe doing things just because “that’s the way we’ve always done them.” I want to continue to ask “why?” and “is there a better, more efficient way?” Or, given our current economic climate, can we sustain all of the services we provide today?

All told, we have spent dozens of hours looking for ways to operate in a sound, water-tight fiscal manner while remaining competitive in the ACC and nationally. I believe it can be done, but not without a certain amount of discomfort. The next few months will bring great change to our organization. Despite these changes, I am committed to give our student-athletes and coaches the fundamental resources necessary to compete.

I am also committed to give you, our fans and supporters, a product that you can continue to rally around and one in which you can take pride. Needless to say, our part of the equation internally is only half the battle. We need you to continue to support us in every way possible by buying our season tickets and bringing friends, colleagues, neighbors and relatives into the Georgia Tech family.

Obviously, from the tone of this column, you see that I realize the great demand on the discretionary funds of all Americans. I also realize that includes Georgia Tech fans. My utmost concern is to use your dollars in the most prudent way possible, allowing our student-athletes to receive a top-notch education and to improve in every way.

At the end of the day, Georgia Tech, like virtually every other athletic program in America, will go through a transformation in the coming months. We will be leaner and more efficient, and in some ways, a better organization for our efforts. Ultimately, the programs that emerge the strongest and most competitive will be the ones who make the right decisions — the tough decisions – and make them with the best interest of the Institution, the student-athletes and the fans at heart.

ACC TOURNAMENT TICKETS AVAILABLE
There is an opportunity this year to purchase ACC Men’s Basketball Tournament tickets that doesn’t exist most seasons. The 2009 ACC Tournament begins one week from today (Thursday, March 12th) at the Georgia Dome. Tickets are available via our website, www.ramblinwreck.com/tickets.

SENIORS CLINCH A WIN AT AMC
In men’s basketball, Georgia Tech won on Senior Day for the 11th consecutive year with a 78-68 win over NCAA-hopeful Miami Wednesday night. Senior Lewis Clinch, one of the nation’s hottest shooters, sank nine three-point field goals and scored a career-high 30 points in the win. Clinch tied a Tech record for three-pointers in an ACC game. Coach Paul Hewitt’s team closes out the regular season Saturday at Boston College (noon). Next Thursday, Tech will play the No. 5 seed in the first round of the ACC Tournament at the Georgia Dome (2:30 p.m.).

BASEBALL: ACC PLAY BEGINS FRIDAY
Ninth-ranked Georgia Tech, 6-1 overall after sweeping a double-header against Rutgers last Saturday, kicks off ACC play Friday at 4 p.m. against Maryland in Russ Chandler Stadium. The first 200 fans through the gates on Friday will receive a free Georgia Tech beanie, courtesy of The Rock. Weather should be ideal for the entire three-game series, which includes a 2 p.m. start on Saturday and a 1 p.m. first-pitch on Sunday.

SOFTBALL: STADIUM RIBBON-CUTTING IS TUESDAY
Shirley Clements Mewborn Field, Georgia Tech’s new on-campus softball stadium, will officially be dedicated Tuesday prior to the Yellow Jackets’ home opener against UT Martin. The ribbon-cutting ceremony will begin at 12:30 p.m. and first pitch is at 2 p.m. Coach Sharon Perkins’ team is hosting the Buzz Classic this weekend at the Twin Creek Complex in Woodstock, Ga. The Yellow Jackets will play Mercer, Purdue, Jacksonville State, Toledo and Western Kentucky.

MEN’S TENNIS: 1-0 IN THE ACC
After playing in front of a capacity crowd against Georgia last week in the Bill Moore Tennis Center, Coach Kenny Thorne’s men’s tennis team hit the road Wednesday and came away with a key 4-3 win at Clemson in the ACC opener. The Yellow Jackets play at Miami on Saturday, then host Florida State Monday at 2:30 p.m.

WOMEN’S TENNIS: HOME SATURDAY AND SUNDAY
Coach Bryan Shelton’s women’s tennis team, ranked fourth nationally, hosts a pair of ACC matches this weekend. The Yellow Jackets take on Miami Saturday at noon, then host Florida State Sunday at noon.

WOMEN’S BASKETBALL: AWAIT NCAA BID
Coach MaChelle Joseph’s women’s basketball team closed the regular season with three consecutive wins, including a victory on Senior Day against nationally-ranked Virginia. The Yellow Jackets earned a No. 5 seed in the ACC Tournament, where they were upset earlier today by No. 12 seed Clemson. Despite the loss, Tech should be in solid shape to receive a bid to the NCAA Tournament.

MISCELLANEOUS NOTES
Congrats to senior Jerome Miller, perhaps the nation’s best collegiate high jumper, who has been cleared to participate in all but one outdoor meet this spring… Miller unknowingly competed as an ineligible athlete during four indoor meets and was suspended for the remainder of the indoor season and the first meet of the outdoor season… the NCAA Diving Zone Championships are March 12-14 in Knoxville, Tenn. … Ed Tolentino, head tier trainer and director of development for Premier Volleyball and M-Juniors Volleyball Club in Maumee, Ohio, has been named an assistant coach at Georgia Tech, Yellow Jacket head coach Tonya Johnson announced Tuesday… volleyball four-year letterwinner Allie Niekamp is studying abroad in New Zealand this semester and she’s writing an entertaining blog on our website.

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