The Times West Virginian

June 18, 2014

FSU AD Tim McNeely reflects on first full year

By John Veasey
Times West Virginian

FAIRMONT — Fairmont State University’s athletic director Tim McNeely recently marked his first year on the job, and he was happy to discuss the renovations to the Feaster Center and the Fighting Falcon scholarship situation. Throughout the year, McNeely has been met with the task of fundraising and building relationships with not only the community but with colleagues across the Mountain East Conference.

Are you satisfied with how things went in your department during your first year as Fairmont State’s athletic director?

Satisfied I think is sort of a funny term. I don’t think I will ever be satisfied. But there will always be things to do, ways to improve. And for us as a department, ways for our teams to get better and more competitive. In this day and age of athletics, I don’t know if you will ever be satisfied.

 For us, facilities will always need upgraded and repaired or improved in some ways. I’m satisfied that we are better in some ways. What we've been able to do this year, I’m satisfied that we’re on track to meet a few goals.

Last year the university was just putting the finishing touches on a 20-year master plan for athletics. I wasn’t here for that analysis and all the work that went into that.  

But what came of that were two glaring things.

First, we need to do a little better job of private fundraising, as does every school.

In this day and age of shrinking budgets and state budgets and that sort of thing, if we want to get better and travel better and recruit better and have more scholarship money, it’s going to get down to more and better fundraising. That never changes.

The second part of the master plan, we as an institution have to do a better job with Title 9 compliance. Basically that means conference participation rates for athletics needs to match what our student body ratio is.

For instance, if we have a 55 percent female student body, we have to have a 55 percent female participation rate in athletics. You can’t fix this right away. You have to create a plan and a road map to get in compliance.

We have done that by introducing women’s soccer next year and then in a couple of years, we will introduce lacrosse. That gets us on the right track for Title 9 compliance. We have a lot of things we’re trying to accomplish.

The one immediate thing we're trying to accomplish from a financial standpoint is the remodeling of the Joe Retton Arena. That’s not just for basketball but for volleyball, commencement. All our teams in one way or another use the Joe Retton Arena in some capacity. That’s about a $1.2 million project. It’s in the bidding process right now.

We’re going to tear out all the existing bleachers and put in new seating for the lower levels which include seatbacks, which will make it more comfortable for the fans. Now what that does will cause us to lose somewhere between 600 and 800 seats in there which I don’t think will hurt us as our fans will be more comfortable coming to games. The commencement may be another story.  But we’re on track with that.

Fortunately, through the leadership of our new assistant athletic director Chad Fowler, we will be able to start the fundraising process for that. We have needs everywhere. We need more scholarship money. We have needs all over the board.

As of right now, we have about half of that project financially committed. We’ll continually chip away at that for the next couple of years. The engineering folks identified we might have some mercury issues with the old rubber floor  — the current wood floor — and we had to go through that testing process. Mercury levels were such that they might have caused us to do a full abatement to that old rubber floor but luckily, we don’t have to abate that mercury.

But that took about six extra weeks which causes the construction to dip into the school year. That would have caused more time and a lot more money.

We are replacing all the lights. We’re going to try and repair the sound system — we’re trying to give the entire arena a facelift.

Do you feel that Fairmont State is getting short-changed by the West Virginia Legislature?

I’ve heard people say the Legislature shortchanges Fairmont State but I don’t know. I haven’t researched and analyzed that to see what the history has been with the Legislature. I currently have a good relationship with members of the Legislature on both sides. Again it goes back to state budgetary concerns. I have a good relationship with members of both chambers.

How many full scholarships can Fairmont State give?

Generally Division II is not fully funded in scholarships. I think football has in the neighborhood of 24 full scholarships. But some of these are divided up. There are other forms of financial aid that some of these athletes are eligible for and that’s in addition to athletic scholarships. In basketball, in Division II, you are only allowed up to 10 full scholarships. I think the women’s team is fully funded and the men's team just about fully funded.

Do you find the other athletic directors easy to work with?

For me, coming on to this job, I don’t have any history with any of the other institutions within our conference. I have a clean slate so I didn't bring any history to the table — either good or bad. I’ve had great instances of working with the ADs of other schools. We are all competitive but by and large we all work together pretty well.

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