The Huntsville Times – May 14, 2013 – By Brandon Marcello –
Auburn University President Jay Gogue’s hand-picked committee has completed its review of the athletics department, but that’s not all Auburn is doing as it tries to improve its athletics department.
JMI Sports, a company founded by former San Diego Padres owner John Moores, was hired by Auburn in December to review and consult athletics director Jay Jacobs.
The company’s mission is to “increase revenue, reduce costs, recruit and retain top coaches and administrators, and mitigate risk by identifying and implementing innovative solutions to the issues facing collegiate athletics today,” according to its website.
Gogue’s committee provided verbal recommendations to his office Monday. Jacobs will lead the implementation of the changes in wake of the evaluation of the department. Gogue and committee member Mac Crawford supported Jacobs’ leadership in statements released Monday.
The next step continuing the year-long evaluation by JMI Sports.
“It’s always great to have a fresh-eyes approach, because sometimes – maybe as you do in your job, too – you get into doing things and you realize this is the way we’ve always done it, which is, that’s not the best way to be successful,” Jacobs said. “So you bring in a group, and you look and say, ‘Hey, have you thought about doing it this way?’ That’s what JMI is providing for us.”
The wide-ranging review includes ticket operations, facility plans and the department’s organizational chart. “We’ve asked them to come in and look at everything that we do,” Jacobs said.
Jacobs calls it a “structural process” for Auburn’s athletics department. “Do we have the best practices? Do we have the right number from a human resource standpoint? Do we have the right number of people in the ticket office? Do we have the right number of people in the ticket office doing what they need to be doing? Do we have the right number of people in compliance? So that we have people situated correctly as compared to our peers, so we can be the best athletics department in the nation. I think those are the two differences.”
The athletics department has also conducted its own surveys with donors seeking feedback on game-day experiences at football games. The primary concerns include parking, accessibility to the stadium and concession options.
Jacobs says he wants to make the game-day experience a “weekend” experience by increasing outside activities, including more guest lectures with the Auburn Alumni Association and on-the-field events at Jordan-Hare Stadium on the eve of games.
“We’re known as Running Back U,” Jacobs told business leaders at the Auburn Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday. “I want to be known as Tailgating U.”
The ticket office is also exploring the option of using scannable tickets, which would allow fans to pass along unused tickets to friends and family via email.
Jacobs says he has glanced briefly at the surveys.
“When you look at the surveys, the things that you can control are the tailgating experience and the parking, and also the food, the quality of the food in the stadium,” he said. “And then certainly the things that we’ve done around the game day have been very positive, but there’s ways that we need to improve and we certainly look forward to those.”
Auburn attracted a nation-leading crowd of 83,401 to the A-Day football scrimmage on April 20. Most fans paid $5 for tickets, but long lines coaxed Jacobs to order ushers to allow fans in for free after the game kicked off.
Season ticket sales for football are up in three-fourths of the stadium, Jacobs said. Sales for end zone seating is “down right now,” Jacobs said, adding that the news is expected.
“The great news is that we’re ahead of year-to-date of where we were coming out of 2008 and that’s a great benchmark for us because coming off a 3-9 season,” Jacobs said. “(I) didn’t know what to expect and then the ticket sales starts going along and then A-Day and momentum with the commitments the football program has had and the passion of the Auburn people, it’s really a great thing and it’s actually helped people, renewed people’s interest in buying those tickets.”