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Athletic Direction with Gene Taylor

Interview by Andrew Jason
Photo by J. Alan Paul Phototgraphy

How has the success of the football team helped the success of the athletic program as a whole?

“It means a lot. The exposure throughout the playoffs and then the last two games; the semifinal game and the championship game being on ESPN you get such a national exposure to people that are not connected to the program that are talking about North Dakota State, I don’t know if you cant put a price tag on that. From a pure exposure stand point, its huge. In terms of the overall alumni base, I think we have just as many people that are proud alumni than there are people who have become North Dakota State fans. Those kind of things are invaluable. It’s critically important now it’s just how do you continue that, what do you do next, how do you make sure those people stay connected? Not only around football, but there are so much other stuff; basketball is rated, wrestling is rated, spring sports are going to start. Baseball is coming off a great year, softball always has a great year. Collectively people have to understand it’s more than just football, football certainly gives you the exposure, but then how do you take advantage of it and keep people connected, that’s the biggest thing.”

People are anxious about the BSA, where are we with that?

“One of the biggest challenges that we have to get finished is the BSA. Getting that project done will solidify our programs for many years to come. We are kind of on the last push here. The legislative folks have the project in, from what I understand, the governors budget to be approved once the legislative session is done in April. Our goal is to have our dollars raised by April. If we have the amount raised we can start the process of construction… We got some big asks we have made, but yet everybody can play a role. If we get everything raised soon after April, we think it’s a eighteen month to two year project. If we get the bid,we hope to be shoveling some ground by July or August.”

Teammakers contributions have close to tripled in the last ten years, what have they meant to the athletic program?

“Donations have gone from $750,000, my first year, to $2.8 million this year. What Teammakers gives you is the core. They’re the strength of our program. They are the folks that are there week in and week out, year in and year out. They are the people we lean on significantly and they’re a big part of who we are. The more Teammakers steps up, the more we can do with our dollars.”

Looking-back, what was your favorite memory over the past year?

“I look at a program like baseball who were really behind the eight-ball compared to a lot of our other sports. For them to win forty games and to be an eyelash away from making the tournament for me really stands out. One (memory) that will stand out forever is me standing out on that baseball diamond in Frisco this January looking up at 9,000 people. That will always remind me of the commitment and the passion people have for our programs.”

What are our goals for the athletic program for the next ten years?

“The goal has always been to continue to win conference championships and go as deep into the NCAA tournament as you possibly can. (Softball Head Coach) Darren (Mueller) made it to the Super-Regionals, that’s difficult to do. Baseball has made it to the conference tournament, but hasn’t made it to the NCAA yet, so there are some teams with some goals still out there. Goals for a sports like Wrestling, that’s an individual type sport, to start getting All-Americans. They got two really good candidates this year. Like coach Roger (Kish) said, once you get an All-American then you can start recruiting more to do that. He hopes to get as many All-Americans as possible and maybe finish top-10 in the NCAA Tournament. For the basketball team, the last time they made it to the NCAA tournament was ’09 and to be at least on the cusp as many years as you can. I mean, you’re not going to go every year, it’s just hard to do. The more you’re in a position to win a conference championship on a consistent basis, the better your chance to be in the national tournament… I think that’s what all of our coaches are looking for.”

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