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Rutgers-Big Ten News Conference Transcript
  • Posted on November 20, 2012 3:41:07 PM
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  • THE MODERATOR:  Welcome to Rutgers, everyone, for today's news conference.  My name is Jason Baum, senior associate AD for communications here at Rutgers.  Speaking at the podium today will be Rutgers University President Robert Barchi, Director of Athletics Tim Pernetti and Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delaney.  Following the opening comments by each individual, we will begin the Q & A portion of the news conference.  I'd just ask if you can please wait for the wireless mic and state your name and media affiliation before asking a question.

                Ladies and gentlemen, Rutgers University president Robert Barchi.

                ROBERT BARCHI:  Thank you.  As you heard, my name is Bob Barchi, and I'm president of Rutgers University, and I want to tell you today on behalf of the Board of Governors of our University that I have the great pleasure to announce that earlier this afternoon the Big Ten Council of Presidents and Chancellors unanimously accepted the application of the Rutgers Scarlet Knights to join the Big Ten in all sports.

                We're really very excited and very proud here at Rutgers.  The Big Ten is really where Rutgers belongs.  This is not just a good fit for us athletically, it's a good fit for us academically and as an institution.  We feel that the Big Ten really represents our academic peers.  Most of the Big Ten are large, research intensive land grant universities, and we share a common mission, common goal, common commitments to our states.  We serve a similar kind of student, a student that's interested in the benefits of a research university, and we share some of the same kinds of problems.  It's exactly the right conference for Rutgers.

                Now, I've said that athletics can be an excellent marketing tool and can provide a window for a university into its academic programs and accomplishments, and from my point of view, no other conference makes that connection more strongly than the Big Ten.  It's a respected brand that locks right in on the Rutgers brand.

                Now, as you know, Rutgers has a strong focus on academic success as well as on athletic success, and we have been solidly committed to integrity in all of our programs.  In fact, six of our teams have 100 percent graduation rates, and our football program has finished in the top 10 for the academic progress rate five years running.  That's something that no other state university in the BCS has done.

                We are really proud of this reputation, and we are delighted to be able to bring this reputation to the Big Ten.

                We see tremendous opportunities for Rutgers in the Big Ten, great competition for our student athletes, great competition far our fans and our alumni but also new avenues for revenue that can stabilize our programs, and also most importantly new exciting academic collaborations.  All the current Big Ten institutions along with the University of Chicago are members of the Committee on Institutional Cooperation.  It's a consortium of world class research universities that work together to advance their academic mission.

                We see this as an extraordinary benefit.  We bring some particularly unique research support enterprises to this organization, and we look forward to extending the collaborations that we already have with Big Ten faculty members and building on those to really strengthen our collaborative interactions.

                So at this point I want to turn the program over to our remarkable athletic director, Tim Pernetti, and I have to tell you, it has been just such a pleasure to work with Tim since I walked onto this campus, a pleasure because we share the same commitment not just to athletics but also to academics and integrity.

                I know that Tim and I are arm in arm, shoulder to shoulder in our commitment to these three areas, that we have the same vision for the program and for the University, and I'm just so proud to be with him today and to share this announcement.

                Let me turn things over right now to Tim.

                TIM PERNETTI:  Good to see everybody today.  I want to start by thanking, and we have certain members here today, our Board of Governors and all of our boards and committees that participated in this process to get us to this point for their support; to President Barchi, I'd echo the sentiment; to have the ability to move as expeditiously as we did in this process couldn't have happened without a president that sees things the same way we see them and understands the value of the institution and all the things that we can bring.

                Bob, we really appreciate everything you're doing for Rutgers.

                To the Big Ten presidents, we want to be also acknowledging all their support and what they've done to accept us as a new member; and to Commissioner Delany, who years ago when I was a young nobody in television had the pleasure to meet and have developed a relationship with for several years, and Jim, welcome back to New Jersey.

                JIM DELANY:  Thank you.

                TIM PERNETTI:  The last few people I want to thank is certainly the Big East Conference.  The Big East Conference was a tremendous home for Rutgers, gave us the opportunity to build our program, and there are a lot of great people in the Big East Conference that gave us that opportunity, and for that we're appreciative.  Our coaches that are here today, our student athletes that work hard every day, I can't say it enough, and I know I probably don't say it enough publicly, but I know how hard you work, I know how much you do, and we appreciate everything you do, and this is as much about providing you all the resources you need to be successful as it is anybody.

                And last, to our fans.  I'd just say thank you for having the faith in this administration.  I know I've said it over and over again, that we would figure out a way to be well-positioned, and today we are well-positioned for a long, long time.  It's a transformative day for Rutgers University, and transformative in so many ways.  The Big Ten Conference is the ultimate academic neighborhood to live in, and we're now in that neighborhood with like-minded institutions, peer schools.  This is not just about collaborations on the fields of play.  This is about collaboration at every level, the perspective the Big Ten institutions have, the balance between academics and athletics, proving over decades and decades that athletics at the highest level and academics at the highest level can coexist.  It's the perfect place for Rutgers.

                For athletics, the Big Ten Conference is the model.  It's the ultimate, it's ahead of the curve and it's set the bar in so many areas.  What this means for us is it means stability in an unstable time.  It's secured our future as an athletics program and a university.  It's given us great access to so many things competitively, including the new postseason in football, which is a critical piece to our success going forward.

                Financially the Big Ten provides the financial resources that Rutgers will need to be able to move our program forward, to provide our coaches and student athletes with the ultimate experience.  And last but not least, as an old TV guy I will tell you in 2007 the Big Ten was ahead of the curve when they developed the Big Ten Network.  It is now being emulated by everybody all over the country in professional and college sports, but for all of our sports this will provide the ultimate platform of exposure, which not only helps build the brand of this great university but also helps to recruit and bring good people to Rutgers University, which is always our daily goal.

                This relationship, and that's exactly what it is, it's a relationship, you might write about Rutgers will get from the Big Ten, and I'll tell you today, this relationship is the perfect storm of relationships.  Our job starting today at Rutgers is going to be to help create new value for the Big Ten Conference, to bring new things to the party that's going to help further this conference as the greatest conference in college sports.  Together we have a great opportunity to set the bar, and we're really, really excited to be here today.  We're looking forward to everything that the future holds for Rutgers and our new colleagues in the Big Ten Conference, and with that, I'll turn it over to Commissioner Delany.  Thank you very much.

                JIM DELANY:  Thank you.  It's great to be back home.  I left here in 1966 to go to school in Chapel Hill.  I've got sisters and brothers who are still living here.  My mom and dad lived here until they passed, and so I would only come back to visit, but it's full circle for me to be back here today to, on behalf of our presidents and chancellors, acknowledge their unanimous and enthusiastic acceptance of Rutgers' application to join the Big Ten Conference.

                And so on a professional level and a personal level, it's very meaningful to me.

                A lot of you are probably looking at my R.  I'm a partisan on certain days, and today I'm all Rutgers.  Yesterday I was all Maryland.  When I go back home, I'll be non-partisan at least for the remainder of the football season.  You might think I'm a little colorblind with my colors here, but this is in recognition of St. Benedict's Prep, where I went to school, where my father went to school and where my grandfather went to school as well as my cousin, so I want to have a shout-out to St. Benedict's Prep that does a phenomenal job in Newark, New Jersey.

                Let me just say a little bit about this partnership, how it came to be.  There's been a lot of change and turmoil in intercollegiate athletics over the last decade.  The Big Ten is in its 117th football season, so we've been around the block for a while.  I think we're noted for our traditions and our partnerships.  And to be honest with you, we're slow to change in some regards but also hopefully pivot towards opportunities when they present themselves.

                And so 22 or 23 years ago, Penn State became a member of the Big Ten, and we pretty much stayed with 11 institutions for two decades.  What does 11 mean?  I don't know what it means.  It's not an easy number to schedule around.  It's a prime number, and beyond that, I'm not sure it's a great number to build structure around.  But we were very comfortable with that number.

                But as times change and evolve, college athletics skew slightly larger, and most of them developed into 12-team conferences, 12 institutions, and a couple years ago we decided to look.

                In that process of looking, we found a great partner in Nebraska, and the fit has been comfortable.

                At the time, conferences started looking at more than 12 members.  Our response to that was to try to establish a collaboration with the Pac-12 conference, and to get some of the benefits of expansion without really going beyond, because we really thought that conferences are best that play each other most, and to build those traditions and build those experiences and build those rivalries, and if anything I think the partnerships in the Midwestern part of the country have been predicated on repetition, have joint experiences, joint markets, and that worked well for us.  That wasn't possible.  What we saw happening around us was most of the major conferences moving out of their historic boundaries, and we thought that we needed to at least be aware of what the potential was.

                And as we looked around our neighborhood and out of our neighborhood, we recognized that Rutgers was not only a great institution but was an institution that we had a lot in common with, and we wanted to reach out.

                Tim and I have known each other for probably 15 or 20 years.  And in the last round we got to know each other a little bit better, and while we stopped at Nebraska, we looked at a larger structures.  He said, let's just keep in contact, let's just keep talking.  I said, yeah, you keep me informed, I will keep you informed.

                So there was no real beginning to this conversation.  This is a conversation that's played out over three or four years, me keeping him apprised of how we were thinking and him keeping me apprised of how Rutgers was thinking.

                So at a certain point Bob came to the table, we were able to really discuss what their dreams were, what their vision was.  We were able to talk about what we were trying to accomplish, and our presidents authorized what I would describe as an initiative to take Penn State, use it as a bridge into the East.  And so the net result was we had conversations with the University of Maryland, we had conversations with Rutgers, and that's essentially where we were focused.

                And if we could achieve that, we thought that our future was not only in our region but also in the eastern mid-Atlantic region, and basically that's what's come to be.  Our people are really excited about it.  We're not asking that New Jersey move to the Midwest, we're going to move to the East, so that you can be ourselves, we can be ourselves, and together join a partnership, so that both partners enhance each other.

                Somebody says, what does Rutgers bring?  Rutgers brings an incredible amount of commonality on the research side, on the undergraduate side, and what they bring to the Big Ten is the possibility of building a presence, an awareness, and to me it's not just Rutgers, it's Rutgers and Northwestern, it's Rutgers and Michigan, it's Rutgers and Ohio State.  But importantly, I don't think you can do this with one institution.  I think it's got to be Rutgers and Maryland, Rutgers and Penn State, Penn State and Ohio State, and Iowa and Wisconsin together.

                And if anything is going to bring stability to all of us, it's successful partnerships.  The partnership with the Rose Bowl goes back to 1903.  The partnerships that we have throughout the Bowl systems in Texas and Florida are important.  The CIC is important, really important.  It's the only foundational interaction among all conference members in any collegiate conference in the country.  Our provosts meet regularly and they engage in all sorts of collaboration.  That's critical.

                I think the Big Ten Network represents an effort of partners.  We've got a joint venture partner in FOX, and when we went to the table to try to resolve it, there were a lot of questions, how do you get into this business and maintain your values.  Well, you find a partner who believes in what you're trying to achieve.  That means an equal number of events for men, an equal number of events for women, no alcohol advertising.  They are a partner that has helped us get into 92 million homes nationally.  So there are only 8 million cable homes in the country that can't access it.

                And what we're going to do is attempt to take all of these partnerships and all of these member institutions on the academic, athletic and commercial side, to bring them together to enhance everybody's position in intercollegiate athletics and higher education.

                Welcome, Rutgers.  We're excited as we can be.  There's great enthusiasm by our athletic directors and presidents in a unanimous way to welcome Rutgers into the Big Ten Conference.  Thank you very much.

     

                Q.  Can you just give us a timeline on when it really, really got serious?

                TIM PERNETTI:  Well, as Jim said, it's been ongoing for years.  And that's not just this discussion but the relationship.  As you and I have talked it's all about relationships in our business, but I would say over the past several weeks it started to engage at a little bit more of a serious level.  And as I said, the beauty of this place is President Barchi has done a great job of coming in and resetting the vision of the university, and what that's done is it's gotten a lot of our key constituents together marching in line towards a common goal already.  We needed to move quickly on this, but we were ready to do that.  We had all the key people involved and informed.  Bob's leadership really helped us get it to that point very, very quickly because the timeline, as Jim would probably smirk at towards the end, was a little tight.

     

                Q.  Tim, as the college landscape changed, how and why did you show the patience to wait for a move that turned out to be this one?

                TIM PERNETTI:  You know, I don't know that it was so much about patience and waiting.  My wife is sitting over here, and she'd tell you that patience is definitely not my strongest asset.  But what I would tell you is, and I know that I got looks in a lot of strange directions at times when I said, as things continue to change, given the assets that our university possesses, we will end up in a great situation.  And I believed that, and I don't think if the leadership of the university doesn't believe that that it can actually and physically occur.

                But from the beginning, understanding -- I never really realized how understanding media in my old career applied until I got into this job and understanding how media is transforming our business in many ways, I think ended up being an ace in the hole to understand where the best opportunity would be.

                But this is about a university-wide deal.  I think that Rutgers University won today, the athletic department did not win today.

     

                Q.  Dr. Barchi, any indication whether the University will have to build new facilities or make any kind of a monetary investment to fully come into the Big Ten?

                ROBERT BARCHI:  The discussions that we've had so far with the Big Ten leadership indicate that the facilities we have right now are adequate to allow us to participate in all the programs that we have for the immediate future.  I don't think anybody can see beyond the next few years until what kind of successes are going to come and what they might mean for Rutgers or for any of our other schools.  But I think we're ready to go the way we are right now.  We're here to play.

     

                Q.  Tim, the target day for getting in, you'd obviously like to be in in 2014.  Is that realistic for Rutgers?

                JIM DELANY:  I think that what we want to do in this case is simply allow Rutgers to manage that issue with the Big East.  They're a long-time member.  In the case of Maryland, they were clear.  In the case of Rutgers, it's less clear, and I think it's going to come about when it comes about as a good exchange of information between Rutgers and the Big East.

                TIM PERNETTI:  I would add the same thing.  I did speak to Mike Aresco about an hour ago, and that is an issue that we'll do what we've been doing as a charter member of the football league in the Big East.  We'll work as productively as we can to resolve that matter and other matters as we plan to withdraw and enter the Big Ten Conference.

     

                Q.  (Inaudible.)

                ROBERT BARCHI:  Well, let me take a first stab at that.  Your initial statement was that there were some people who had one point of view, and that's a fair statement.  There were others who had another point of view.  That's what makes a university a great place to be.  There's always more than one point of view, and my guess is that there will continue to be more than one point of view.

                The leadership of the University in the past and certainly now feel that athletics contribute a tremendous amount to this institution that goes way beyond the individuals who are on the field and goes way beyond the dollars and cents in a budget.  So for me there isn't any single break-even point that represents when value is there and when it isn't.  I've said all along that we are committed to our athletics program.  At the same time Tim and I have both agreed that we're working towards reducing the amount of subsidy that is apparent in the program, and I must say apparent because it depends in part on how you do the accounting, and one could take the same budgets at other institutions and account for them a little bit differently and the numbers wouldn't look quite the same.

                Certainly having the opportunity to join the Big Ten with the kinds of opportunities for revenues to flow in the out years will make it much easier to support the athletics program and at the same time to support other initiatives that we want to do around the University.  So it may deflect some of those conversations that we have.  On the other hand, I think we'll always have them.

     

                Q.  Jim, just curious, how did Rutgers with the New York market and the Big Ten Network all factor into getting into more households?

                JIM DELANY:  You know, it was a factor.  I think it's been a factor that's been a little overplayed to be honest with you.  We have many of our games on a rights-fee basis with CBS and ESPN and ABC and CBS College Sports to an extent.  We also have a joint venture with the same company that is on your jacket there, okay.

                But the assessment by us was really one that there had been a paradigm shift in conferences.  We were maybe slow to take it up.  We explored, as I mentioned the collaboration, we lived with 11 members for 22 years.  We weren't necessarily seeing ourselves at 14 or 16 members when we added Penn State in 1990.  We weren't seeking the New York market.  We were seeking a great institution located in an adjacent state with a prosperous academic and athletic approach.  It wasn't a TV play.

                I think it's undoubtedly true that when you have a network, we launched it, we went a year without a lot of distribution.  We eventually got some distribution.  We continue to grow it, especially internationally.  We're in 26 countries, and it's available anyplace in the world where high speed internet exists.

                And so we have had some success, but I will tell you this:  When we looked at institutions and markets, if we hadn't been able to really achieve an agreement with Maryland and Rutgers, we wouldn't be here.  So it's heavily institutional.  You would have to be silly not to understand we're in the richest corridor of people and institutions maybe in the world, between the financial institutions, the political institutions, the media institutions, the great high schools, the great high school students, the student athletes, of course.

                But we have not -- and this is one of the things that I think is important to say, because it's been said before that television dictates the direction of conferences.  One president asked me, have you checked with television about what this means, and I said, I haven't had that conversation, and I'm not having it.  So whatever happens happens.

                But I can tell you we have not been incented, we have not been directed and we have not had any guidance from any television company, whether it's a joint venture partner or anyone else.  There's been a lot written about this for those who follow the sports press, but in this case it may be a factor to assess but it has not been a determinative factor from the perspective of the decisions that have been made that resulted in today's and yesterday's expansion of the Big Ten membership.

     

                Q.  Dr. Barchi, you mentioned the subsidy to athletics.  What is that currently, and do you anticipate that the revenue from the new conference will eliminate the need for that subsidy and perhaps even create a surplus?

                ROBERT BARCHI:  Well, I think there have been various numbers reported in the papers, and I'm not going to go back over the accounting.  The commitment that Tim and I have is to reduce that subsidy however you account it by about a million dollars a year as we go forward.  Where he did it last year, we're going to do it again next year, and it is our intention to continue in that direction.

                Do I anticipate that this new agreement with the Big Ten will allow us to completely eliminate that subsidy?  I wouldn't be surprised.  We're talking about quite a few years from now before that fully materializes itself as we work through the transition time frame.

     

                Q.  Dr. Barchi, you've mentioned academics and that this means Rutgers is joining the CIC.  What does that actually mean for students that are not athletes on campus, and Commissioner, what does it mean academically to have Rutgers until the CIC?

                ROBERT BARCHI:  Well, first let me say that we hope that we will be asked to join the CIC.  That is not something that's co-terminus with being invited to join the Big Ten as an athletic program.  It's a decision that the provosts who control the CIC will make.  We certainly hope that they will extend us an invitation, and that's been at least the intention that's expressed, and we would really look forward to doing that.

                What it means is opportunities for increased research and collaboration between the institutions, facilities that we have here on our campus; for example, we are the national repository for biospecimens for much of the biological research that's sponsored by the National Institutes of Health and elsewhere.  Every single protein or DNA structure that's published in this world has to be deposited in a database.  Rutgers has that database and controls it.

                These are incredible resources for researchers around the world, and we do try to share them as best we can.  We would really be looking forward to collaborating and sharing with the members of the CIC in an even greater way than we're doing right now, and vice versa.  There are many, many exciting programs in these schools that we would hope to extend collaborations to.

                So they're huge advantages on the research side.  Everything we do in research is an opportunity for our students because our students learn not just in the classroom but they learn by working alongside our investigators, whether that investigation is an archaeological dig or a history book or a research lab in a medical science building.

     

                Q.  This question is for Tim:  How soon do you think you'll be seeing the repercussions of the finances of this, specifically with the RAC renovations and things like that?

                TIM PERNETTI:  I would tell you that Jim and I had this conversation over the weekend, that the minute the speculation started to reach a fevered pitch, we started to see it.  I started to get phone calls from a variety of different people in our development operation.  I would tell you that the poor people in the ticket office right now are probably the hardest working people in the athletic department.

                But there is an incredible amount of grass-roots sports right now for this move as it relates to the benefits of athletics.  I'm hearing stories out of the ticket office that hundreds of new deposits on football season tickets for next year and basketball season ticket holders are already renewing and looking forward to following it.  We're already starting to see that.

                And I think as we start to work closely with the conference to figure out how we're going to further capture this market, how we're going to help build that bridge that Jim talked about over Penn State into Maryland and into New Jersey and New York, a lot more of that will start to take shape.

                It's just been an unbelievable week here.  I told president Barchi, you've been the president three months and in 48 hours you delivered a unanimous vote on the medical school and the Big Ten; you may as well retire.  It's probably not going to get a whole lot better than that.

                It's great to see great things happening around this university, and for me personally having gone here, I take a lot of pride in seeing how it's furthering itself as a great place.

     

                Q.  Kind of piggybacking on Sam's question, what does this move do for renovating the RAC?  I know that's obviously been a goal of yours.  Does this maybe expedite the process a little bit more?

                TIM PERNETTI:  I think this and the excitement around it and all the things that Jim explained so eloquently up there that it can bring to the member institutions, the collaboration it can bring, I think it advances many of those things on a faster timeline.

                I think Dr. Barchi put it very, very well by saying our goal is the same with the finances of this department.  I've never made it a secret to you guys when I got here that we were going to fix the finances of athletics and become a self-sufficient operation faster track towards doing that, and it's not just about realizing revenues that we couldn't currently realize in out years and being able to reduce the subsidy, it's also going to give us the ability to reinvest in a lot of the projects that as you and I have discussed are well overdo.  We've done a really good job of getting a third of the way on that project through private fundraising.  I think this things naming and other private fundraising to an entirely different level because what it means for the program long-term.

     

                Q.  Jim, Legends or Leaders?  Has there been any talk which schools will be placed in which division?

                JIM DELANY:  Yeah, I know there's been some reports, especially coming, I guess, out of the Maryland announcement yesterday where someone had already created new alignments.  Those are news to me, I'll be honest with you.  But one of the great things about expansion is the speculation surrounding expansion.  It's one of the most remarkable kinds of, I don't know, side shows associated with what actually happens.  Going back a couple years ago we issued a statement saying we wanted to look at it, and we had nine different institutions -- we ended up with one, but we had nine different confirmed reports of institutions that were going to be voted into the Big Ten.

                Yesterday we had one institution, today we have another.  There is no foundation in fact relative to who's going to be in what division because our athletic directors have not sat down to discuss it for one moment.

                But I expect it'll be high on their priority.  We've got a lot of business early in '13, but that will be one of the things that they'll tackle, and the reports yesterday just have no basis in fact.

     

                Q.  Tim, how does this move affect your Olympic sports in terms of longer trips and finances and thing like that?

                TIM PERNETTI:  I would tell you the effect on Olympic sports is going to be positive in every way, and there's a lot of ways that you can look at it.  I think that the surface area, people will approach the travel issue.  But I would tell you this:  That in the new Big East we were facing the same if not more of those same issues.  So I think that that's something that we're entirely comfortable with.  Janine Purcaro, who rode shotgun with me on every step of this, our CFO of athletics and I worked hard at that issue.  We tore the numbers up, we fought with each other about it, and we really looked hard at it, but we also at one point said we're facing the same thing currently if not a more drastic situation.  But the difference was we didn't feel entirely comfortable that the financial resources would be there to be able to handle it in such a way.

                But we tore that issue up.  We feel entirely comfortable with it.  I'm excited about what the Big Ten Network and all the platforms the conferences built means for Olympic sports at Rutgers because the hardest thing about recruiting is always visibility, and I think this creates a platform of visibility like nothing Rutgers fans have ever seen.

     

                Q.  Tim, there were some rumors going around about the possibility of playing some home games at Met Life as part of going with the Big Ten.  Is that something you guys have discussed or are considering?

                TIM PERNETTI:  We did discuss it, and honestly, three years ago when we played Army at Met Life Stadium, and I had the same conversation with most of you about it, the beauty of our location and the geography is we have multiple options to compete in certain sports, football and basketball, off our campus.  We've invested a lot in this stadium.  We've invested a lot in the experience here, but we're always going to look at those things.

                Now, Jim and I and Dr. Barchi had a very direct and frank conversation about that where I even asked if that would be something that the conference would require us to do.  It's not something we're going to be required to do, but I will tell you that we're going to continue to do what we have been doing.  We're going to look at those opportunities.  I want to be a good partner to my new colleagues in the Big Ten.  So if we can move a game on an infrequent basis to Met Life Stadium or to Yankee Stadium to help create new visibility and exposure for this conference in the East we are absolutely going to look at it and we are very likely going to do it.

     

                Q.  There was talk yesterday at Maryland that this move for them might help bring back some of the sports that were cut.  Sports were cut here at Rutgers a few years ago.  Is there any hope that those might be brought back because of this move?

                TIM PERNETTI:  Very aware of that issue.  I actually spent my first 30 years here a few years ago reading through every file, document, everything that was there, and I would just tell you this:  That we're going to focus first and foremost on making the 24 sports we have here as healthy as we possibly can, and then I think at that point we want to try to be open minded to look at everything.  But the focus now is going to be utilizing this new relationship and the resources it provides to make our 24 sports as healthy as possible, facilities, scholarships, travel, academic support, all the intangible things we need to be successful.  That's really where we're focused right now.

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