A new era begins

New Director of Athletics Dan Schumacher aims for high graduation rate and national championships

Story by Nick Erickson, Editor In Chief

Nick Erickson: How are you settling into the university and community so far?


Dan Schumacher: It’s been a very collaborative transition. I think everyone’s been great. They have been very welcoming from community to alumni to faculty and staff, the coaches. It’s been a wonderful transition. Can’t complain about anything, it’s been really great.


NE: What sorts of things did you implement over the summer? I know that was kind of a big thing for you getting here early to see how things go right away, so what did you do in the summer that you hope to see not just this fall, but the entire school year?


DS: You know, I was just talking to one of the coaches about this, we’re putting together our strategic plan, and it takes a while to do that, so as we’re going through the development, there’s some low-lying fruit that can’t wait for the strategic plan to outline it. In fact, there will be things in the strategic plan that we might have already accomplished, but it’s got to be part of the bigger picture, and the things and the pictures of the processes that I’m trying to put together will be something that’s sustainable long after I’m gone, or what not. And sustainability is the key of getting the right practices, best practices, the right people put in the right positions to succeed, and that will foster sustainability that will get this thing rolling. It’s not going to be a one and done type deal. You know, you see those famous teams that prefer the one and done year, and then they’re back to rebuilding. I don’t want to do that, I want to keep reloading, I want to keep our athletic department sustainable for success for years to come. So some of those things that we’re doing right now, you can see it on the board, we’re restructuring the booster club. So restructuring the booster club from a fundraising standpoint is a large task, but we think that we’re close to making it all happen and getting a good jump shot on things. I think our media relations that we’re changing and how we’re handling our website and the way we communicate with people, even the development of the Blugold Sports Network, which is going to be a flagship radio station for us. And when I say that, the goal for us now is to stay with Clear Channel on 1400 AM, but eventually by next year, when Blugold football is on the radio, for example, it’s also on in Rice Lake, and then eventually down to Whitehall. You know how when the Badgers and the Gophers, when they’re on, they’re on over statewide. There on every Mom and Pop radio station. So we’re going to build a true network of partners to get our product and our brand out there. We’ve got some minor improvements in the capital area, and I mean capital improvements. Carson Park has some upgrades that need to happen and I’m working on those things. The press box, have you ever been to the press box?


NE: Yes.


You ever see those chairs you sit on?


NE: Yes.


DS: Those old wooden, creaky things? Well not anymore. This summer we replaced those and all of that will be outfitted with custom chairs that will be adjustable with the logo on them, and it will be a really nice look to the press box. So you’ll be sitting in comfort and a cushion seat and things like that. So you try to change those little things. All of these are low-light fruit, but the booster club is a big one, the radio network and just getting to know all the personnel and getting a feel to know where we are at personnel-wise. And that was basically my summer.


NE: Facility upgrades seem to be a big thing for you as well, and we’ve already seen that become a reality with the announcement of the arena that will be built, which was announced this summer. Just talk about how important that is for an athletic department to be always upgrading facilities and kind of what your goals are regarding that.


DS: I think anybody that knows anything about Division III athletics knows that it’s not about scholarship, it’s all about facility. Why would you choose us over going to another state institution if they had better, you know, they usually are picking them because they have better facilities to compete. I mean, we don’t have a track, we can’t have a home track meet, but La Crosse and Oshkosh and Whitewater can. If you’re a track athlete, why would you come to Eau Claire? That’s one thing we have to work on. Carson Park is outdated. Zorn Arena is outdated. We’re solving the Zorn Arena issue with a new events center, but that’s going to take some time. Carson Park needs to be updated. When our players go to play at other places, you’re looking around at La Crosse’s stadium, or Oshkosh’s or Whitewater’s, it’s state of the art, and we don’t have that right now. So facilities, facilities, facilities. They say in real estate it’s all about location, location, location. Well, in Division III athletics, it’s facilities, facilities, facilities. That’s what makes things go. If we don’t have the best facilities, they can choose to go somewhere else. We’re not offering scholarships. If you offer scholarships, athletes are willing to take less of facilities because they’re being compensated with financial aid. So what does Division III offer? We have to offer experience. Lifelong experience. And that involves facilities, and we’ve got a long ways to go. We’ve got upgrades, and I think everyone is very well aware of what needs to be done.


NE: Last question I have for you, as an athletic director, how do you define success for an athletic department?


DS: Graduation rate and national championships. That’s really what it comes down to. Are we graduating our kids, and are we winning? It’s really two simple things. I mean that’s how you define. Now, above those two, if you were to ask me differently, but really student welfare is number one. It’s basically an umbrella for the other two. But when you’re judged, when it comes down to judgment day for your program, it’s graduation rate and how high you graduate your kids, and how many national championships you won.