Q&A with Director of Athletics Alan Verlander

Aug. 30, 2007

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - sat down recently with JU director of athletics Alan Verlander to discuss the upcoming season and the progress made the past two years.

Q: Right now, football is a topic on everyone's mind and there is a lot of excitement with the program. This year's schedule is quite daunting, starting off with two programs that have 63 scholarships. With that tough task in front of them, how do you view a successful season?

Alan Verlander: I'm excited about this season. Our team has set a goal and they have been working hard this summer. Where our football program is now currently, I measure success on our competitiveness within the PFL. I think Kerwin has brought the mindset we needed to win the PFL. We start off with two tough games this year. We could easily lose both games and still have a great team because Bethune and Gardner-Webb are full scholarship programs. I hope our fans will understand this and really get behind this team. However, we are going into those games to win and that will be the goal!

Q: Another big question for you going forward with football is the schedule. What is your philosophy in terms of the schedule in the coming years?

AV: Kerwin and I have talked about this a lot. Our schedule won't change a whole lot. We will always play a couple of scholarship programs each year because there are very few non-scholarship programs in the Southeast. Plus, our goal is to be able to compete with scholarship programs, so we need to play them to gauge where we are. Having said this, in addition to these games and our PFL games, I want to make sure we play a couple of non-conference games that give us a good chance to win. We will play 11 games from now on and will try to have 5-6 home games each year.

Q: As you start your third year as director of athletics at JU, what has been the greatest accomplishment during your tenure?

AV: There have been so many good things happen to us in the last two years. Our teams have won a total of eight conference championships and we have had 11 NCAA appearances. That is not bad. Our student-athletes have excelled in the classroom and in community service as well. However, I think the greatest accomplishment I have had thus far is to hear the student-athletes, coaches and staff say thank you for all the hard work! Earning their trust and belief is probably the best accomplishment thus far.

Q: Last year, JU won four conference championships and three state championships in rowing and has won eight in your two full years in charge of the department. What are your goals from a competitive standpoint this season?

AV: Our coaches know I expect the same outcomes. Our goal is to win championships by doing it the right way. There is no reason why our department can't win four to five conference championships each year. I expect that again this year. We have challenges, but everyone does!

Q: One of the topics that come up every spring is scholarships for the football program. What is the University's stance towards adding scholarships to the football program?

AV: Well, we have looked at it and performed a feasibility study on it. Financially it is hard to justify it. The University would go from a model of making money on football to losing money. Most businesses would not make that change.

Kerwin and I have talked about it and we are on the same page. Right now our goal is to win at a high level and create a great product and program for the City of Jacksonville to support. Once we have accomplished this, then the scholarship conversation might grow.

Q: Both basketball programs had successful seasons a year ago and have high expectations again this year. What are your thoughts on the state of the basketball programs?

AV: Our basketball programs are in fine shape right now. We have two of the finest young coaches in the country and they are both slated to have great years this upcoming year. The men's team had the largest turnaround in the country and I think Cliff has assembled a great staff and superb young players. Their schedule is tough this year, but Cliff and his staff are great motivators of talent. Jill is coming off a stellar year after winning 21 games last year. I fully anticipate them competing for the conference title. I know that is their goal. She has done an amazing job with the team. We are fortunate to be in a situation where both of our coaches signed contract extensions in the off season so there should be stability in our programs for a while!

Q: In your two years as director of athletics, you've had to hire six head coaches and all of them have been a home run so far. As you begin looking for a new men's and women's tennis coach, what are some characteristics that you look for in a coach?

AV: Well, a part of hiring good coaches is to surround yourself with a good search committee. I am fortunate to have a wonderful staff whose opinion I trust greatly. So I can't take all the credit. Having said that, I'll tell you...I look for a leader, someone who can motivate others to act. Someone who is honest, full of integrity and who will give JU everything they have until their next move. It is hard to digest that through a resume so the one-on-one time is critical. Most all the coaches I talk to know their respective sport pretty well. It is the characteristics that I talk about above that makes great coaches and people. I don't try to hire good. I want to hire great and we have been lucky to have hired some great coaches!