BLACKSBURG — Virginia Tech athletic director Whit Babcock gave a presentation to school's Board of Visitors on Sunday.
Babcock introduced new men's basketball coach Mike Young, spoke about the upcoming launch of the ACC Network and ran through the department’s finances.
Virginia Tech’s annual financial report for the 2017-18 fiscal year filed to the NCAA in January showed the athletic department generating record revenue of $98,485,395.00 and operating with a surplus of $4.8 million. Babcock is happy the department is operating with a surplus for the first time since 2014-15, but he's focused on the long term financial health of the department.
“It doesn’t carry you forever,” Babcock said of the last year's surplus.
That’s why Babcock is excited about the launch of the ACC Network, which he compared to university launching a “start-up” business. Tech has invested $10 million into the launch — mostly on facility upgrades and equipment — and it will cost $1.5 million a year to run.
“If it goes well we should get a return on our investment pretty quickly,” Babcock said.
The ACC is currently fifth in revenue distribution among Power 5 conferences and Babcock said the network will change that.
Babcock introduced a slide referencing an upcoming capital campaign late in his presentation. The goal will be to raise $350-400 million for scholarships and endowments along with future capital projects for Cassell Coliseum and Lane Stadium.
After the Board of Visitors meeting, Babcock said the campaign will officially launch sometime in the fall as part of university’s larger fundraising initiative. Babcock told The Roanoke Times in 2018 the campaign was in the pipeline.
Cassell Coliseum dates back to the early 1960s. The most recent major addition to the facility was in 1998. Within the last couple of years, Tech upgraded many of the seats in the arena and refinished the court.
The last major upgrades to Lane Stadium — improvements to the west side of the stadium — were finished prior to the 2016 season.
Babcock said the focus for Cassell will be revenue-generating items and additional comfort-focused amenities for fans. He estimates the budget for the project will be between $40-50 million. Tech is currently doing a feasibility study on Cassell to “see what’s possible” for the venue, according to Babcock. The project may also include renovations to the concourse.
Virginia Tech’s athletic director hesitated to outline a timeline for the project, but would love to see significant work started in the next two to three years.
As for Lane Stadium, the focus will be on upgrading the east side of the stadium, which could include adding an all-purpose space for game day events. A feasibility study has already been done for work on the east side of the stadium, so Babcock's focus is on getting the funds in place. He can envision work on both projects being done concurrently.
“It’s the easier project,” Babcock said, after the board meeting.
The athletic departments has two major construction projects in the works — a renovation and expansion of the Merryman Center weight room and a new $16.6 million student-athlete performance center — but both are projected to be completed in 2020.
“We hustled to get those done to be able to focus on this [capital campaign],” Babcock said.
‘We can do it at Virginia Tech’
Babcock introduced Young to the board of visitors as his “favorite coach.”
“He’s undefeated,” Babcock said with a smile.
Babcock sees a bright future for the men's basketball program under Young, who replaces a coach in Buzz Williams that took Virginia Tech to a school-record string of three straight NCAA Tournament appearances, including a trip to the Sweet 16 in 2019.
“We had a great run, and showed we can do at Virginia Tech,” Babcock said.
Babcock is confident the program will match that success in the next three to four years given Young's impressive credentials and work ethic, but Young hopes he can do it even sooner.
“I will not concede one thing,” Young said about next year's team.
While Virginia Tech’s roster has seen plenty of turnover since Young took over — he called it the “typical” type of attrition when a coaching changes happens — he sounded optimistic about the team he’s putting together.
The former Wofford coach will feel even better if he can convince Kerry Blackshear to come back to Virginia Tech for one more year. Young didn’t mention Blackshear by name on Sunday, but said he’s “working like crazy” to bring a certain player back and “crossing his fingers and toes” it will happen.
Blackshear withdrew his name from the NBA draft pool, but is still deciding whether or not to transfer. Young alluded to a meeting he has scheduled with Blackshear next week and trying to get Virginia Tech President Timothy Sands involved in the school’s pitch to get the forward to stay in Blacksburg.
One pressing piece of business Young has already crossed off his list was a lunch date with his mom. Young, a Radford native, said he had lunch on Mother’s Day with his mother for the first time in 30 years.
“She started crying,” Young said. “She’s touched that I’m back home.”