BOONE — Doug Gillin has a pretty full plate right now.
The fifth-year athletics director at Appalachian State is dealing with two major construction projects (the north end zone and the App 105 site at the old Watauga High School campus); is trying to navigate the new obstacles that come with the state law to allow beer sales on public college stadiums; and is still boost the fundraising number he seeing to support all of his athletic programs.
He also has first-year football coach Eli Drinkwitz making his App State debut Aug. 31 in the team's season opener against East Tennessee State at Kidd Brewer Stadium.
Gillin sat down with media members on Wednesday before the Mountaineers’ afternoon football practice. Here are some of the topics he covered with what he said being edited for brevity.
Gillin’s opening statement:
"I’ve got a lot of data, and I think what we have been saying publicly — there certainly might be some that would have a different opinion — but you could make a case that '18-'19 was the most successful year in Appalachian State history.
"When you look at 14 straight semesters over 3.0 (GPA), when you look at our academics, when you look at four teams in the top 10% from an APR standpoint. When you look at coming sixth nationally from the amount of hours that we put back into our community, over 10,000 hours back into our community. And then when you look at the championships won with women’s cross country, football championship and bowl game, wrestling, women’s basketball winning the national championship with the WBI (Women's Basketball Invitational), women’s tennis, our volleyball winning the east, our softball and baseball getting to the Sun Belt tournament for the first time and softball being invited to a national tournament.
"So collectively, when I look at those three areas, it’s hard to debate that it was, if not the most, successful year in Appalachian State athletics academically, socially and competitively, it’s up there for debate with anybody that wants to debate the history of those three categories."
On the north end zone project and 105 project:
"So I think timelines always get you in trouble. So right now, with the end zone in particular, this summer as we’ve all seen, a lot of work underground, and from what I’ve been told, 800 holes that we drilled to put in the footings and what not. We are still on pace to have this open in phases starting in the fall of 2020.
"That’s a year from now, and sometimes I look out my window and think, ‘Wow, I can’t wait to really see that take shape.’ Literally, any day now we’re really going to start seeing concrete and steel starting to take shape. Whether it’s before that first home football game or not, not sure. But very soon we’ll start seeing it come out of the ground and again in phases open in 2020, the fall of 2020.
"So that means first floor, fourth floor, you know certainly we’re selling a lot of premium seating, so we need the fourth floor to be open and those premium seats to be open and those premium seats to be available. And then the first floor, the team shop and catering, kitchen and hopefully locker room and other things will be ready.
"Then certainly by mid fall, we would expect the whole building to be ready and then football probably wouldn’t move in until the end of the season. So probably full occupancy by December would be my guess right now.
"App 105, we had to change architects, slowed us down a little bit. And so we’re back on board with a new architect and got some new renderings and drawings, we still think if I had to phase that out, and this is without being exact, our first two projects would be the track and the outdoor tennis. We’ve kind of shifted gears a little bit. But right now we need track and outdoor tennis where our student-athletes can participate.
"We’re updating the River Street courts here down below so that will kind of be fall and spring this year, and then getting that work done so hopefully we’ll have the track done and the outdoor tennis done by summer to fall of next year as well.
"And then we’ll shift our attention to indoor tennis and softball. And some of this is a funding mechanism too. We were privately funded, a lot of these programs, so as we raise more resources, we’ll be able to continue to build, whether it’s those or other projects.
"So right now, what I do know, is I’m looking summer to fall for track and outdoor tennis to be the first few completed up at 105."
On Yosef Club donations and amount of money being brought in:
"Folks will often ask, ‘How you doing?’ And somewhat jokingly, somewhat not, is, 'we could always win more games and raise more money.' So that’s the nature of the model at many universities, but certainly Appalachian, is you have big dreams but you’ve got to figure out how to fund those big dreams.
"And those big dreams are only funded by private support because the university has got to take care of what they’ve got to take care of, certainly we have a lot of funding from students, but when you start funding dreams, you know — needs versus wants, wants versus needs — that comes philanthropically. We have to continue to raise more money.
"That’s why we initiated A Mountaineer Impact in 2017, to do a lot of these projects, but there’s still money to be raised in the end zone facility for some of the interior. The interior of the building will be as nice as we can raise money to make it. It will be as nice as it can be.
"You know, the Jerry Moore Statue Plaza as an example, we don’t have the money just to go do that. So we’re hoping to raise money as nice as we can be. And we’ve been really successful so far.
"So long-winded answer is we continue to ask folks to invest in our visions. We do a lot of more with less. We’d like to change that at some point in time.
"You can see now, if money bought you everything, we wouldn’t have had the year we just had. But we believe that the ceiling is so much higher than it is right now, and with that we need more investment and vision."
On potential traffic issues during App State home games with construction and only one route to the new parking deck:
"I thought you were just going to stop with ‘how do you feel,’ and I was going to say ‘nervous.’ But plan, pre-plan, we’ve known this was going to be happening for a long time now. Taking on two major projects in one year, and ‘19 is going to be the pinch point. We think it starts to clear up after this season. But that’s why with everything, we’re saying arrive early, stay late, arrive early, stay late.
"We’re going to open up the gate two hours early (instead of 90 minutes beforehand like previous seasons). We’re going to provide some entertainment. This first game this year, that first hour, we’re going to just show highlights of the Michigan win because we’re honoring Jerry Moore that day. And then we’ll have more, different events pregame before just to try to get people in here early, get in the lots early, and then stay late.
"So we won’t know, but do I expect delays? Absolutely. I expect delays not just in parking, I’m worried about the (ticket) gates.
"Now keep in mind the gates are shrunk. We lost about 30% of the width that we had here before. Now we’re going to open up this gate up on the hill that we haven’t before, so people can just come down through that gate. But I’m nervous.
"I think we’ve planned as much as we can. I think we’ve educated — our fans have been unbelievable with the whole parking issue in terms of just being patient and understanding we’re moving people around. So, so far, so good, but we’ll get a big test here in a couple days."
On season ticket sales:
"So I think I feel, and I’m waiting for a final report on season ticket sales, but I think our season ticket sales will show the most that we’ve had since I’ve been here.
"So this will be my fifth football season. We’re waiting on some final numbers, but it’ll be right with the best, if not the best we’ve had, the best that we’ve had over the last five football seasons.
"Now when I got here, we were at 4,300. And now we’re talking about close to 8,000. Some of that was that Miami effect, and then we’ve been able to retain and work hard on retention. So we had Miami and then we had Wake Forest, so that kind of helped, but I think we’ve been working really hard on retention as well.
"But for Appalachian to be really successful in the long term, we need to be in the 10,000-season ticket realm. We’ve got to continue to sell season tickets. When you have students that get in free, and when we mention the total seating number out there, could you sell 15 to 17 thousand tickets total?
"And if we could get in the 10,000 season ticket range, then I think that would be really good for folks at this level and comparable to some of our peers, like a Lafayette or a Troy that are in our league right now.
"So we feel good about where we’re at, we’ll be at the highest we’ve been in five years or right there at it, so we’ve got to keep growing. We’ve got to get people to buy more season tickets. We’ve got to be more aggressive. We’ve hired more staff, we’ve got to be more outbound."
On beer sales in the stadium:
"So we’ve been planning should this take place ... We as a university community have worked together, hand in hand on this, with the ABC (Alcoholic Beverage Control) folks there ... We’ve got to get permits now. We do all of our concessions in house. We don’t have a third-party concession where somebody else would get the permits if we had it here. So the university will get the permits ...
"So we’re at ABC on Friday. At the ABC commission on Friday. Depending on how long that may take to hopefully get our permits approved, we’ll announce it as soon as they’re approved.
"The reason that we haven’t announced it — we’re ready to go — the reason that we haven’t announced we are going is because we have to have permits. As soon as those are approved, and hopefully they will be, we’ll announce that and put the plan in motion."
On alcohol being sold at the season opener:
"That will be the target."