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mat1992

A Conversation with Athletic Director Steve Eigenbrot

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On Monday afternoon, I was able to speak with new AD Steve Eigenbrot for about an hour at the Towson. Eigenbrot had only been on the job for about 3 1/2 months and has had to hire three new coaches (WBB, SWIM, WTrack). He also is about to embark on his first football season after spending 12 years at an SEC school in Columbia, S.C. 

 

What he brought from South Carolina

"I would say that based on where TU is right now, and my background having worked in the external side of the shop and sport administrator, two of those opportunities I had that I can bring my experiences from SC and change where we look at in terms of handling things. The external part getting some synergies. We have a number of positions that are open and we are going to need a couple of more bodies which will be important to our future. 

Sponsorships sales, ticket sales and development. How are they working together and making sure they are the best version of TU and collaborating on campus.

I had a chance to hire three coaches this spring. My experience at South Carolina and was able to spend time on search committees. The challenge was trying to figure it out. Leaning on people here. Hiring coach Harper..."

My fourth day on the job, Temple's AD called me and said she's (Coach Richardson) on the top of his list. Two days later she was hired. Credit it to her, she made the position much more attractive. We used the same search firm that hired me. Leaning on Dan (Crowley) and Tricia (Turley Brandenburg)."

On using South Carolina to get more people in the seats
"There are a lot of opportunities here. Nick Saban is complaining about students not coming to the Alabama games. There are challenges across the board with live sport in this day and age. It was part of my life at  South Carolina for 12 years. Great ideas at South Carolina maybe don't play at Towson. Trying to get all the smart people in the room that have tried things. What worked and what didn't work? The student population changed or...I haven't been to a Towson football game yet. 

I got hired on a Tuesday. We played at Wilmington. Won by 24 points on the road. Before the game, I was near some Towson donors. They were like, "We have to make SECU Arena like this." Wilmington is a different market, but what kinds of experiences do kids want in terms of sports."

On getting students to games (giving gifts)
"The Delaware re-start game. We were giving Calzones to get the kids to games. I'm not beyond for sure."


On the CAA
"I'm bullish on it. Getting used to the way we interacted with the SEC was different the way we interacted with the CAA. A lot of history and ebbs and flows of the football program. Our profile is one of the better ones in that conference. It's still an attractive place to be. We have the opportunity to be very  successful moving on."

On Flo Sports and the CAA
"I think that it's easy to knock on FLO. The landscape has changed and what are the alternatives. To be able to have CBS Sports and be on National TV it's extremely valuable. We're still trying to figure out the TV deal moving forward. If we were in the future where Peacock, Hulu and other streaming services were interested in competing against Flo, that I'd be surprised to find that out. ESPN, as powerful as they are, and easy as it is to log in to ESPN+, there are production standards, you are not going to be on National TV with any regularity. What are the resources provided? Flo is easy to knock, but the money is real. How many players are there: Fox Sports, Peacock? Or is it just two options? We have new members that have experienced the other alternatives. The fact that we have an opportunity to be on CBS is top of theist. How can you repackage to get linear opportunities?"

ADs agree that regardless of who the partners will be, that we need to invest more in our broadcasts. Our arena helps with that (production). Baseball does one camera shoots while the rest of the conference does two. The standard moving forward, regardless of who your partner is, this is what you have to do."

On FCS and the future
"Just had the conversation with someone that had some tenure in our league that move on to a different role. Being with a Group of Five, with the landscape, the teams that left FCS to compete, I'm not saying this sarcastically, hope for their sake that the way that FBS football thing plays out over the next couple of years that they don't get send down to this level. There are probably some sleepless nights. I'm pretty comfortable where we are. FCS football is well-aligned with the values of being in an institution of higher education. I like where we're at. I don't want to speak ill of others seeking the football thing. It's a  complicated and expensive formula. That world is shifting really fast."

There are a lot of Power Five schools that aren't making a profit on football. You have to find value in the institutional prestige that you are competing at the highest level."

On Marketing for football
"We have to develop better marketing plans. We have to have more resources that are involved in trying to promote. We're a little bit short on the external side. We've not realized the synergies that are possible. COVID probably had something to do with it. Investing time, energy, effort and money on staff and/or advertising. Whether it's students and faculty, in our community or alums, all we are crafting plans for. Trying to do a better job. We have to try and do a better job of getting
former student-athletes that we want them to be here. You're going to have a short conversation about pro sports in South Carolina. This area is complicated, it's crowded, there's traffic and there's lots of competition for the entertainment dollar. 

If they are not coming, are we inviting them?"

"Part of our history, commuter school, teacher's college. They are becoming less true today. You spend four years on campus and intercollegiate athletics is more a part of the average students' experience. It's something we need to work towards. Osler is a challenge. The University's Master Plan has a bridge over Osler, which will certainly help. Us promoting the program to our students that live here will be very important."

Merge campus
"At Wilmington, they have a good program. Not all just geography. That kid falls out of his dorm room and lands at Trask Coliseum. It's a nice walk. Long term, it would be nice to have an easier path getting here. "

Practice facility on promotion
"When I came here, I came here for a study abroad meeting, it's changed a ton. You come here and I met with Pat's recruits and talked to the parents. They are blown away with what they see. They come here and they think they'll see a scene from The Wire. They drive up here and green trees. Uptown is beautiful.

We can't afford to be in the same place that we are. We've had some success. We all want more success. Our storytelling. We have to get better at storytelling. I'm very bullish on investment there. Facilities are nice. From a weight room to a training room to mental health. We need to invest and figure ou ways to find more for our kids."

On Field House, etc.
"Our academic center was moved to the Field House. There are some funds that came from the state and fundraising success behind it. Further advancement to the academic center and field house. Master Plan around the Towson Center. A four-phased approach. We have a lot of square footage. Racquetball courts. Trying to figure out the best for moving forward to fulfill the needs to our student-athletes. It will be 30-40 million price tag. We have to figure out how to make it more functional. One of the things I've been impressed with is that there are no shortage of dreams on South campus of how this could become a better version of
how this it today. Don't know that those dreams are necessarily rooted in practical methodology for delivering these dreams. How are you getting these things funded? Doing public and private partnerships with the facility work at my old institution. Is there something else that we can do to get heartbeats on South
campus so that this becomes more of a part of the local community and a reason for people in the greater Towson area to come to campus and maybe they stay at the basketball game because they want to a local restaurant? What that is and what it looks like. We have more work to do. We know that there will be
more work for the Field House. The Towson Center services a lot of our student-athletes. Trying to figure out what it needs to be."

Indoor practice facility
"It snows in Maryland. Our lacrosse teams are outside in the winter. They know they are not going to get a lot of practice that day. Trying to figure out viable solutions there. We're studying it right now.Having a meeting about it tomorrow."

There's no shortage of great dreams about South campus. Put a hotel there. Three hospitals, a restaurant. Putting a dorm would help. Auburn Drive is a sleepy campus road. Trying to get more concerts there. We do a great job with graduations. Just saw Women's World Lacrosse Tournament. We have a great infrastructure.
Drive revenue and pay the bill."

On weight room in Field House
"Our weight room staff gets in a 5am and trains people through 6pm. Our teams can't get into the single weight room that we have and can't always get in. That's high on the list that we need to prioritize.  The Towson Center is another possibility for extra space. What are you going to do in the short term\ that our student-athletes have a better experience from a S&C perspective?

That can be multiple millions of dollars. Are you raising the money? We have kids that need to have a better experience. There's the short term and then the long term. I went to some lacrosse games over the spring. We'll keep our eyes on things. There's no shortage of quality ideas. At South Carolina, we were in the process of laying the plan on a public/private project that was part of the football stadium. I need some time to get some wear on the tire and figure out the lay of the land around here."

Approach to NIL
"One of the things that I'm thankful for is that it's a different part of the conversation. Coming from South Carolina, it wasn't really a part of the recruiting conversations. A year later, it was all the rage. I think that what that means in the mid-major space is something that is being fleshed out.  It's harder to raise money. There are not as many people that are quite as passionate. In the high major world, there are collectives to raise money. NCAA has changed some of that. There are schools in our conference that have collective. Not sure that that's going to be part of our future. Feel like the volume has been turned down on NIL. But that's going to change in the next couple of months. I don't know if I have the answer after 3.5 months that I have an answer of what the future what NIL will look like
in this athletic's dept. Our state law goes into effect next summer (Alston Image Likeness). You are walking this awkward tightrope. We're not too far away from launching an NIL website that will be a better place for somebody that wants to engage one of our student athlete's to go to and find them. We will support them.


The world change and you have to adapt. Over the next year, we're going to watch other changes happen in our landscape. Alston lawsuit. Federal Supreme Court ruled that you can award $5,980 per student-athlete. Starting in 2023-24 can award funds in the CAA. Academic benefit. Some schools tie it to
academic outcomes. Getting money in their pocket providing they are meeting their academic marks. Not just by scoring 20 points."

 

https://www.jdsupra.com/legalnews/ncaa-v-alston-the-beginning-of-the-end-9351737/#:~:text=In its unanimous 9-0,related expenses) on antitrust grounds.

On Cost of Attendance
"Where we are right now, be careful what you say or put it in ink. Our conference is stable of how we are attacking COA. The Austin piece in our conference. Delaware is the only one that does COF, but is not planning on doing the Austin funds. Money going to student-athletes. Most are not going to attack COA for 2022-23 academic year, but never say never. It's complicated. Each institution doing it at as they seek fit it a bit wonky. I get it. There's a fair amount of integrity to it. "

UNderfunded Olympic sports
Funding sports at a higher level. Making us more competitive in our conference. You have plenty of P5 institutions that don't fund all their sports. Yes, one of the pieces to that puzzle is what do we need to help our sport become more successful. How can you use money in a better way. It would be great to get more scholarships with some of our sports. Ways to be more efficient with your money. And how to fund more scholarships for our student-athletes."

More alumni-engagement
"Re-examining our marketing. We need to do a better job of welcoming our former student-athletes and offering them tickets. We need to show some more want to. Hired three new coaches. What's been done here and what we need to do better. Those former student-athletes might not want to find the number of the new coach. Marketing perspective. That's my background. Trying to examine what we're doing. Be more engaged with the non-student athletes. Buy tickets. Show up." 

On Scheduling
"In football, we need to play a guaranteed game in football. Unless we can figure out another scenario. In 2026, we have the opportunity to play two guaranteed games, but we're not married to that. The basketball thing is a little bit more challenging. We've worked on trying to put together a tough schedule. Making
sure they play a schedule that's appropriate for the team and fans. Really good returning roster. Worked at South Carolina basketball, making some calls to help Pat (Skerry). What does that do for you moving forward. He has to have a schedule where his team has their legs in December. The challenges are  real. You have to figure out a schedule that you fell comfortable with. Two spots left in basketball. Can't get people to return phone calls.

On seeing a name team come to SECU
"Coming this year, will be tough. So many of the teams have their schedules done. There are more games out there to get. Can we be patient? We got Pitt late last year in August."

On playing local schools
"I haven't talked to Loyola or UMBC. I let Pat steer those conversations. Calling former SEC colleagues. Plenty of that was done. Some calls were more effective than others."

Playing Maryland next season in football and in 2025. 2024 is not complete yet. Would like to play Maryland in basketball. A double-header. Get them up to Baltimore. Celebrate Maryland's two largest schools."

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I appreciate the bonus coverage! He seems to be bright and open to feedback. Will be interesting to see what he says vs what he does

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As far as the expansion of the stadium goes, I think they want to take a look at the Field House expansion, indoor practice facility and what to do with Towson Center before they get to that, which I assume would be Phase 4 of the four-phase project and probably years away.

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Matt, Thanks for the write-up. Good info. Let's hope he can move forward and take this Athletic program forward with him.

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Yes, thanks for the thorough write-up.

I think you mistyped here:

"Can we be patient. We know we can get Towson, but we'd rather not. We got Pitt late last year in August."

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I do think his age makes him relatable to the students. He’s so young looking people could mistake him for a grad student. I think he can build a good following of students just by hanging in the union and meeting the frat/sorority kids. He honestly should go uptown with Doc the tiger Friday night and take pics with all the students hanging out at CVPs and C&R

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4 hours ago, mat1992 said:

 

Love the last comment about giving two free tickets to all former student athletes at the Homecoming game.

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