Oklahoma AD's summer filled with ups and downs
NORMAN, Okla. (AP) Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione hasn't had time for a true vacation this summer.
Whether he was laying the groundwork for what will be a massive renovation of Memorial Stadium, making Bob Stoops one of the highest paid coaches in college football, setting up a football series with Michigan or being named future chair of the NCAA Division I men's basketball selection committee, Castiglione had his hand in big things.
It hasn't all been good news, though. Oklahoma has been criticized for adding receiver Dorial Green-Beckham, a talented receiver Missouri released after an 18-year-old student said he pushed her down at least four stairs during a burglary. Two other cases against high-profile Oklahoma football players are pending.
The 6-foot-6 Green-Beckham led Missouri with 59 receptions as a sophomore last season and scored 12 touchdowns. Castiglione said Oklahoma talked to people at Missouri, reviewed ''far beyond the hearsay'' and made a decision to pursue Green-Beckham.
''The facts of each case are different,'' Castiglione told The Associated Press. ''We have to weigh all the facts as we can gather them and make the appropriate decision. In his particular case, we felt he was deserving of the chance, assuming he would accept the conditions of his enrollment and participation as a student-athlete here.''
Green-Beckham has been practicing with the team, but as of now, must sit out a year because of the transfer. Oklahoma is in the process of seeking a waiver that would make him immediately available.
As for pending legal cases involving two other Oklahoma football players, Castiglione said he can't comment, but he said he feels the same about every situation like them that comes up.
''People are people,'' he said. ''There are varying levels of maturity, varying levels of cultural experience. There are varying levels of discipline in their decision-making process. Sometimes, they find themselves in situations that are very unfortunate - not always their fault. They have to understand there are forces sometimes that create challenges they just have to be better prepared to handle. They didn't initiate. They didn't ask for. They may have even tried to avoid. Sometimes, people around them are persistent. That doesn't give them a license to make a bad decision.''
On the good side of things, Castiglione will take over will be the vice chair of the basketball committee this upcoming season before becoming the chair for the 2015-16 season. He said one of the key elements is the transparency of the team selection process, but making things too open would take away from what makes the process special.
''There are going to be times where people don't agree with the decisions, but therein lies the secret to the secret sauce,'' Castiglione said.
Stoops' salary will jump to $5.25 million for the upcoming season, up from about $5 million last season. Stoops has a 160-39 record at Oklahoma with a national title and four title game appearances.
''In a phrase, he's worth every penny,'' Castiglione said. ''It's commensurate with the financial resources that we have available, that have been generated because of the success the program has achieved under his leadership.''
Facilities that match on-the-field goals are important to Castiglione. The school's Board of Regents this summer approved an estimated $370 million plan to renovate Memorial Stadium.
The south end zone will be enclosed to form a continuous bowl. There will be 43 new restroom locations, 69 new concession stands, a 46,000-square foot fan plaza in the south end zone and a covered upper concourse. Weight room facilities are slated to be enlarged. A major redevelopment of the Barry Switzer Center will create nearly 50,000 square feet of new space for student-athletes.
No state-appropriated funds and no funds from student tuition will be used. In addition to bonds, a significant part of the project will be funded by private fundraising.
Castiglione said the program also felt it needed to improve the gameday experience so fans would continue to sell out the stadium. He said fans have more places than ever to spend their money, and while revenue from television has helped universities, it also has offered a convenient alternative to showing up on Saturdays.
''Those are the two drivers - the resources for student-athletes and the enhanced experience for the fans who support our program,'' Castiglione said.
Currently, plans are in the design phase while the school shores up its fundraising plan. There is no target date for the construction to start or finish.
Castiglione said part of Stoops' long-term success comes from their shared scheduling philosophy, which has been in place since Stoops arrived 16 years ago. Oklahoma's goal is to play top schools regularly without overextending itself. Castiglione said playing good nonconference games also appeals to fans and will help the Sooners when they try to qualify for the new playoff system. Castiglione said past series with Florida State and Notre Dame, the series that starts this year with Tennessee and future series with Ohio State, UCLA, Nebraska, LSU and now Michigan (starting in 2025) are examples of Oklahoma's desire to compete for national titles.
''Scheduling, probably, would rank in the top four or five elements to any great program - not just to a team in a given year, but to the sustaining of a great program,'' Castiglione said.
Castiglione believes the playoff will eventually expand to more than four teams, and he's not sure that will be good for the game.
''I believe it will grow, but I also think there's a point of diminishing returns if it grows too big where there's too much access,'' he said. ''I think that (expanding the field) has a chance to adversely impact the regular season.''
Castiglione said while he likes the idea of the playoff system, he also feels the old BCS system was good for building interest in the regular season. He said teams will continue to feel left out at the end.
''The playoff isn't going to solve every one of those concerns,'' he said. ''There's still going to be a raging debate. It just will include two less schools than it did before.''
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