Fundraising gets Dull; Athletics gets Lucas

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After six years at CSUN, Dick Dull resigned from his position as athletic director and has moved to a new position as the university’s executive director of development for athletic facilities. His new role will focus heavily on fundraising and is meant to improve the athletic facilities at CSUN.

Janet Lucas, the former senior associate A.D., who Dull hired just over a year ago, was appointed interim A.D. pending a nationwide search for a permanent hire that is scheduled to begin in January. This effectively gives Lucas a full school year to demonstrate her talents in her new position.

“I leave having great confidence in the entire department and their abilities,” Dull said.

Dull’s tenure included the 2001 decision to eliminate CSUN’s football program. At the time, the program was losing more than $1 million each year. Dull, however, continued to chip away at the other important issues that posed problems for the advancement of the athletic program.

Dull was responsible for many positive new additions to on-campus athletic facilities during his time as A.D. Some of his most significant projects include an improved softball field, a resurfaced track, a new women’s volleyball locker room – no locker room existed previously – and a new grandstand for the baseball stadium.

But after 15 years as an athletic director, Dull said he realized he needed a change.

“The worst thing an athletic director can do is stay too long,” said Dull regarding his position change. “It is a high burnout job.”

Dull’s new position will require that he focus his attention back to what he had tried hard to succeed in previously: upgrading CSUN’s athletic facilities. In his new position, Dull will report to CSUN Vice President for University Advancement Judy Knudson, who is responsible for university fundraising.

“In order for CSUN to make an impact, we need to have a major initiative internally,” he said.

There are three major facilities that Dull said he plans on improving: the soccer field, baseball field, and the Matadome, where basketball and volleyball are played.

“The soccer field needs a permanent grandstand that can seat 3,000 people, (as well as) a new scoreboard,” Dull said.

Men’s soccer attracts some of the largest crowds of any sport at CSUN, therefore a permanent grandstand could improve fan approval.

The renovation would cost around $2.6 million.

Although many fans feel that a new Matadome could be the missing link needed to generate a larger CSUN sports following, the university has given other construction initiatives higher priority. For instance, fundraising has already begun for the new $100 million Valley Performing Arts Center.

“The (new) Performing Arts Center can be appreciated by many people throughout the Valley and further,” CSUN President Jolene Koester said.

Dull, who has historically stood behind Koester on decisions relating to facilities improvements, made it clear that he still expects to fund some major changes to the Matadome, almost doubling fan seating from the current 1,600 seats to the proposed 3,000.

Dull added, however, that he stands firmly against the “if you build it they will come” philosophy that would be the centerpiece for a new Matadome. Dull pointed out several schools in Southern California that have newer and larger facilities, but hardly ever fill to capacity. One in particular, Long Beach State’s Pyramid, rarely fills half its capacity, Dull said.

“Bigger does not always equate to greatness, and the people want a great product,” he said. “The goal is to raise enough money to add 1,400 seats, air conditioning, a brand new floor, state of the art scoreboards, and an expansion to the Matadome’s lobby.”

Dull also said that adding a permanent food service facility for people to enjoy more than a simple snack was in the works. Dull estimates the total cost of such a renovation to the Matadome would be around $7 million.

The third issue Dull addressed in his new plan will call for a complete renovation of the baseball field.

“It is such an important sport in our conference,” he said. “Therefore, we need a true baseball stadium. Ours is not an acceptable Division I field. We need to completely gut it and start over.”

Dull also plans to secure funds to build a permanent grandstand in place of current seating. The new baseball field reconstruction would cost around $7 million, Dull said.

Dull added that each item on his agenda would be completed in separate phases.

“You look at a school like Ohio State, which has about a $90 million athletic budget, and compare it to CSUN, which commands around $7 million,” he added. “We are still an infant program working within our means.”

Dull explained that his plan would call upon major donors to fund his various projects. Although he chose not to publicly disclose anyone specifically as contributors, he did say that initial talks have already begun.

He said he also hopes to create a new booster club, that would have stronger alumni involvement, and utilize more television exposure through cable outlets like LA36.

Starting in September, the university plans to launch an overall review of its athletics program by creating a blue-ribbon commission. Its purpose will be to review intercollegiate athletics as a whole while preparing a plan for the next five years.

“I feel a whole lot better,” Dull said. “A.D. jobs are difficult jobs with lots of stress.”

Janet Lucas, however, may have to deal with a great deal of stress, taking on an athletic department that has seen several new hires as well as many position changes this summer.

“I am ready for the challenge and intend to keep things moving forward,” Lucas said.

“This year will be as important for the A.D. position as the day CSUN became Division I,” she said.

Lucas’ success in the position will reflect the overall success of CSUN athletics, and her performance in the next year will determine if she is asked back on a permanent basis.

“I expect her to be fully engaged, tireless, (and) fierce,” Koester said. She added that Lucas’ “interim” title is simply a title modifier, and not reflective of a modified job.

Although Lucas said she feels that this year may be a learning process, she appeared confident in her supporting cast.

“We have a great group of people in this department that have a lot of experience,” she said.

Lucas made it clear that she wants to boost camaraderie of the CSUN population and it’s supporters.

“If all a student does is go to school then they are doing themselves a great disadvantage,” she said. “It is important that a student gets involved in athletics, clubs, organizations, the newspaper, or study groups, which will help in the learning process for future professions.”

By Matt Osias

Matt Osias can be reached at mosias@gmail.com