Gold Rush Feature: Q&A With Ron Wellman
June 24, 2011
This article was originally published in the June 11 edition of Gold Rush.
As Ron Wellman ends his 19th year at Wake Forest, his impact is obvious -- in the new facilities that are in use or in the works, and in the successes of the coaches and student-athletes, on and off the field. As he got ready for an even busier summer, Wellman answered questions via email from Gold Rush's Jay Reddick.
Gold Rush: The announcement of the new tennis facilities and the Winston-Salem Open felt like a really big step for the program and for the city. The short-term impact is obvious, but what do you see as the biggest long-term benefits for Wake Forest?
Wellman: The potential long-term impact is difficult to predict, but it will be very positive. This facility will give us the opportunity to host events that we've never considered before. Whether it be professional or amateur tournaments, including the NCAA tournament, camps and clinics or other events, this facility will be a tremendous asset for our tennis programs, athletic department, university and community. Its full potential will continue to evolve for many years.
Gold Rush: That continues the development of the Deacon Boulevard area -- is that coming together the way you envisioned it?
Wellman: The economic downturn has delayed the pace of the project, but we continue to plan the area and will be in a good position to move forward when the economy allows us. With our football, basketball, baseball and tennis teams playing in the area as well as non-WFU events that will be hosted at those venues, the Deacon Village area will quickly become a destination point. The future is exciting for the area.
Gold Rush: The baseball and golf teams have now gotten their first chance to play in improved facilities, with the continued work at Wake Forest Baseball Park and the Dianne Dailey Learning Center. What feedback have you gotten from those two improvements?
Wellman: Both facilities have already had a tremendously positive impact upon the baseball and golf programs. The student-athletes have the opportunity to practice daily on quality facilities; our coaches have the opportunity to teach their athletes under optimum conditions every day and recruit to some of the best facilities in the country. We will enjoy the competitive results that these facilities give us for a long time.
Gold Rush: On the field, there have been quite a few standouts -- ACC championships for the women's soccer team and Cheyenne Woods, and some other programs reaching heights not seen in a few years. Talk about some of those high points from your perspective.
Wellman: We have had some significant successes this year. Cheyenne winning the ACC gives us three consecutive ACC individual champions. The women's golf team finished 14th in the NCAAs. Dianne described that finish as a "down year" so that illustrates the expectations that she and her student-athletes have for that program. The women's soccer team winning the ACC tournament and advancing in the NCAA tournament is the highest level of achievement for that program. Baseball's goal this year was to return to the ACC tournament, and we did that with a very young team...our future is very bright in that sport. Volleyball finished strong, and we project continued improvement in that program. We have had a number of successes this year and anticipate doing even better in the very near future.
Gold Rush: The two highest-profile sports, football and men's basketball, both had disappointing records -- what gives you hope for the future of those two programs?
Wellman: Real simple...our coaches. Jim Grobe and Jeff Bzdelik will return those programs to championship-caliber level. They are quality coaches and understand what it takes to win at Wake Forest. The coaches establish the ceiling for the program, and we are fortunate to have a very high ceiling with Jim and Jeff leading our football and basketball programs. Even though our records this year are not what any of us want, I am as excited about our future in football and basketball as I have ever been because we have quality coaches leading those teams.
Gold Rush: Dennis Godfrey did some quick, selfless work in collecting supplies for the tornado victims in Sanford earlier this year. How much does it mean to you to see Wake Forest student-athletes giving back to the community like that?
Wellman: Our athletes do a wonderful job of volunteering for various causes in our community. In fact, over 75 percent of our student-athletes volunteer in some type of outreach endeavor every year. It doesn't surprise me at all that Dennis organized a relief effort so quickly after the tornado hit his hometown. He is a very giving young man who is concerned about others and is anxious to help in whatever way he can.
Gold Rush: What's next for the program, in terms of more facilities or other challenges brought about by changes in the NCAA landscape?
Wellman: Our facilities will require continual attention and improvements. Facilities are extremely important in so many ways. Quality facilities give our student-athletes the opportunity to improve their skills and our coaches to teach in a first-class "classroom." Facilities are very important in the recruitment of the best prospects in the country. When a prospect visits Wake Forest, he/she wants to see the facilities that they will be using. If we don't have outstanding facilities for them, the chances of them committing to us diminishes rather significantly. The impact that the golf and baseball facility improvements have had upon recruiting in those sports is incredible. We absolutely must maintain the good facilities that we have and make improvements in those that need it. We cannot be competitive in the ACC and nationally without great facilities.
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