July 2, 2012
In October, Ron Wellman will celebrate 20 years as Wake Forest's director of athletics. He's seen his share of highlights on and off the field during that time, and the school year just concluded is no exception. Gold Rush's Jay Reddick connected with Wellman via email in late May to get his thoughts on the season.
Q: Seeing women's soccer reach the College Cup was a thrill, and it didn't exactly come out of nowhere. It feels like the program has steadily built to that moment.
A: Our women's soccer team has improved practically every year since Tony da Luz has been our head coach. It's no surprise that he took our team to the College Cup last year based upon the annual improvement of his teams. We are even more excited about our future. We have the vast majority of our team returning this fall and should be a contender for ACC and national honors.
Q: The football team made it back to a bowl game, which had to be a welcome sight. The team also had so many players drafted and signed by NFL teams. How gratifying is it for you to see WFU athletes do well at the pro level, not just in football but in all sports?
A: You had better have some future professional players if you are going to be competitive in the ACC, not only in football but all of our sports. If you look at the rosters of professional sports teams, we have many of our former athletes competing at that level.
Q: The men's basketball team saw an improvement in the win column but also dealt with some departures at the end of the season. What have you and coach Bzdelik discussed about how to move forward and find more success?
A: Jeff Bzdelik and his staff are building an excellent program. He is making all the decisions that will lead us to being one of the top programs in the ACC. He has recruited excellent players, and he is an excellent floor coach. Unfortunately, college basketball today is a sport in which many players transfer. NCAA statistics suggest that 40 percent of Division I college basketball players will transfer by the end of their sophomore year. We wish the players who transferred from our program well, but we are really excited about the returning players that we have coming back and our recruits. Next year will be another year of improvement for our team, and our fans will see that our future is very bright with not only our returnees but also the type of player that Jeff and his staff are attracting to our program.
Q: How did you go about hiring Jen Hoover for women's basketball? Obviously, she's an alumnus and had success at High Point.
A: A successful coach at Wake Forest must be a good "fit" for us. The coach must understand and support the values, ideals and standards of the university to excel here. Jen is one of our all-time great basketball players, so she obviously knows Wake Forest well. She did an excellent job at High Point University during her one year there. She turned a losing team into a 20-game winner and was voted the National Rookie Coach of the Year. We are really excited about the future of our program under her leadership.
Q: What does it mean for the program to have alumni like Jen, Randolph Childress and Rusty LaRue on the basketball staff, plus many others in coaching and staff positions, coming back to the fold as coaches and staff members?
A: Having coaches and staff members here who are alums is great ... but it's only great if they do their jobs exceptionally well, which all of them do. They all love this place and have a bond with the university as a result of their undergraduate days.
Q: What's next on the horizon for new or upgraded facilities?
A: We have a long list of facility needs, and it is important that we address them to provide the competitive venues that are critical to our future success as well as provide our fans with the type of experience that they want when they attend our games. Some of the projects that are important to our future include a new campus recreation center that will house a new athletic strength and conditioning center, the renovation of Bridger Field House, improving Deacon Hill at BB&T Field, improving the practice and competitive playing fields at the Dennie Spry Soccer Complex, a new baseball seating bowl and a "heritage area" in Manchester Athletic Center. Those are just a few!
Q: What do you think about the changes in college athletics across the country? The rise of the superconferences (and the new ESPN deal) obviously alters WFU's bottom line, but what other repercussions do you see for Wake Forest athletics?
A: There are so many opportunities in our future. The renegotiated ESPN television contract will benefit our program not only financially but also in terms of all of our teams' exposure nationally (my column in this "Gold Rush" discusses some of those details). Conference membership will continue to be fluid nationally, but the ACC membership is solid regardless of the rumors that appear will always be with us. As a conference we are in an excellent place with the membership and the area of the country that we dominate. There are some excellent years ahead for our program and the ACC!