From the Desk of AD Scott Garrett
It has been a while since my last update and much has happened, especially recent national events, that I wanted to address with Viking fans across Cleveland, Northeast Ohio and beyond.
Just a couple of days had passed since the horrific murder of George Floyd when our head coaches and senior staff began discussing how we would provide immediate opportunities for our student-athletes to engage in conversation around how they were feeling and how Cleveland State Athletics could be proactive in doing our part to take action against systemic racism. We certainly did not anticipate at that time how events would unfold nationwide over the next couple of weeks.
Cleveland State University, student-led groups on campus, our department's teams including coaches, staff, student-athletes, and myself, have joined in the millions of citizens sharing messages this week condemning racism and violence, and advocating for activism, hope, togetherness and a desire to contribute to a plan to make things better. A few of those messages can be found here:
- From the Desk of Harlan Sands: At CSU, we stand together against racism - and are committed to action
- CSU President, Harlan Sands, comments to begin this week's Student Virtual Town Hall (June 10)
- Cleveland State's Student Government Association
- Director of Athletics Scott Garrett's Tweet
- Cleveland State Women's Basketball Video
So what is next? Our coaches are actively involved in individual student-athlete conversations and team meetings. Our Student-Athlete Advisory Committee leadership group is engaged in ongoing discussions on how our student-athletes can become more active, with help from CSU and our department. This past Wednesday, our head coaches and athletics staff met for an athletics staff town hall, and a student-athlete led forum to discuss action steps that will occur in the near future. Our goals are to provide our student-athletes support for use of their platforms to promote change, to provide our coaches with ample resources to facilitate ongoing, helpful, proactive conversations with student-athletes, and – most importantly – to work together to develop a roadmap for how Cleveland State Athletics will be strategically proactive in diversity and inclusion initiatives.
We look forward to sharing our continued progress in this regard, and we welcome feedback and suggestions from our fans and alumni on how we can make a difference. Please feel free to email me at CSUDirectorOfAthletics@csuohio.edu.
Just a couple of other brief updates from around the department:
Athletics Return to Campus
A couple of the most frequent questions I have been asked in recent weeks are, "When will student-athletes get to return to campus?" and "Will your teams be able to compete as scheduled?".
The short answer is that we do not yet know. With more detail, our fans should know that we remain engaged with CSU's Pandemic Leadership Team, under the direction of Retired Vice Admiral Forrest Faison, to assist in determining CSU's broader academic plan for 2020-21. As that plan takes shape, as the NCAA issues continued medical guidance from their team of experts, and as we learn from a number of departments from around the country that are beginning to transition some student-athletes back on their campuses, our athletics resocialization team, led by Deputy AD Kelsie Gory-Harkey, is working on the specific details of how to best welcome back student-athletes when it is determined safe to do so. We are hopeful that, with the right protocols in place, our teams will be able to resume workouts, practice, and compete to the fullest extent possible this year. We will pass along official news as these plans develop over the next few weeks.
FY21 Budget, Staffing, and CSU 2.0 Task Force
Some of you may have read the article by Kevin Kleps in Crain's Cleveland Business this week covering our budget situation, as well as our recent athletics graduation reception. The article included some details regarding our FY21 athletics budget approach.
Over the last two months we have been carefully studying our entire athletics operational budget to find creative ways to recalibrate to our new environment and fiscal challenges. We recently communicated to our staff and coaches a series of adjustments that will serve as the first phase in reducing our annual expenses. These actions include eliminating a series of vacant positions, a reduction in the number of summer school hours for student-athletes throughout the department, a phased elimination of our cost-of-attendance grants in women's volleyball, and a 10 to 15% drawback in our sport operating budgets through modifications in our approach to equipment rotation, scheduling, travel, recruiting, etc.
These decisions collectively equate to nearly $700,000 in annual savings, while not affecting specific existing personnel positions or current sports sponsorship offerings.
Additionally, all CSU coaches and staff will participate in CSU's four-week staff furlough between now and August. Myself, men's basketball head coach Dennis Gates, and women's basketball head coach Chris Kielsmeier, have volunteered to participate in temporary pay reductions to begin FY21, in line with the reductions that were prescribed for other CSU administrators.
We do expect to continue working strategically to find and implement additional savings measures over the next few months. The CSU 2.0 Task Force will serve as a guiding process to further decision-making in athletics organizational structure/personnel, department operating priorities in line with our soon to-be-released department strategic plan that has been in development over the last year, level of athletics scholarship distributions, and other areas. We expect to work through this comprehensive review with a representative group of campus stakeholders, and to finalize these decisions over the next couple of months.
End of Semester Academic Success/Awards
Our student-athletes continue to set a standard for outstanding performance in the classroom and the community!
Even though their seasons were cut short, a number of spring student-athletes received well-deserved recognitions for their achievements.
Men's tennis standout Nico Mostardi was named the Most Improved Senior in the Midwest Region by the ITA. We look forward to Nico returning in 2020-21 for another shot at his senior year!
The women's tennis squad was recognized for the second consecutive year by the ITA for their outstanding community service.
Junior golfer Ashley Knight was named to the 2020 GEICO Horizon League All-Academic team, with a 3.75 cumulative GPA in Health Sciences/Pre-Physician Assistant program. Track and field junior Anna Brandt was named to the Horizon League Track and Field All-Academic Team with a 4.0 cumulative GPA in health sciences. Finally, in softball, senior Hallie Ward (3.93 GPA in communications) and junior Sydney Bajusz (3.98 GPA in pre-physical therapy) were both named to the Horizon League All-Academic team.
The NCAA released Academic Progress Rating updates earlier this week and we are excited to share the continued academic success of our student-athletes. All Viking teams are above the NCAA 930 APR postseason threshold, with 10 teams logging perfect one-year scores of 1,000 APR. Additionally, last fall we shared our up-to-date NCAA Graduation Success Rate of a 95, which is the 2nd highest such rating of NCAA Division I public universities. More information on the NCAA's academic metric calculations can be found here.
Our student-athletes excelled in the classroom during the 2020 spring semester, posting their 27th-straight semester surpassing a 3.00 cumulative grade point average, with 155 student-athletes named to the Dean's List and 46 named to the President's List. To view the full release, click here. We are quite proud of the adjustments our student-athletes made to learning from home and completing out their coursework under unique and difficult circumstances. A huge "thank you" to all of the hard-working CSU faculty and staff who quickly improvised to deliver a professional, first-class experience for all CSU students over the last couple of months!
As always, we appreciate the loyal and continued support of Viking Nation. Please don't hesitate to reach out (CSUDirectorOfAthletics@csuohio.edu) if you have questions or feedback!