Conversation with Terry Don Phillips - Part IV - Football Program


by - Senior Writer -
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CLEMSON – Part four of our conversation with Clemson Athletic Director Terry Don Phillips centers on the football program, home football games, the rivalry with South Carolina and other sports at Clemson.

We had some great questions to ask Terry Don, and there are actually tons of follow-up questions that need to be asked but we were limited in our time and wanted to make sure we asked a broad scope of questions for this series.

However, he has agreed to meet with TigerNet on at least a biannual basis to discuss the athletic program.

We start out with the contracts for offensive coordinator Chad Morris and new defensive coordinator Brent Venables.

TigerNet: Chad Morris and Brent Venables are now among the highest-paid assistants in the country. Did you blink at approving those amounts?

TDP: Sure I blinked at them. You have to, because they are extremely strong amounts. And it caused sleepless nights. I will be the first to tell you that you labor on those kinds of decisions. With Chad, there was a reason we decided to give him the money we did. There were three other programs that were involved and we believed we would hurt ourselves if we lost Chad. He has come in and done a terrific job, and it would be more harmful to lose him than it would be to ensure that we are going to keep him. It was a business decision that we had to make. With Brent, he is an outstanding football coach. I have seen him since he was at Kansas St. and I was at Oklahoma St. He is outstanding as a coach and as a coordinator. He is a great human being and he didn’t come here for the money. This is not hearsay – this is first-hand information and not from Brent either – but financially Oklahoma told him he could have the package if he had stayed at OU. But he came here because it is a great opportunity. Brent doesn’t move around – he played and coached at Kansas St. under Bill Snyder. And then when Bob [Stoops] went back to Oklahoma – Bob was on the staff there at Kansas St. - he took Brent with him. And he has coached in conference championship games and national championship games. He just brings so much to the table. That caliber of person and coach you have to be fair in the market, so we had a decision to make. Did we want to provide a very fair offer and bring in someone that would be a great fit as far as chemistry with the staff and team as well as being a great coach? And the answer was yes. And I am glad Brent is here. He is not in it for the money.

TigerNet: What are the specifics of Venables’ contract, and does he have any incentives built in?

TDP: We actually just got that completed, and it is a five-year contract. And we have language in there for extraordinary achievement – winning the division, winning the conference, going to a BCS bowl – and we will nail those down a little bit better later. We will let the dust settle and then think about what we have. Now Dabo has very specific incentives in his contract, but we are still working on those for some of our assistants.

TigerNet: Chad is at $1.3 million per year?

TDP: Yes, that’s right.

TigerNet: And where is Brent?

TDP: He is at $800,000 per year.

TigerNet: What is the status of Dabo’s contract?

TDP: Well, you know Dabo started off with a 5-year contract, and he has three years on it. We are looking to extend it. We have a process here, and we have a compensation committee and a Board of Trustees that we have to go through. That is something we are working on. And as far as Dabo is concerned I know you are only as good as your last game and that is just the way it is. But he has won two divisional championships. He has won the ACC Championship, beating a good Virginia Tech team twice. And I will tell you, even after losing in the Orange Bowl to a good West Virginia team, I would much rather play West Virginia than Virginia Tech consistently. Dabo has done a good job and is recruiting very well and I think the future is bright.

TigerNet: With the outlay of funds on facilities and coaches, does this in your opinion ratchet up the pressure to be a consistent Top 10 or Top 15 team?

TDP: I think we have everything in place to do that. I know how I look at the job. Florida St. looks like they are back and Miami won't stay down. Virginia Tech is a solid program and they are among the top teams year in and year out. Boston College brings more to the table than people think. So there are challenges out there. But anytime you build the facilities and you pay your coaches, there is a reason and that is to have an opportunity to be a strong winner consistently and win your fair share of championships. And hopefully one day you will be able to play for the ultimate prize. Otherwise you don’t build facilities and you don’t pay coaches. You can pay minimum wage and put together a coaching staff, but you don’t expect to go all through the heartache and work if you didn’t plan on winning. Again – why would we be doing all of this if we weren’t serious about winning. That is why I came over here – I thought this was a better opportunity to get to the BCS. And then this year, Oklahoma St. got there the same year we did, and I am proud of what they have done. We got to the Orange Bowl, and it didn’t work out all the way we wanted it to. But Brent said it best when he said that we have all been on both sides of it. We would rather be on West Virginia’s side than our side. But if you stay in this long enough, you will see both sides of that.

TigerNet: There have been several games recently where the upper deck sections have been empty in large spots. Considering the economy, would you consider lowering prices in an effort to fill those seats back up?

TDP: Certainly. The 2008 season was the high-water mark in ticket revenue and contributions. And then the recession hit, and those are areas that impact people. But we definitely have to look at what we can with that excess inventory. We want people up there, and we understand that we have to look at pricing issues to make it more attractive.

TigerNet: With Clemson’s recent struggles against South Carolina – seemingly across the spectrum – what are your views on those struggles and do you see this changing anytime soon?

TDP: You certainly don’t want your rival having the upper hand. There are reasons it is a rivalry – they want to beat us and we want to beat them. But those things do ebb and flow, and the main thing we have to be focused on is that we have a good quality staff, good facilities that we can recruit to and that we are putting the tools in our coach’s hands to be successful. I feel good about all of our staffs across the board. There are two or three sports that historically we have had good success at that I think we are going to start seeing more success in. Like Mike Noonan in soccer – he took over a program that had seen some success but it went down. Men’s soccer is on its way back, and women’s soccer is on its way back. Since I have been here, we have struggled in women’s basketball and we have to get that going. Men’s basketball will continue to progress. You have to recruit well and bring in quality kids and that is the way you are going to beat your rival. Over a period of time things will shake out. These things happen in the life of rivalry. You figure out how to get out of it. It doesn’t mean you’ve had a bad year or have a bad program if you lose to your rival. The first year that USC won their first baseball championship, we finished fourth. What does that mean? It just means that USC got hot at the right time and played well and won it. But that doesn’t mean that Clemson was terrible. We were one of the best in the country. You figure out how to get yourselves back on track and how to move forward and that starts with coaching and that is why I am excited about the future. We have good coaches across the board.

TigerNet: Do you have any influence over Thursday night games or night games in football?

TDP: Being in the conference, we are contractually obligated to play Thursday nights. But the university has a strong preference to not play Thursday night games. Having said that: we have had recent conversations where we would look at that on a case-by-case basis. But we prefer to not play Thursday night games because of our fans and the travel involved.


TigerNet: Do you foresee adding any new sports or changing the current mix?

TDP: No. We have a great mix with our programs. With the addition of women’s golf, we think we actually have an excellent sports mix. We think that with the women’s diving program and the way we are funding the scholarships with that and adding the new diving towers that we have a chance to attract some individual national champions there. So I don’t foresee us changing anything right now. Our women’s track and field is nationally ranked, and the men’s program is on the way back. The men’s and women’s tennis programs are doing well, and I think we are good across the board. I think we have a chance to make a good run and have good success. Going forward, I feel good about the people going forward that are leading our program.

TigerNet: What is your status?

TDP: It has been an interesting year to say the least. I know there was one website that had me fired a hundred times over the last year. It has been an interesting phenomenon. All I can say is this – we have got good people in place. We all want to win and want to win at the highest level. We all want to do what it takes to bring us success. And when I get ready to make that decision I will make it. That is where I am at.


Read part three of a Conversation with Terry Don Phillips - Facilities


Read part two of a Conversation with Terry Don Phillips - Conference Realignment


Read part one of a Conversation with Terry Don Phillips

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