Rudd's quote in the CA...
Q: The indoor practice facility. Where is that?
A: The indoor practice facility, a couple things I’ll share with you about that. We are going through a board transition as you know. So it looks like the goal is to have our board seated by the end of March, which is great, that the board would be active by the end of March. So we started the process through the Tennessee Board of Regents system and went through, in part, we got the basketball practice facility started, we’ve done a number of other projects, we have three other major projects in process, as you might be aware, and we presented a financial model for the approval of the indoor practice facility. And that financial model has changed. As part of what has happened with our fundraising, we have raised in the ballpark of $37 million. Part of the challenge though, is that some of those gifts are essentially what we refer to as backloaded, which means that they are gifts that won’t pay off for another 10 years, may not pay off for another 15 years, and so the challenge becomes the cash flow. So we have to have an adequate cash flow and the fundraising to pay for it. So in response to the cash flow challenge, I’ve come up with an alternative model that I’m actually going to present to our board very quickly when the board is seated. And I frankly hope to have that approved either in the first meeting or at the latest the second meeting. And I believe I’ll have it ready for the first meeting, with the expectation and the hope that we’ll be breaking ground by the end of April.
Q: Will it be easier to get things through with the new board structure?
A: I don’t know that it will be easier. It’s not the issue of getting things through. To give perspective, the Tennessee Board of Regents, they do a fabulous job. But there are 45 institutions in the Tennessee Board of Regents system. Six of those are universities, 39 of those are community colleges and technical schools. And of those six universities, the University of Memphis is the only Carnegie 2 major research university, the others are Carnegie 3s. So we really don’t have a peer from a research university in the system, and as a result we don’t get individual attention on the issues important to the University of Memphis. It’s about the capacity to arguably do two things: 1) To be able to shape an appropriate vision for the institution, and 2) then be able to resource it. Having our own independent board allows us to shape a vision that is unique to the University of Memphis, unique to this community, and then to resource it.
Q: When you say that the funding structure has changed, can you give us a sense what that means?
A: Basically, what we have looked at, in terms of the money we have raised, is how much of that do we have in terms of payment structure for the facility. The cash flow doesn’t support the payment structure that we originally presented. So I had to present a new structure, in terms of how much debt we would have to issue, what the time period is for the payment structure to have it paid off. And that’s something that I’m not going to go back through the Tennessee Board of Regents, it’s too late to do that because of the new board, so I’ll present it to the new board.
Q: Originally you said you expect to break ground in the fall of 2015. There is some skepticism out there. Is there reason for that?
A: We do have some skeptical fans, there are people out there who are skeptical. I will tell you there were people who were skeptical we would break ground on the basketball facility and we’re going to have that finished, it’s going to be one of the finest in the country. But we’re going to do it responsibly. We’re going to do it responsibly and understand what the overall demands are for the university as a whole and make sure that we have a coherent, sound financial model, and that’s what we’ve been doing. I’ve made a commitment to Tom (Bowen), I’ve made a commitment to the community, we’ll get it started, we’ll get it built and we’ll get it paid for. And it’s important for us.
Q: If you break ground in the spring, when does that mean it’s done?
A: My understanding is it’s a 10-12 month timeline for completion on that facility, on critical aspects in terms of a usable indoor facility. And then some of the office space, some of the other things may take a few months longer.
Q: It sort of gets to the fundamental issue, you can’t just wave a wand, in the end you need the resources to pay for things.
A: We need the resources to pay for things, and so that goes back to the question of having an independent board. We have a board that has some remarkably talented people who can help us lobby for adequate resources. The new board puts us in a position to be looked at uniquely, and then to actually lobby in accordance with the unique needs of the university, which is critical for us and critical for the future.