Dave Joyner has been Penn State's acting athletic director for nearly seven months. He's overseen the football team's first head coaching transition in five decades, watched football season ticket sales decline and had his department interviewed by investigators in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal. Lions247 sat down with the former Penn State football player and wrestler to discuss a number of topics. In Part II, he talks about football season ticket sales, coaches' contracts and his own future with the athletic department.
Lions247: Football ticket sales are down from last year. Nittany Lion Club revenues are up. Do you just have to be patient and hope that Penn State fans kick in -- that the ones who have had season tickets in the past do it again, or the ones who haven't maybe decide to pull the trigger?
Dave Joyner: I think the thing we can do is people will come to see the product. And I think that as Bill O'Brien fields a team … if I was a consumer, maybe I'd want to go to that first game, because I'd want to see what this thing looks like. So even if I haven't bought a season ticket, I'm going to buy a ticket for this one. And maybe some season-ticket people who haven't renewed say, 'I get a sense I liked what I saw at the Blue-White Game, I'm gonna buy.' And then I think you go to the Ohio U game. If they see a good product on the field and some things that excite them, then I think you're gonna see … and I'm hopeful and confident that those kinds of things are going to start happening and people are going to get very, very interested.
We have seen, even though we are behind -- the last figures I had from two weeks ago we were still 4,500 behind last year, which was 69,000 of the season tickets -- I do know we've been accelerating. We'll see what the next few weeks hold, but I think this is accurate: we've sold 2,500 new season tickets to people that haven't had them before. Obviously there's more that haven't renewed, and that's why we're behind, but still, that's kind of an interesting sign, that 2,500 new people have wanted to do it. So I think we've just got to wait and watch and see what happens over the summer. You'd love to sell season tickets rather than individual tickets. On the other hand, you'd rather sell all tickets, no matter what they are. … I feel good that we were 15,000 behind six weeks ago, so we've gone from 15,000 to 4,500. I think the (coaches) caravan helped a lot.
L247: Most of the non-conference scheduling is done well in advance. The football schedule is set, with the exception of one or two dates, up until 2017. As far as your role in that, how much are potential ticket sales in mind when you go to schedule?
Dave Joyner: There's a lot of things that go into it. How do you share … a lot of times you get all your expenses paid for if you go away, so there's zero … it doesn't cost you anything and then they get the gate. Or different times you give guarantees. And so there's a lot of different factors that go into things. The thing about the Central Michigans and those types of schools, I think we do have to play some of them, because there's a thing about camaraderie that I believe in. For those athletes at Central Michigan to come and play at Penn State, or for Troy State to go play Alabama, I think it's the right thing to do. I think it's a good thing to do. You've got to intersperse that with trying to play the Southern Cals and those kinds of teams that would give a marquee matchup. I know Bill's talked about a marquee matchup on a neutral field sometime -- I'm very willing to look at that. Bill and I talk about it and Fran Ganter does the scheduling or at least the discussions when we reach out. I'm in favor of those kinds of things as long as you can work out all the multiple details of getting a fair site and how you divide it up. We have a little bit of flexibility in 2015 or 2016, but then Big Ten's due to go to nine games, so how does that impact it?
L247: You briefly touched on the hockey programs earlier and having them as a potential source of revenue. What are your expectations for those programs once they get underway and are you able to do any budget projections, or is whatever revenue you get a bonus?
Dave Joyner: We have budget projections, and we're working on them all the time. I'd love to see both sports number one do really well. I think hockey is a very exciting sport and I think it's got a lot of fan attraction, both for men and women. I think that it's an Olympic sport, which is great. The U.S. is really good in hockey, both men and women. You've got 6,000 seats to fill, 1,000 of those are student tickets. So it's going to be a rocking place to play. I think it could be very interesting to be there to watch this go. I think there are two great coaches who know what they're doing and I think we're going to have a really good shot at having a very solid program, both on the men's and women's side. It may not be Minnesota or New England, but there's a lot of good hockey here and a lot of interest and excitement here.
L247: When Coquese Washington had her press conference a few weeks ago, you got a couple of questions about her contract. There have been a lot of new coaches coming in the past couple of years. Are you constantly in the process of evaluating contracts -- who's is up, who needs an extension -- and how much time does that take?
Dave Joyner: It takes a fair amount of time because you've got 31 sports and at any given time, we've got four to six that we're working on in different stages of it. What you do is you talk with the coaches, see what their expectations are for their program, and all the coaches, to their credit, are very interested in making sure their assistants are taken care of well because they know that the assistants are integral to the program. So we never have a discussion about a single coach without that coach bringing up, we've got to do the right thing with the assistants. So we stay competitive … I'd love to give every coach $20 million each. But you have a budget and a lot of benchmarking, so we spend a lot of time looking at it from the front end -- what are the benchmarks? How's the program done? Where do they sit, how long since they've had a renewal or an uptick? …
L247: Should we be expecting to hear about a new contract for Coach Washington anytime soon?
Dave Joyner: We are transparent in those regards, so when appropriate, I'm sure you will.
L247: Have you had to consult with Tim Curley at all for any reason just because you wanted to know what Penn State did in a coaches' meeting or what he did in a certain area in the past? Or have you just relied on the staff here?
Dave Joyner: I haven't talked to Tim. On a personal basis, that would be fine for me. I have no animosity to Tim. I've known him for years. But just based on my position and what's going on, it's not appropriate that I talk to him, so I haven't. But we have great resources here. I have great resources within the Big Ten -- Jim Delany, Mark Rudner. Also with the Big Ten athletic directors. Even if I was the world's longest-lived athletic director, situations are different over time. So everyone needs people to bounce things off of and vice-versa. So it's always a collaborative effort on decisions. We're very open with Old Main and work collaboratively on a lot of things. There's a lot of cross-referencing.
L247: Is the idea for you to stay (as athletic director) as long as they'll have you?
Dave Joyner: As long as I'm needed, I'll stay. That's not meant as a job solicitation, that's just a fact. I'm committed to Penn State, I'm committed to doing what's best for them. I believe that I am committed to staying as long as I'm useful and can be helpful to them. If that's a week or a month or 10 years, that's OK. I am the acting athletic director, but I think the best way to be the acting athletic director is to not act like the acting athletic director. Otherwise you just tread water. You've got to project your vision and work with everybody to kind of move that forward. Even though you may not be here, you have to act like you're going to be here to lead effectively, so that's what I try to do.
L247: Are you still involved with the Olympics?
Dave Joyner: I was on the sports advisory committee, which didn't do much; they're not doing it anymore as of very recently. I'm still part of the Pan American Games.
L247: What's your official status with the board of trustees?
Dave Joyner: I'm done. My membership was suspended when I took this job.
L247: If you weren't athletic director, would you have an interest in rejoining the board?
Dave Joyner: This was my term. I was due to run again. You certainly could do that. I'd have to run again, so I wouldn't get reinstated automatically. I haven't really thought about that. If I weren't doing this in the future I might look at that. Who knows? For right now, it's not an issue.