Despite the prospect of more Big East upheaval and the conference’s eroding prestige, Georgetown Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Lee Reed believes that the future for Georgetown’s 29 teams is bright.
Reed, who sat down with The Hoya for an interview in his McDonough Arena office Thursday, derives much of his optimism from the planned Intercollegiate Athletics Center, for which he is leading an extensive fundraising effort.
And although several D.C. and federal agencies ordered modifications to the original plans during a lengthy review process, Reed says the new facility will still meet his department’s needs.
“From a programmatic standpoint, it never changed,” Reed said. “The outside went through several different variations in terms of look and the aesthetics of it all, but the internal programming that we needed for our student athletes and coaches is all there.”
Reed also emphasized the cooperative nature of the changes, which were based on input from hearings before the Old Georgetown Board, meetings with neighborhood groups and final approval from the D.C. Zoning Commission.
“That process, while it was a long process in terms of months … was very collaborative in nature,” Reed said. “It made it a well designed facility, one that will make sense for our campus, one that fits into this region of the campus, so it’s a good project for us. We’ve embraced that whole process.”
With regulatory approval secured, the only thing that stands in the way of construction is the IAC’s $60 million price tag, which is a component of the $125 million the athletic department is expecting to raise as part of Georgetown’s $1.5 billion capital campaign.
Another $5 million to be used elsewhere than the IAC will bring the amount of money from the campaign devoted to infrastructure improvements to $65 million, while $40 million is earmarked for the department’s annual fund. The final $20 million will be used to endow 20 new athletic scholarships.
While fundraising continues toward those goals, Reed expressed enthusiasm about one infrastructure improvement that did get off the ground earlier this year — the renovation of North Kehoe Field.
“Soccer is important to us. Those are two sports out of our 29 that we’ve had some recent success with,” Reed said, noting that both the men’s and women’s teams are ranked in the national top 25 early in the season.
According to Reed, the project was able to get off the ground so quickly because of a $750,000 donation from an anonymous donor.
Spearheaded by the donor, coaches for both the men’s and women’s teams and Georgetown’s facilities staff, the project began in the spring and was completed in time for the beginning of the soccer season earlier this month.
“What we learned is that you can get a lot done when you have money in the bank,” Reed said. “So when people ask about the timeline for the IAC and how quickly we will be able to build that, that’s really all dependent on our success fundraising.”
That building will include practice courts, offices for the men’s and women’s basketball teams, new locker rooms for Georgetown’s soccer and lacrosse teams and training and sports medicine facilities. Reed said that the building will be modeled stylistically after Georgetown’s most recent construction projects, incorporating sleek design and cutting-edge technology.
“When you look at [the Rafik B. Hariri Building], that is going to be the standard moving forward,” Reed said. “All of [Georgetown’s] facilities … will be state of the art. Ours will be no different.”
While infrastructure is one of Reed’s top priorities, it is far from the only one. With the football season set to begin tomorrow, Georgetown finds itself in a conference — the Patriot League — that now allows its members to offer football scholarships based on athletic merit.
Georgetown has opposed offering football scholarships, with University President John J. DeGioia, who played football on the Hilltop in the 1970s arguing that they are not compatible with Georgetown’s culture.
“Most schools are starting to make a move towards merit aid. Right now, we haven’t made that decision yet. That’s not what we’ve been or what we want to do,” Reed said. “We’ll maintain our position as a need-based aid program.”
However, Reed hinted that Georgetown’s football program might have to adapt to the new rules.
“Like anything, leagues evolve as policies change. We continue to assess that in terms of where we are and what our ability to be successful is. We’ll go through that process over the next couple years,” Reed said
Despite the in-conference changes, Georgetown football is set to play Princeton, Yale and Brown this season, all Ivy League teams that do not offer merit-based aid.
“I think you’ll see a lot more Ivy League schools on our football schedule, intentionally, because they are need-based as well,” Reed said. “We want to play schools that have a similar philosophy when it comes to aid. We are running out of schools to do that against, so it makes sense because the Ivies are our peers.”
Reed is dealing with changes off the football field as well, as the Big East prepares to enter a period of media rights negotiations with a new commissioner at the helm. Commissioner Mike Aresco, a former executive at CBS, is tasked with leading the conference in negotiations with its current TV rights holder, ESPN, for the next 60 days. If no deal is reached, the Big East would be able to sell its rights on the open market.
“I’m pleased to report that we’ve got the right person for the job in [Aresco]: somebody who has a TV background, somebody who’s from the Big East footprint — Connecticut — and more specifically, [someone who] understands Big East basketball and its value and what it means to the Northeast and what it means nationally,” Reed said.
Despite the defections of three members — Syracuse, Pittsburgh and West Virginia — Reed is confident that the media rights negotiations deal will end well for the league and that the fundamentals of the Big East are strong.
“I think we all feel really good where we are right now. Certainly, losing Syracuse was not something that was good, especially for Georgetown,” Reed said. “That rivalry has changed a bit.”
However, Reed pointed to the new teams the Big East has attracted — including basketball schools like Memphis and Temple — as a sign that the league isn’t rolling over.
“We’re very, very deep, and we will still have multiple — six, seven, eight, nine — bids to the NCAA tournament each year,” Reed said.
Reed also faced two hiring decisions over the past few months, first when Terri Williams-Flournoy left the women’s basketball team for Auburn and then when men’s lacrosse Head Coach Dave Urick retired after 23 years. And with women’s cross country Head Coach Chris Miltenberg leaving to become director of track and field and head cross country coach at Stanford, Reed will have to embark on another coaching search soon.
To fill the first two vacancies, he promoted Georgetown Assistant Coach Keith Brown to the women’s basketball top job and hired former Maryland Assistant Coach Kevin Warne to lead the lacrosse program, easing concerns that — with the IAC still in the pipeline — facilities are holding the Hoyas back in their hunt for elite coaches.
“We have so many other positives at Georgetown: the academics at Georgetown, the location in D.C., the location in Georgetown, our athletic history,” he said. “These things make our jobs — all of our jobs — pretty coveted.”