Southeast's route to athletic success may run through St. Louis

Monday, May 12, 2008

The gateway to success for Southeast Missouri State athletics -- both in competition and in the bank account -- may be in St. Louis.

The review of the university's athletics department, which was presented to officials last week, stressed the importance of that market. Bill Carr, whose Carr Sports Associates firm conducted the review, and Board of Regents member James Limbaugh reiterated that point on a couple of occasions Friday during meetings.

The review notes that 16,000 of Southeast's 58,000 living alumni are in St. Louis, but the athletic department's "participation in that market has been inconsistent and random."

Limbaugh agreed: "There has been more of a random, 'Let's see what works.' There has to be a much more focused effort."

The review also said "only 18" of the booster club's 360 individual members lived in metropolitan St. Louis while 326 lived in Cape Girardeau or Scott counties.

"The last time we were here, it really hit me hard," Carr said during Friday's meeting with the Strategic Planning Committee in explaining the emphasis on St. Louis in the report.

He added that the area, which provides about 50 percent of the student population, could pay off as recruiting and financial bases with marketing and other efforts to garner more publicity.

"That's a challenge for the institution as a whole," Southeast athletics director Don Kaverman said Friday. "We're not doing a very good job with that as an institution. We need to engage the St. Louis alumni."

Carr said during the Strategic Planning meeting Friday, at which Kaverman was not present, that he was told by Bill Holland, who works on corporate recruiting and fundraising in St. Louis, that he was getting "no cooperation" from athletics.

That's why Limbaugh was pleased with the action taken by university president Dr. Kenneth Dobbins and the board on Friday to budget immediately for an associate athletic director for external affairs. The position was recommended in the review as one that would oversee fundraising, the booster club, marketing and sports information as well as other areas.

"In my mind, I think it makes a lot of sense for those two guys to partner," Limbaugh said of the new position and Holland. "I think these efforts have to run parallel with each other, and that's why I think this new role of associate AD resonates with me."

In addition to increasing the university's presence in St. Louis for development purposes, "there's a lot of great recruits coming from that area," Limbaugh added.

Southeast's programs have varying levels of participation from St. Louis-area athletes.

The baseball team has nine from the metro area, including four from Jefferson County.

The reigning two-time OVC champion women's soccer program currently has three players from St. Louis and St. Charles and two more from nearby Franklin County.

Gymnastics and women's tennis have none listed on the current rosters on the Southeast Web site. Volleyball has two, including Franklin County, and softball has one.

Men's basketball has one player, a Vashon graduate whose eligibility was called into question during this past season by an investigation into that school's practices.

Twenty-three football players come from St. Louis or one of the adjacent counties, including three from the Metro East.

Limbaugh pointed to the efforts made by Missouri football coach Gary Pinkel as a way to reinvigorate a lost market through increased emphasis and, not to be discounted, winning.

"Do we want home-grown Missouri kids?" Limbaugh asked. "Absolutely. It makes sense, but you can't realistically tell coaches to recruit 50 percent of their kids from St. Louis. It's an unrealistic assumption to assume you can get all of your good players from one area."

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