Sarra points to athletic facilities for success

Bob Galuski, Editor-in-Chief

Boasting a career where he said he has handled almost every facet of athletics, James Sarra gave his thoughts on switching conferences and Eastern’s athletic facilities as he vied for the position of athletic director Wednesday.

Sarra, the third and final candidate for athletic director and currently the deputy director of athletics at the University of Texas San Antonio, said making the leap from conferences came down to perspective.

“You have to look at the success you’re having in the OVC,” he said. “Do you want to go from that to a new conference?”

Sarra added the switch would also mean leaving a top spot in one conference for a bottom spot in the other.

Sarra said people also needed to make sure the conference had a viable product for others – mainly how it could be broadcast on television.

Along with changing conferences, Sarra also said he would want to renovate some of the athletic facilities, although, he said, that all comes down fundraising.

When looking at rebuilding or redoing some of the aspects of the athletic program – such as the weight room and locker rooms – Sarra said it would be about resources and budget, two things that need fundraising.

“You have to build those relationships first,” he said.

However, he admitted that is what he finds to be the “fun part” – seeking out and building relationships with donors, alumni and fans.

“It’s about getting to understand the people,” Sarra said.

When talking about understanding people, Sarra was also vocal about how to increase fan support, and the problem Eastern was having. The lack of a fan base at games, matches and meets is a national problem, he said.

“I don’t know if students will come out,” he said. “I don’t know if anybody has the answer.”

He mentioned with the growing advances in technology, it made it easier for students to watch the programs on a screen rather than live, which he said was adding to the problem.

“You never know if students will show,” he said. “I have no answer.”

Sarra added one of the things that impressed him about Eastern was the amount of sports programs currently offered.

Drawing on what he said was a background of a hard work ethic, Sarra said, if put in the position of deciding whether or not to drop a sport, he would “work that much harder” to ensure the sport stayed at Eastern.

Sarra also said the position at Eastern was not a stepping stone, and he would like to stay “as long as you’ll have me.”

“Realistically, the president (Perry) is retiring in a year,” he said. “The new president could come in and decide they want their own person. It’s a lot of variables.”

Until then, he said, he would come in, put his head down and work hard. Staying along the lines of being realistic, Sarra also added he was applying at different schools for athletic director – although he declined to say which ones.

Sarra follows up two days of open interviews. Rick Hartzell, who was athletic director at Northern Iowa, interviewed Monday. Thomas Michael, the senior associate athletic director at the University of Illinois interviewed on Tuesday.

Eastern officials hope to have a decision made by August.

Bob Galuski can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].