Bumped. Good thoughts here. - BN Eds.
Focusing on only the student seating issue gives Dan Guerrero and the Morgan Center an easy way out.
It is important to keep the entire debacle with Pauley in perspective, and not focus on only one issue. Although the student seating issue is important, it is important in my mind primarily because the Morgan Center won't admit the truth: Fund raising for their project is going so poorly that they need to have more premium seats available to sell to make their budget. To get those seats, they are going to have to move the student section to less desirable seats behind the basket. This is clearly a bad outcome, but I don't think the Morgan Center is doing it because they want to (it wasn't in their original plans) they are doing it because they HAVE to.
So, the real question is: Why is fund raising going so poorly that this type of decisions are being made? I would suggest the following factors:
1) Timing: Rather than unveiling a plan and securing funds during a period of economic growth and high levels of excitement surrounding the basketball program, the Morgan Center was uninterested/unable to come up with a plan until after the economy was in recession, and after the three consecutive final fours had been replaced with three season of national irrelevance. Pauley has been grossly outdated for 15 years, and the need to do something about it was put off and bungled until the worst possible time.
2) Secrecy/Lack of Transparency: Decision making for this plan came literally from a black box. One prominant booster with tens of millions of dollars in donations was kicked off the project because he wouldn't agree to the pre-determined outcome of the committee: Pauley was going to be refurbished, regardless of how much sense a tear down rebuild or new facility made. Other options were never really on the table because some group of influential people did not want that. If you ask the Athletic Department for detailed explanation of this choice and why it was better than other options, they can't provide it. What they can tell you is preserving the history of Pauley was a priority.
3) Failure in the largest NCAA revenue sport, Football: Successful Athletic departments have to relevant in football to generate money, unless you are an elite small academic institution like Stanford or Duke. Large schools must be good at football to be economically successful. We have not been in DGs entire tenure. Considering we are in the second largest media market in the country, play in a stadium that could hold 90,000 fans and is a tailgating heaven, and we can't break the top 3 in athletic department revenue in the state of California, or the top 25 nationally, shows how poor a job DG has done. A successful football program is the cornerstone of a financially healthy athletic department.
4) Overall poor communication/outreach to Alumni: The actual reasons for the plans chosen, why the made more sense than other plans, what other plans were considered, why they didn't work, etc was never explained or communicated. The point system to determine seating priority was not understandable. Alternative venue wasn't finalized early. Surveys about numerous topics sent out, but obviously not incorporated into decison making, wasting everyone's time. And,on top of that, blatant lies about high demand for tickets resulting in pricing decreases and students being moved to worse seats to benefit them made the Morgan Center less and less credible with this project.
5) Too many premium seats at under-market price in old Pauley: Because the Morgan Center put off dealing with this issue for decades, many people who now have great seats won't be able to afford them and many people who would naturally be in line to buy them won't, because they haven't gotten used to attending the games because good seats are so rarely available. This leads to a problem selling seats and a reduction in required donation to try to generate interest.
6) Getting locked into a dwindling supply of older boosters: 2,3, 4, and 5 have led to a smaller group of medium to large donors who are willing to give to the project. This limits your flexibility and ability to raise money and be ambitious. The Morgan Center is so fearful of trying anything new, they slice everything down the middle and make it luke warm and tepid.
So, while the student seating issue is important, it isn't the most important thing. Fixing that problem isn't enough. We shouldn't lose sight of what this is telling us: Dan Guerrero is not competent to run this athletic department. He needs to go, and a large portion of the Morgan Center needs to go with him.