March 31, 2005
CLEMSON After being eliminated in the first round of the NIT by Texas A&M, Clemson basketball coach Oliver Purnell turned his thoughts to next year.
The Tigers will lose two players from this year's team, productive but inconsistent center Sharrod Ford and out-of-control forward Olu Babalola.
Purnell will build his third Clemson team around four rising sophomores: Cliff Hammonds, Sam Perry, James Mays and Cheyenne Moore. The Tigers should have a different look next season. With Ford gone from the inside, Purnell is left with a roster full of guards.
"If you look at our roster, I think it's obvious we will not be an inside team next year," Purnell said. "Our offensive firepower will be more on the perimeter than inside. Offensively, we will be similar, but our focus may shift some to give our perimeter guys more freedom to do more things than we did this year. We also have a couple of good guys coming in on the perimeter, Troy Mathis and K.C. Rivers."
Mathis served a one-year suspension in 2004-05 for his role in an on-campus incident last fall. Importantly, however, he was able to practice with the team all season.
"Troy has been outstanding in practice running the scout team, and sometimes he can break off and do his thing," Purnell said. "He's been outstanding and hard to guard and all those things, but my expectation for a point guard is more than that. It's going to be a challenge for him. I have been known to be hard on point guards, so I'm sure we'll have our moments."
Mathis will join Hammonds, senior Shawan Robinson and junior Vernon Hamilton in the mix at the point in 2005-06.
"I have always said you need at least three guys in your program who can play point guard," Purnell said. "You get one sprained ankle and one in foul trouble and there you are. Vernon improved as the year went on. Cliff is one of our most consistent players, and he played a lot of point. There's a lot of bodies there."
One of Purnell's goals for next season is to extend the Tigers' defense and keep the pressure on, but he knows that will be difficult to accomplish in the ACC.
"I would love to press every second, but you can't do that in the ACC, particularly when you're as young as we are and can't make adjustments on the fly," Purnell said. "We did not overload the team. We wanted them to become a little better at man-to-man. I think we do need that kind of in-between defense. We need to be able to make our adjustment and contend with that. We'll play a lot of the same way but change the pace."
With seven players who averaged at least 14 minutes per game returning, Purnell won't have to start from scratch.
"We should be able to do more and put more in," he said. "We may be more athletic, and we will be deeper."
Fans' Expenses Going Up Quickly
Trying to cash in on an attractive home schedule, Clemson announced in mid-March that season-ticket prices will increase to $225 per ticket for the 2005 season.
Texas A&M, Miami, Boston College and Florida State all will visit Death Valley this fall. Single-game tickets for A&M, Miami, and FSU will be $48, while a BC ticket will cost $40.
In conjunction with the release of ticket prices, Clemson released a chart compiled by the marketing firm IMG that showed the Tigers' average revenue per seat at $71.50 and the average contribution per seat at $204. Both of those figures, for seats in the 20- and 30-yard line areas, were the lowest numbers on IMG's seven-school chart.
Georgia had the two highest numbers on the chart, with an average contribution per season ticket of $833.50 and an average revenue per seat of $170.92. The highest ACC team on the chart was Florida State, at No. 5. At FSU, the average contribution per season ticket was $458.33, and the average revenue per seat was $112.06.
Clemson is trying to increase its contribution per season-ticket number. A letter has been mailed to all season-ticket holders who are not members of IPTAY, the school's athletic booster organization, to inform them that they will have to join IPTAY to keep their tickets for the 2006 season. That means at least an extra $140 to keep the tickets.
What the chart failed to mention was that Georgia can charge the Bulldogs' lofty prices because of the championship product coach Mark Richt has been putting on the field at Sanford Stadium. Georgia had to return more than 5,000 season-ticket applications last summer.
Clemson doesn't have that problem, at least not yet. In the minds of several insiders, the price increases and cutting out of the public season-ticket holders were rolls of the dice, especially if the Tigers continue to hang around .500 under coach Tommy Bowden.
If Clemson wants more cash, Bowden needs to produce a big-time winning program on the field. That hasn't happened yet. If the Tigers get off to a slow start in 2005 and that's become almost an annual tradition under Bowden the grumbling will start even earlier than normal, in part because of the increased prices.
Clemson fans have voted with their checkbooks before. Ken Hatfield, 32-13-1 from 1990-93, wasn't kicked out for wins and losses. He was kicked out because Clemson fans stopped coming to the games. With the West End Zone project struggling to find funds, Bowden better win big, and in a hurry.
Phillips Makes Important Changes
Two high-profile members of the Clemson athletic department recently received reassignments.
Head women's basketball coach Jim Davis was moved to an assistant athletic director position. After seeing Davis post two losing seasons in the last three years, Clemson athletic director Terry Don Phillips had seen enough.
According to insiders, Phillips called Davis into his office on March 18 and told Davis he was making a change. Davis could have pushed for a buyout of his contract reportedly, that would have been in the neighborhood of $400,000 but he instead decided to accept the assistant AD post.
Davis clearly wanted one more season to try to clean up the mess he created, but Phillips wasn't interested. Davis has not closed the door on coaching at another school.
The search for Davis' replacement has begun, and a decision should be announced by mid-April. Most insiders expect Phillips to hire a woman, because Clemson has only three female head coaches, but Phillips has been quoted as saying that gender won't matter.
Compliance director Becky Bowman, the woman most of the Clemson coaching staff loves to hate, has been moved totally out of the Jervey Athletic Center. Bowman moved to Vickery Hall, where she will direct Clemson's athletic tutoring program.
Phil Grayson, who pulled off the miracle reinstatement of former wide receiver Roscoe Crosby, a reinstatement that Crosby later fumbled away, will leave his post in Vickery to take Bowman's job.
Several insiders said Bowman kept Clemson from getting into trouble several times (remember Sodgate?), but she also was heavily criticized for being extremely conservative in her interpretations of NCAA rules. As one insider put it, "Most schools let the coaches get next to the fence when they're recruiting, while Bowman kept our coaches 10 feet away from the fence."
Bowman was rumored to be in the running for compliance jobs at a couple of other schools, but apparently she decided not to leave upstate South Carolina.
The day-to-day compliance operation now will be handled by Stephanie Ellison, who is in her second year as an assistant athletic director for compliance, and Jess Rigler, a Clemson graduate who was hired away from NCAA Membership Services in Indianapolis.