The Proposed Phoenix
Sports Center Expansion
The Reputation of the League
The Challenges to the Horizon League
The Name Change from
MCC to the Horizon League
With Horizon League Commissioner Jon LeCrone
does UW-Green Bay its athletic program, its media market, its fan
base mean to the Horizon League?
members form a very strong family with common bonds and values. As for
UW-Green Bay, the school has been with us for a long time, even when
the conference went by a couple of different names. UW-Green Bay is
so important to our League because of our shared values. As I travel,
I am proud to count UW-Green Bay as a member of our League. This is
an institution where its positive reputation precedes it, on the playing
field, and in the classroom, and I know that your school is held in
high regard. We are a league with geographic compatibility, shared cultures
and values and very balanced athletic competition between the member
schools. UW-Green Bay is an extremely valued member.
ON THE PROPOSED PHOENIX SPORTS CENTER EXPANSION
The University is in an asking phase
of a capital campaign that, in part, would fund the expansion of the
Phoenix Sports Center. As someone who has traveled enough to see the
best (and worst) athletic facilities, and the best (and worst) campus
life experiences, how important do you think this project is to the
UW-Green Bay campus?
A: I believe that it is critically important for UW-Green Bay
in sustaining a competitive D-1 program. What your school has that some
don't is a beautiful campus, amphitheater, land and other great facilities.
What you don't have is a level of athletic support facilities for training,
practice and other activities that will take you into the future. Like
most schools, UW-Green Bay doesn't have the best, or worst, in this
area, but I think you clearly need the "basics" to continue
to develop top-notch D-1 athletes and offer the "total" collegiate
experience I am so fond of talking about. So, in terms of expanding
the Phoenix Sports Center, I believe that it would be a good use of
visited our campus many times, what do you consider our greatest need
to keep the athletics program strong?
A: I believe it's the provision of top-notch training and practice
facilities. At one time, the Phoenix Sports Center served your needs.
But things have changed. For one thing, D-1 athletics are different.
There has been a big increase in the technology of training and developing
athletes. The members of our League grow more and more competitive every
day, as does UW-Green Bay, but there's a clear need to provide the best
facilities possible. You also have to consider the impact of Title IX
and the tremendous growth of women's sports, as well as the demand for
intramural sports that are open to all students. All these things combine
to create a need for the best practice, training and recreational facilities
possible within the framework of all the university's needs.
Q: Why should the community rally support for this facility?
A: I know of few other communities like Green Bay where the town
is so linked to the university in terms of fan support, community service
and the many other factors like arts and culture and quality education.
It's actually hard to separate the university from the community in
many instances because they are so closely linked. I think the community
should and will support this project because there will be a strong
realization of its many benefits, not only the university, but to the
community at large. The Green Bay community wants to see its university
succeed and grow in a variety of areas, athletics included.
Q: What do you say to the conservative public that says, "We've
had plenty of success without all the bells and whistles, why do we
need it now?"
A: To me, it's not "bells and whistles" but more appropriately
"tablestakes".....the basic needs to sustain and grow a competitive
D-1 athletic program. In order to attract outstanding students, athletes,
administrators, coaches and teachers, you need outstanding facilities.
You wouldn't hire a teacher, hand him or her a piece of chalk and blackboard
and say "go teach." The same is true of attracting high-quality
Q: In your experience, how important is a strong athletics program
to a community?
A: In most cases, it is very important and certainly true in
Green Bay. The community is extremely proud and supportive of the Phoenix
and the university's teams are a source of pride to many in Green Bay.
In addition, student-athletes have a proud tradition of community service
to go along with strong performances on the playing fields. This is
the best of both worlds for a community and is a primary reason why
the Phoenix athletes are so embraced by the town.
Q: How important is recreation and fitness to the next generation
of college students?
A: I look
at this issue from a "life learning" perspective. Our society
tries very hard to teach the value of fitness and exercise from a very
early age. Through sports and recreation, we can continue to teach the
next generation of college students how fitness and health impact their
lives long-term. Regardless of whether or not you are a highly skilled
athlete or just a recreational player, the importance of fitness and
health can't be overemphasized. All of us will not play full-court basketball
all our lives, but when good habits are instilled at an early age, and
quality fitness opportunities are reinforced during the college years,
hopefully, lessons and habits have been instilled for a lifetime.
Q: How important
are student life activities in the recruitment of students and student
A: I sincerely
enjoy this question because it strikes at the very heart of what the
Horizon League wants to stand for and exemplify. Truly, for our students
and student-athletes, we want to provide the total package and the total
experience. So, student life activities are critical. It's about education.
It's about service. It's about self-development. And it's about the
competition and how one grows and learns through sports. The message
that resonates with me as a parent is that I want my children to attend
an institution that not only provides a high-quality education, but
makes them better people, better citizens and allows them to know and
understand the satisfaction in giving back to their school and to their
community. Student life activities, be they philanthropic in nature,
personal development in nature, athletic in nature or connected with
the arts and culture are critical and a part of the very fabric that
constitutes a total college experience.
ON THE REPUTATION OF THE LEAGUE
Q: Do you have
a feel for the perception of the Horizon League to those in outside
markets? We hear, "decent mid-major" tossed around come tournament
A: First off, I don't like the term "mid-major." If
you asked teams like Louisville, Mississippi State, St. John's or Florida
in the very recent past, they will tell you there's nothing "mid-major"
about the Horizon League. It's a misnomer created by the media, not
unlike how the non-BCS schools are treated in football.
In terms of the perception of the Horizon League to those in outside
markets, we are likely known best for our "flagship product,"
and that is men's basketball. We have had national success in many other
sports, but the difference is that with basketball success, comes media
attention, and that isn't as true with our other sports successes.
Right now, our current financial models don't always allow us to provide
as support to all teams in all sports. Most of our institutions are
selective in what sports they put the bulk of their resources behind,
and it varies by sport and institution. But in all sports, I am continually
amazed at what our young people accomplish both on and off the playing
field. We simply need to do a better job of telling the success stories
of all of student-athletes, regardless of the sport.
I also believe that our League is becoming known for its fair play and
sportsmanship, one of our key values. I don't see the levels of misbehavior,
profanity and other negative behavior from our student-athletes as I
do in college athletics in general. That doesn't mean that we never
have a problem. But when we do, I am proud of how our coaches, officials
and players are ready to stand up and say "it's not going to happen
Q: How does the Horizon League administration hope to communicate
the values it stands for among individual institutions, especially when
personal egos and agendas (always a part of D-I athletics) sometimes
get in the way?
A: If we are doing this in hopes of getting orchestrated media
attention, then we are misguided. If we stay committed to our beliefs
and really "walk it and talk it," the rest will take care
of itself, including recognition from the media, our internal constituents,
prospective students, potential sponsors and many other audiences. I'm
not naive in the sense of believing that just living our values
makes us special. Many others are as well. But as long as we're true
to our beliefs, we serve as a good example to others, and there's great
benefit in that for all of us.
Q: What does espousing those values mean specifically for UW-Green
A: It means a strong philosophical connection between the Horizon
League and UW-Green Bay. I have known Chancellor Bruce Shepard for many
years, and through that association, I have come to know and understand
something I like to call the "Green Bay Way" which is an established
total commitment to the welfare of all students, the community, academics
and high-level achievement. Whenever I travel and talk to people about
UW-Green Bay, I hear things like "outstanding learning opportunities,"
"tremendous competitors on the athletic fields," "a true
part of the Green Bay community" and so on. These are the things
that the Horizon League stands for, and we're so very proud that the
Phoenix is a part of our family.
Q: How can UW-Green Bay and our fan base help in Horizon League efforts?
A: I think they're already doing it! Look at the community involvement
of your student-athletes, the tremendous competitive spirit that's evident
in your teams and the marvelous fan base in Green Bay. Again, it goes
back to the "Green Bay Way." Your institution is already well-grounded
in understanding the importance of the student-athlete and the role
the student-athlete can play in the community. And, there are few other
towns that love their college team like they do in Green Bay. There's
a reason for that, and I suspect much of it centers around our shared
ON THE CHALLENGES TO THE HORIZON LEAGUE
Q: What are the
challenges of the Horizon League in the immediate future?
A: One big challenge we face as a league is to continue to differentiate
between intercollegiate athletics and professional sports because the
lines are becoming very blurred. In other words, the great challenge
we have is to maintain and grow the educational aspects of sports and
competition for our student-athletes. I like to call this "education
through competition." And it means little more than being grounded
in your life and knowing why you play the game and understanding how
it fits into the total college experience, and how it can shape your
life after you graduate.
Major college sports, in some respects, are evolving into a negative
culture where the individual is greater than the sport or the spirit
of the competition. Kids leave college after only a year and become
multi-millionaires. In many cases, football and basketball have become
"pressure cookers" for athletes leading to negative behavior,
public tirades, scandals and cover-ups. Too many times, the rules mean
nothing and 15 minutes of fame is more important than the total experience.
Don't get me wrong, I want our member schools to compete and win national
championships. I want us covered in USA Today. And, if we have an athlete
that is outstanding and can compete in the professional ranks, I hope
he or she maximizes their income potential. But our great challenge,
for all our student-athletes, is to help them understand that they are
role models, they are privileged and gifted, and that they remember
that sports is only part, albeit an important part, of the total college
ON THE NAME CHANGE FROM MCC TO THE HORIZON LEAGUE
Q: It seemed
as though we were finally building some name recognition with "MCC,"
why the change to the Horizon League?
A: The process that led to the name change was an exercise that
had to deal with our future. We needed to ask ourselves: "Where
have we been; where are we going?" The exhaustive process took
nearly a year. We conducted extensive interviews with our stakeholders
that included our CEOs, athletic directors, alumni, boosters, student-athletes
and many others, both internal and external. What we heard loud and
clear was that our old MCC name and logo didn't really mean anything
and, more importantly, didn't reflect our collective values. Also, the
old MCC was very similar and caused total confusion with other "Mid"
leagues such as the Mid-American, Mid-Con and so on.
In our research, our stakeholders told us that, as a group of institutions,
we were committed to such core values as:
Academic Achievement in terms of expecting our student-athletes
to also excel in the classroom.
Community Outreach in terms of our student-athletes serving
fellow students, their respective institutions and their communities.
Personal Responsibility and Accountability in terms of
our student-athletes, coaches, officials and administrators working
together to create collegial, competitive environments.
Athletic Success in terms of expecting our student-athletes
to compete at a very high, national level.
Taking this feedback, we wanted to come up with a name and logo that
was a strong representation of the key fact that the student-athlete
is at the center of our league and is the "star figure" of
our league. We decided to use "league" as opposed to "conference"
because there are very few "leagues" out there another way
to break away from the pack.
We eventually landed on the name "Horizon" because it implies
positive and motivating terms such as "stretch," "scope,"
'vista," "reach," "perspective/field of vision,"
and "range." The logo is a symbolism of the juncture of earth
and sky the student and the athlete. It also takes a long-term view
of what lies ahead the "journey." The logo does a good job
of expressing the range of a person's outlook and perspective and is
also distinctive, visually appealing and forward-looking.
Our tagline, "Raise Your Sights" means we're working hard
to "raise the bar" in what we expect from our student-athletes
and what they can expect from us. It compels internal and external audiences
to do their personal best.
I'm fond of saying that one of our primary goals is to accept a "student-athlete"
at our institutions, but to graduate a "citizen-athlete" who
is prepared for life's journey; understands the proper role of athletics
in that journey, and is prepared for the challenges of life. We're working
hard to "walk the walk" and "talk the talk." The
Horizon League continues to evolve and learn the best ways to bring
our values to life. But to date, I am pleased with the name change,
the increasing name recognition and the outstanding people we have at
all of our member institutions.
in spring 2004 by Sue Bodilly, University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, Office
of Marketing and Communication.