DeaconSports: With the increasingly negative press coverage of Wake Forest
basketball, as evidenced by the ESPN article dated 07-26-13, how concerned are you that
some other staffs are using that prominently when competing against Coach
Bzdelik and staff? Why would top recruits consider coming to play for a staff who
might not be there when they arrive?
Ron Wellman: The methods that other staffs use to recruit are matters that we do not control. Our staff chooses to recruit
positively about our program and not discuss other schools negatively. We have plenty of positives to discuss about our program with our
recruits. The direction of our program is continual improvement. The
metrics that are important to us are trending upward. For instance, our
overall attendance improved 11% last year; our student attendance
increased 55%; our freshmen played over 60% of the minutes available
which is the highest percentage by far of any ACC school and the highest
we can find in D1. We have excellent players returning and we are
adding quality players as well this year. In addition, the 2014 class
is shaping up well as Jeff and his staff are involved with outstanding
prospects. There are many significant reasons to be encouraged about
our future and some outstanding recruits recognize that our program is
advancing and will be a championship contender in the near future.
DeaconSports: With a large segment of the fan base being highly dissatisfied or
apathetic to the program, how can you convince them (and recruits) that he is not
largely in a "lame duck" status? What steps are you prepared to take to ensure said
fans/recruits that Coach Bzdelik and staff retain your confidence?
Ron Wellman: I am
very confident that Jeff and his staff will lead our program to
championship level in the near future. He has built the type of
foundation that he was asked to establish and that traditionally has
allowed us to compete for ACC championships. He and his staff have
recruited well as demonstrated by last year's class which was highly
ranked nationally. Not only are those rising sophomores very good
players, they are also outstanding people who represent our program and
university well. This spring our team GPA was 2.96 which is the highest
team GPA our basketball team has achieved since we began keeping records
of team GPA's in 1988. This year's recruiting class is another group
that will have a positive impact upon our program. Although one of
those recruits, Greg McClinton, tore his ACL in January, we anticipate
each of our freshmen as well as transfer Coron Williams filling roles
for us that will cause our team to continue its improvement. Jeff is
regarded as an outstanding teacher and tactician. Our players, both
individually and collectively, improved throughout the season last year.
That only occurs when a coach has the attention of his players; they
listen to him; they work hard for him. Jeff's players have done exactly
that. They have also continued their hard work and improvement this
summer. Our fans will see continued improvement this year.
DeaconSports: How concerned are you with the apparent lagging attendance
(especially among the student population) at the Joel for
games and the effect it could have on raising money for the extensive
renovations required by the Joel Coliseum?
Ron Wellman:Actually, as referenced
earlier, our student attendance improved significantly last year. There
are a number of reasons for that improvement. First of all, it was
exciting to go to games at the coliseum. We beat four of the top six
ACC team including the #2 ranked team nationally by 15 points. Our
record at home was 11-5. That record has improved each year that Jeff
has been with us. In addition, our students and all of our fans
appreciated the effort that our players gave each game. Our fans could
see that our players were working hard and giving a good effort. If
they hadn't, the individual players and the team would not have
continued to improve throughout the season. Finally, our students
relate to our players. The basketball players are good students; they
take their academics seriously as demonstrated by the team GPA this
spring. The players are active on campus in activities beyond
basketball. They have good relationships with our student body. As a
result, our students have returned to the coliseum to cheer for not only
our team...but also their friends. That's important at Wake Forest.
DeaconSports: Speaking of which, how are contributions to the athletic department going recently?
Ron Wellman:Our Deacon Club Annual Fund donations increased 3% this year. In a challenging economy we were very pleased with our donors' response to our request for support. The Deacon Club donors recognize that they are providing a unique opportunity to our student-athletes as
their donations to the Deacon Club Annual Fund go to athletic scholarships. It is an opportunity to attend one of the nation's finest
academic institutions while competing in the the ACC which we believe is
the best conference in the country. Additionally, the university will
be kicking off a capital campaign this fall. A significant portion of
that campaign will be for athletics. The silent phase of the campaign
has been extremely encouraging, both for the university and athletics.
There is every reason to believe that we will be very successful in the
capital campaign as well as continuing to grow the Deacon Club Annual
DeaconSports:Wake Forest fans and alumni have legitimate concerns about the recent
performance of the basketball program considering that the current staff
11-44 in ACC play. How do you go about restoring confidence for those
without replacing the current staff?
Ron Wellman: Many of our fans recognize that
the team has improved each year that Jeff has been our coach. We must
build a program with certain values and standards for us to be
successful at Wake Forest. There are no shortcuts. Jeff has made every
decision for the long-term welfare of our program and, as a result, our
program will continue to improve this year and subsequent years. We
have the foundation and players that will allow us to do that. We
expect to contend for and win ACC championships. We are headed in that
direction without taking shortcuts. As a result, our program will
remain at a high competitive level annually.
DeaconSports: The two major revenue producing sports of Football and Basketball
underachieved recently, how do you respond to those who hold you at
partially responsible for those records?
Ron Wellman: As the Director of Athletics,
I am ultimately responsible for everything that happens in the
department. I am pleased with the direction and what the future holds
for both the football and basketball programs. Our football program was
poised last year to return to the competitive level that we all desire.
Unfortunately, the team, and especially the offensive line, was
decimated with injuries and we did not have the depth to replace our
injured players adequately. Jim Grobe stated that last year's team was
the most injured team that he had seen in over 30 years of coaching. I
agree with his analysis. That is not an excuse...it is a fact. We need
to remain healthy or at least not decimated with injuries to compete for
championships. We anticipate returning to championship contention this
year. In basketball, the improvement will continue this year and we
anticipate returning to our traditional competitiveness.
DeaconSports: No NCAA tourney in 3 years, no bowl game since 2008/09 (my mistake we
actually went in 2011), and serious
dissatisfaction with the direction of both programs, what can you tell
give them some hope things will get better?
Ron Wellman: Actually we went to the
Music City Bowl in 2011 so we have been to a bowl since the 2008 season.
Our football team will be a much better team this year. Jim and his
staff know what it takes to contend for and win championships. They
have demonstrated that throughout their tenure with us. We expect to
return to that level this year. We have really good players returning.
This club has a good number of fourth and fifth-year players which is
the hallmark of Jim’s most successful teams. We also have 15 starters
returning from last year. Our fans will see a team that will return to
the style of play that Jim used when he first came to Wake Forest. We
will be a very physical team that emphasizes the running game more than
we have done in the last few years. As our fans will remember, our
rushing game is very exciting...it certainly is not "three yards and a
cloud of dust" approach. It will be fun to watch...and will produce a
season that our fans will enjoy.
I'm not sure that it's necessary to repeat the reasons that our
basketball program is on the right track and will continue its
improvement this year.
Overall, we have some very exciting and good years ahead of us, not only
in football and basketball but in all of our sports. This is a good
time to be a Demon Deacon!
DeaconSports: With respect to Football, are you satisfied with the job Coach Grobe
staff have done recently at Wake Forest?
Ron Wellman: There is no one associated
with our program that is satisfied with the recent results, including
Jim and me. We went to the Music City Bowl in 2011. We expect to go
to bowl games so whenever we don't, it is a disappointment. At the same
time, I have great confidence in Jim and his staff to return us to that
level of achievement this year.
DeaconSports: Recently having purchased the LJVM Coliseum from the City of
what renovations are essential for the Joel to make it an ACC caliber
Wake-Centric venue for the Basketball program?
Ron Wellman: There is much to be done
to make the facility a Demon Deacon coliseum. We first have to address
the infrastructure and systems issues. There are many areas that need
improvement. Electric, plumbing, HVAC and other systems will be
upgraded before we can begin to "Deaconize" the Joel. While we make the
systems and infrastructure improvements, our fans may not notice those
initial changes. We will begin a Strategic Facility Plan this year to
determine exactly what the venue should be in the future. There are
many questions that need to be answered. For instance, what is the
right capacity? What amenities do our fans want but don't currently
have? What seating opportunities do our fans want? How do we phase the
improvements? How do we finance the renovations? All of these
questions and more will be answered through the Strategic Facility Plan.
We will involve our fans in this process...and it will ultimately lead
to a great facility for our teams and fans. When people drive by the
coliseum or walk in the facility, they will know that it is a Wake
Forest Basketball facility.
DeaconSports: What new renovations to BB&T Field and Groves Stadium will fans
season or that are in the plans for the immediate future? Are there any
additions or improvements being planned or considered for any Wake
Ron Wellman: There is a long list of renovations and
improvements that we anticipate at BB&T Field as well as many of our
other facilities. We want to do something really special on Deacon Hill
at BB&T Field. We envision continuing our renovation of the Wake Forest
Baseball Park that will tie in with Deacon Hill...and allow both
facilities to be used on football and baseball game days. We also want
to renovate Bridger Field House as it has been 15 years since our last
renovation...and it is a facility that is in high demand and utilized
practically every day.
Other facilities that are currently on the drawing board are a new
strength and conditioning center where all of our teams will train; the
tennis stadium (want to build a permanent center court stadium); Spry
Soccer Stadium (new competitive and practice fields); golf house which
will house our coaches' offices; volleyball renovations when Reynolds
Gymnasium is renovated and becomes the campus recreation / wellness
center; new field hockey turf. The list is long but we are determined
to give our student-athletes and coaches the facilities that give them
the opportunities to compete for ACC and national championships.
DeaconSports: With the competition about to exponentially increase due to the
Syracuse, Louisville, and Pittsbugh in Football plus Notre Dame in
how confident are you that you have the staffs in place to successfully
in the coming years to an enhanced ACC?
Ron Wellman: Very confident. We have
coaches who understand, appreciate and support the standards, values and
ideals of Wake Forest. They also are excellent coaches who know how to
recruit prospects who will succeed athletically and academically at Wake
Forest. There is a high correlation between athletic and academic
success for our student-athletes. Therefore, we must recruit
student-athletes who will succeed in both areas. Our coaches are doing
DeaconSports: What do you see as the future for Ron Wellman in the next 2-3 years?
have any plans to add any additional duties to your position at Wake
even seek one outside of Wake Forest?
Ron Wellman: This is an exciting time for our
university and athletic department. The capital campaign will last for
the next 4-5 years. The results of that campaign are critical to our
future success as a university and department. There is every reason to
believe that we will have a very successful campaign. In addition, I am
extremely excited about our athletics future. We have some very good
years ahead of us in all of our sports and I am looking forward to those
years. It will be fun!
DeaconSports: Thank you for spending some time with DeaconSports, we appreciate it