A new era of athletics at George Mason will officially begin July 1st when former Washington Redskin safety Brad Edwards takes over as athletic director. He will be announced officially as the replacement for Tom O’Connor at a press conference June 9 at 11:30 am. The big question now is what will change within the athletic department with Edwards in charge, especially men’s basketball. The widespread feel from fan base is mostly the feeling that more could be done, off the court, to improve the program. Similar programs at the level of George Mason have built up their overall brand off NCAA tournament success. A lot has to do with spending and that is where Edwards’ fundraising abilities should play a large role.
Above is the spending by all schools in the Atlantic 10 with data from 2013. Keep in mind with George Mason being new to the conference the numbers might not be up to scale. But it still shows their level of spending on men’s basketball will need to be increased one way or the other. Sure VCU spends a ton more on basketball than anyone else in the conference, but their donations to the program largely surpass most other schools, for obviously reasons. If Mason wants to annually compete in the A-10 they need to spend more money, plain and simple.
And yes, winning solves most problems and will lead to more donations but programs like VCU did more to boast their overall profile that didn’t involve just W’s. It starts with investing in the sport and I think Mason has taken a somewhat passive approach in this area. The previous administration nixed the idea of a basketball practice facility, allegedly turned down an earlier conference move, stopped broadcasting games on FM radio, had a lackluster approach to PR and marketing, didn’t spend money in areas that Jim Larranaga thought was necessary, and then eventually made the re-tread “safe” hire with Paul Hewitt. It’s safe to say that most fans feel a different direction is needed with a bit more aggressive plan.
President Dr. Angel Cabrera was behind the move to the Atlantic 10 and has now further put his stamp on athletics with this hire. It would appear that a new and more aggressive play is already in the works. The conference move was largely based on men’s basketball so there is no doubt that further change is coming. Edwards has more resources now then he ever did at the previous two private schools he was AD at before. Moves will be made in the near future and their will be a shakeup in personnel at some point. It’s very possible that the basketball brand at Mason could be drastically different under Edwards.
Edwards has also been involved with the design and funding of athletic facilities in his prior jobs, an area of college athletics that is increasing becoming more important. Having top facilities is becoming a must if you expect to attract top talent to your university and while Mason’s are not poor by any standards, a little upgrading wouldn’t hurt. The hope is that Edwards can spearhead fundraising efforts that make projects available that didn’t seem possible at Mason prior to his arrival.
Time will tell if Edwards is the right man for the job, but in the mean time he has plenty to do at George Mason.