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Burman Discusses First Year on Job


Staff member
From the Northern Wyoming Daily News

Tom Burman discusses first year as UW athletic director

CHEYENNE (AP) — The good included an entire state embracing women's basketball, a sold-out season opener in football, a 3.0 grade-point average for all student-athletes last spring and the near-completion of an indoor practice facility. The bad saw a coaching change in men's basketball, some sports where athletes' academics weren't good and some sports that are not so competitive.

But for the most part, Tom Burman's first year as athletics director at the University of Wyoming was what he expected.

The Laramie native returned to his alma mater as the school's eighth AD on Oct. 9, 2006.

“When I came in and kind of assessed things, I knew we had a good staff,” he said. “I felt like we were moving forward, and we've been fortunate enough to kick it forward in some areas and replace good people with good people when we had to.

“I feel good about where we sit today and where we'll be sitting a year from now.” Burman has high expectations as he entered his second year. Those range from more facility construction and improvement to postseason play for football and women's basketball.

“He loves Wyoming,” said football coach Joe Glenn. “This is his dream job at this point in his life. He has passion for the state and the university, but most of all for athletics here. He wants to win as bad as anybody.”

And fans soon will get a chance to see how his first major hire goes in his new men's basketball coach.

Heath Schroyer, who was an assistant at UW in during the 2001-02 season, replaces Steve McClain, who was fired with three years on his contract. He left with more than $500,000 in buyout and other compensation.

Burman knows Schroyer well: He hired him to coach Portland State when he was athletics director at that Big Sky Conference school in the early 2000s.
“When you look back at the year, we don't like to have to make a coaching change, especially when a guy has a multiyear contract remaining like coach McClain did,” Burman said. “It's emotionally taxing and financially challenging.

“That's the most difficult piece of the last year, without a doubt.

“I feel pretty good where we sit today in that program and the kids that have stayed with us. And I feel good about the kids that left. Not that they're bad kids or anything like that, but sometimes it's in everyone's best interest to go in a different direction.”

On the more positive side of things, the UW women's basketball team won the Women's National Invitation Tournament with a 72-56 victory over Wisconsin on March 31 in Laramie.

A record crowd of 15,462 watched the game, and most of the state seemed to rally behind the team during its 6-0 WNIT run — with all of the games played at the Arena-Auditorium.

“The WNIT was a highlight for a couple of reasons,” Burman said. “One, the bond that was built between the Cowgirls and the fan base was really impressive.

“But also we really rolled the dice. If the fans had not come, we would have taken a pretty good financial loss because we took some risks getting those home games. We actually made a little bit of money.”

UW had to present bids to host each WNIT game, and much of that was driven off attendance. UW averaged 8,757 fans per game during the WNIT compared to 4,685 during the season.

As a result of all that, UW has changed the way that it looks at women's basketball.

First, the program made money last season, the first time since it was introduced at the school in the early 1970s.

The ticket sale structure now will be similar to men's basketball, and coach Joe Legerski was given a contract extension and raise that will pay him in the $200,000 range annually. Expectations are high as the Cowgirls return their top eight scorers from a squad that won a school-record 27 games. With the indoor practice facility virtually done, the next big facility project is the addition of indoor club seating and suites on the east side of War Memorial Stadium as well as lower-concourse renovations.

Burman said he hopes to have cost figures for that by the end of the year. He wants to have 12 indoor suites on the upper east side of the stadium and an additional 300 indoor club seats.

If UW can afford it, Burman said, both would provide revenue streams for his department.

To pay for it sooner than later, UW will use the money from its most recent fundraising campaign. That pulled in just under $16 million, which will be match dollar-for-dollar by the state.

Burman said UW is about $900,000 short of reaching its $16 million. About half of the $32 million has been spent on facility construction and upgrades, including a new track and the indoor practice facility. Burman expects the rest of UW's share of the $16 million to be raised by the end of the year.

But with costs rising, the department will ask lawmakers for $4.3 million as part of UW's general budget request. Burman said UW will pay that back from the pledges it has gotten from its fundraising efforts. Some of those pledges go through 2011.

“If we wait until 2011 to build, the cost of that structure will be 50 to 75 percent more,” he said. “We can't afford to wait.”

Renovating the lower concourses of War Memorial Stadium and building an indoor tennis facility are things Burman wants to get done in coming years.

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