Q&A: Penn State AD Tim Curley
by Adam Wodon/Managing Editor
Tim Curley, born in Radford, Va. and a one-time football walk-on, has been Penn State's athletic director since 1993. Prior to that, he was the assistant athletic director, and a 1976 Penn State graduate. He was there when Penn State moved its athletic department from an independent to the Big Ten, and when the current basketball arena, the Bryce Jordan Center, was built in the mid-'90s.
Now Curley, 56, will be closely involved in starting a new men's and women's ice hockey program — thanks to an $88 million gift from Terry Pegula — including finding a coach, and the big question of what conference the men's team will be affiliated with.
CHN: Jumping right to the big question, people are wondering whether a Big Ten Hockey Conference is inevitable, and whether Penn State is sensitive to how that might impact college hockey.
Curley: I'm not sure we have a complete handle on it, but we are sensitive to the issue. We're trying to be very careful and deliberate to make sure we communicate with the right parties involved. Within the Big Ten, we've got to have a discussion. Overall, we want to continue to grow the sport of college hockey. So we'll be careful as we move forward.
CHN: So what is next then? How will this be assessed?
Curley: At this point, we have a (Big Ten) meeting in October. We really just need to sit down and the first priority was to get the gifts announced. The next stage will be to make sure we have good communications with Big Ten colleagues and commissioners, and understand and appreciate the complete landscape. We're new to it, so we need to be good listeners.
CHN: Is the obvious momentum there, from the other schools, to start a Big Ten Hockey Conference?
Curley: I really couldn't judge that. The five Big Ten schools are just excited to have this opportunity to sit in a room and see where they are. We certainly want to work with our colleagues, and we just want to make sure we examine it and do what's best. We want to grow college hockey.
CHN: How has this time been for you?
Curley: It's very exciting. We've always had a strong club hockey program. There's been a lot of interest. We've tried to take a look at it. It's an expensive sport, and we didn't have the ability to do it. The only way to support these programs is with revenue coming in. We had to have a new arena. Our current only seats just over 1,000. That wasn't going to do it. Terry and (wife) Kim's gift allowed us to eliminate that problem.
CHN: I've always wondered why ice was never installed in the Bryce Jordan Center, just for this possibility.
Curley: I wasn't involved in the details of the Jordan Center, so I really don't know. They did take a look at it. But it wasn't cost effective, even back then.
CHN: What will Joe Battista's role be in this (former club coach, now working in the business department at Penn State)?
Curley: He'll be overseeing our ice arena and hockey operations. We still need to raise some more money over the next couple of years. That's our primary goal. And he'll be overseeing the entire ice arena and hockey operations. It's perfect because of his background, experience, and connnection to our alumni.
CHN: How much more is needed to fully fund the endowment for the programs?
Curley: We have a campaign goal of $10 million more. We can certainly use more (than that). Part of (Pegula's) gift will go towards scholarship funding, including the majority of the men's scholarships. We've seen in the last 10-15 years, that when you can track scholarship endowments, for ice hockey or any other sport, it really helps you when things get tough.
CHN: Do you know when you'll have a coach in place?
Curley: The first part was to get the gift announced. We have to look at the time frame, the timeline, to recruit and offer scholarships. We have to have coaches in place. We have to be out there the year before, doing the necessary evaluations of players.
CHN: Do you expect to go after a current Division I head coach, or is an assistant fine too?
Curley: We haven't really focused on that yet. Our bottom line goal when have openings is to get the best coach we can possibly get. Whether that's a head coach or an assistant, at this point we really haven't formulated the criteria.
CHN: Will you have a search committee?
Curley: That's normally how we do things. There's a search committee, a normal process. We've had people surface already (for the opening). That's been encouraging.
The next step before we hire a coach or anything is, we have to hire an architect (for the arena) as soon as possible. We have to identify an architectural firm and construction company. I hope to do that within 3-5 months. We have a preliminary design. That won't be the exact design. We have a firm that just kind of validated and located it, with ballpark figures.
CHN: So how long will this process take?
Curley: We have a board of trustees process. The design takes 12-18 months. So it's a minimum of one year from now of getting to that point. When we get the architect on board, we'll do another round of campus visits. We're going to have everyone's input we can. There's a lot of nice new arenas out there, and some old ones that are really special. We just want to have one that fits our Penn State campus and fits our constituencies.
CHN: How about for you personally? How has this been?
Curley: I can't sit here and say I'm a die hard hockey guy like Joe Battista. But it's a great sport. I've always enjoyed it.
CHN: What are you expecting with the program?
Curley: We think we can be very successful soon with our program. One of the reason we're transitioning (instead of starting play right away) is so we can allow the new coach to go out and offer scholarships for the first couple years. We'll have a good nucleus to be competitive. That should help us. And this is a great state for youth hockey. We anticipate being able to recruit well.