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Word From Jay

Oct. 26, 2016

The best school for the best athletes in the nation.

This is the overarching goal for Auburn Athletics, and we are achieving it by focusing on the five strategic commitments that have served as our roadmap for much of the past decade.

Winning, graduating our student-athletes, managing our finances, playing by the rules and providing an outstanding gameday experience for our donors and fans is our everyday focus.

Among these, the one strategic commitment that may be taken for granted at times is the importance of strong fiscal management. However, managing our money is what makes pursuit of our goals possible.

And I am pleased to tell you the financial state of Auburn Athletics is strong.

Auburn Athletics finished Fiscal Year 2016 with record revenues of $137 million and an operating surplus of $13 million. Revenue for the year exceeded budget expectations by almost $9 million. This strong financial performance enabled us to transfer $7.5 million to deferred maintenance for future projects.

While Auburn's Fiscal Year 2016 figures indicate an operating surplus of $13 million, the NCAA Financial Report will show Auburn's surplus to be $15.2 million. As you may recall, in Fiscal Year 2015 our operating surplus of $6.9 million was reported by the NCAA as $9.2 million.

There is a reason for the difference in the two figures. The NCAA reporting format frequently cited by media outlets differs from financial reporting under Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP).

The bottom line is Auburn Athletics is on solid financial ground.

Thanks to the financial support you provide, we have made significant investments in the student-athlete experience at Auburn.

As I reported at the beginning of the year when announcing our "16 for '16" goals, we have improved the student-athlete experience across the board. A few examples over the past several years include growing our academic support services, launching the Auburn Tiger Career Development Center and adding a staff psychologist to make sure we take care of the emotional wellbeing of our student-athletes.

Strong financial management has also allowed us to invest more than $200 million in facilities improvements over the past 11 years, including new facilities or major renovations for every sport.

Speaking of facilities, we took some time at a recent Athletics staff meeting to reflect on how different things look now than when many of us were in school at Auburn. Some of our younger staff members had no idea. It was a fun look back that generated a few laughs, too. I thought you might enjoy seeing a few classic then-and-now photographs we shared with the staff. I'm sure you have many stories of your own.

These pictures remind us how far we've come, but they also give us a chance to reminisce about "the good old days." And that matters.

To be sure, things have changed at Auburn. When I was a walk-on football player in the early 1980s, we lived and ate at Sewell Hall, a brick building constructed in 1962 at the corner of Donahue and Samford. It was a great facility, named for one of the most generous and loyal Auburn supporters we've ever had, the late Mr. Roy B. Sewell. Mr. Sewell was affectionately known as "Mr. Auburn." He even commissioned our famed fight song in the 1950s.

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Sewell Hall, named for Mr. Roy B. Sewell, was built in 1962 at the corner of Samford and Donahue. Auburn student-athletes ate at the Sewell dining hall, and 144 athletes lived in the facility.

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South Donahue Residence Hall, which replaced Sewell Hall, is home to athletes and non-athletes.

We didn't have a world-class residence hall across the street from a $6.5 million Wellness Kitchen. There were no LCD monitors with color-coded icons and nutritional guidelines telling us what was for dinner or how much to eat. There were no "fueling stations." But, I can assure you head dietitian Anne Graves and her amazing staff cooked more delicious food than we could ever eat. Mrs. Graves was the best.

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Head dietitian Anne Graves and her staff took care of the Auburn football players like Rodney Garner (facing camera at left) and other athletes at Sewell Hall.

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Athletes and other students now dine at the $6.5 million Wellness Kitchen on Donahue Drive.

Those were also the days when football practice times weren't limited. It wasn't unusual for Coach Dye to tell one of his assistants to call Mrs. Graves and tell her to keep dinner warm because we weren't done yet.

Sewell was our home away from home, the place where we developed camaraderie as a team.

That's one thing we missed in the years after the NCAA changed the rules on athletes living together on campus. We are so appreciative of the Auburn Board of Trustees, who shared our vision of bringing that dynamic back with construction of the South Donahue Residence Hall.

This new living facility has made a difference in the chemistry of our teams. It has also given us an important resource to attract outstanding recruits who want to know where they are going to live, eat and practice.

And when it comes to "blocking and tackling," we didn't have a 100-yard indoor practice facility. We had a "Bubble." It was a major upgrade when Watson Field House was built behind the Athletics Complex thanks to the generosity of Mr. John Watson. While football has since moved into a terrific full-sized indoor practice facility used by multiple sports, Watson Field House became home to our Olympic sport strength and conditioning operation after a renovation.

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This aerial shot shows the old Auburn football practice fields, including "The Bubble," which was Auburn's original indoor practice space.

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A full-sized indoor practice facility was built at a cost of $16 million in 2011.

In the old days, locker rooms were made for functionality. But not anymore. Today's top prospective student-athletes expect much more, so the needs we support are far reaching. Funding support has become the key to our goal of winning. And winning is what our donors, fans and student-athletes alike desire and deserve.

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Carpet and a coat of paint on cinder block walls were the extent of the decor in the old football locker room.

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Today's locker room is a must-see photo op for recruits and fans, who can tour the Jordan-Hare Stadium locker room on Friday afternoons before home games.

Reflecting on how things used to be is important. It reminds us to take a minute to appreciate how far we've come, to recognize those who made it possible and to never take for granted what we have.

As a product of Auburn, you can rest assured of my commitment to remember where we came from and recognize those who made our progress possible.

We will continue to wisely manage our money while making the investments necessary to ensure Auburn remains the best school for the best athletes.

Thank you for loving Auburn. The care and concern of the Auburn family for what we want our future to be is what makes this such a special place.

Jay Jacobs

You can also follow me on Twitter at @jayjacobsauad.

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