Central Michigan University President George Ross praised the state of the athletics department following the first CMU Board of Trustees meeting of the 2014 calendar year.
“I’m not being trite when I say that Dave Heeke is the best athletic director in America,” Ross said. “For him, championship culture goes way beyond wins.”
Trustee William Weideman said an internal audit committee found CMU football met the 15,000 attendance mark required for Division-I standing in both 2012 and 2013.
The turnout figure encompasses both paid for and actual attendance numbers.
“There is an option to count both the number of the fans in the seats and also the purchased seats,” Ross said. “I see lots of community members at games. I don’t, however, see the student commitment that I’d like to see. I am frankly disappointed that whether we are winning or losing, they disappear at halftime.”
Heeke said CMU’s athletics department continues to pursue more methods of getting fans to come to games – and keeping them there.
“We look at the schedule the (Mid-American Conference) hands us and then try to create attractive ticket options,” Heeke said. “It’s a nationwide issue. Attendance is a concern for all in college football. We are all struggling.”
Ross challenged the student body to show more support for CMU athletic events, regardless of weather conditions or the season standings of Chippewas teams.
Board of trustees Chairman William Kanine said he was thankful for being able to watch CMU football games from a luxury box.
“Some of those games were very cold,” Kanine said. “Had I not been in the booth, I would have been with some of those students saying ‘hey, I gotta get to some warmth.’ I support our teams just as much as our students do.”
Kanine also addressed student-athletes behaviors off the field, which has been an issue for various men’s and women’s CMU sports team.
“Just because you are CMU athlete doesn’t mean you are destined for success,” he said. “ You have to work for it. The environment here demands excellence. Mistakes are made and then they are corrected. You can’t fault a kid because he makes a mistake.”
Ross said he holds every CMU student to the same standard of conduct.
“Overall, a large part of our students are good citizens,” Ross said. “They are also a microcosm of the world in which we live. I expect people to own their mistakes. I don’t care whether you are a student athlete or an accounting major.”