It's been a little over a year since the powers that be convinced SIU Hall of Fame coach Jerry Kill to become the school's permanent athletics director.
Kill never does anything halfway, and he is all in on rebuilding the SIU Athletics program into the winner it was in the early 2000s. That turnaround involves several variables.
Kill has opened up donor money by the truckload and sold the Arena naming rights to Banterra Bank for $4 million, and up to $1 million more from the issuing of a Saluki debit card.
The results of the money inflows can be seen in a new surface on the Banterra Center's basketball floor and a new artificial playing surface at Saluki Stadium. There are also upgraded, larger scoreboards in both venues.
Kill realizes that with the drop in enrollment at SIU in the last decade, the usual way of financing intercollegiate athletics -- student fees -- is drying up, so innovative means to raise cash must be instituted.
Rarely does any college have greater ticket/TV revenues than expenses. When you live in as thinly populated an area as southern Illinois, increasing attendance is problematic, but Kill is anything but pessimistic about the problems.
"Successful athletic problems not only draw great coaches and athletes. I believe they also draw more regular students to the school," said Kill.
But Kill isn't waiting for enrollment to go up. He has somehow wrangled enough donor cash to afford generous upgrades of both top-notch coaches (in volleyball, track, soccer, basketball and swimming) and their salaries. One example is Kill hiring veteran University of Alabama volleyball coach Ed Allen for $160,000 That's tens of thousands more than any Saluki volleyball coach has ever gotten at a mid-major like SIU.
All MVC schools are experiencing drops in enrollment. For example, the University of Northern Iowa UNI expects a historic low of 10,000 students this fall -- down 3,000 from just a few years ago. The Panthers had to cut their baseball program a few years back in response to major budget deficits. Because of those enrollment problems, Kill is looking at his rebuilding project as a relatively long-term project.
"I'm projecting to get the program back to where it was will take at least three years," said Kill. "And as long as my health holds up, I'll be here to accomplish it."