Q&A: David Coburn on priorities, Taggart, baseball search

AMELIA ISLAND – David Coburn is still learning the lingo and is grateful for the help he’s received from Florida State administrators as well as athletics directors around the ACC.

But the top priorities that FSU’s athletic director is focused on are essentially the same as what he was tasked with when he took over in August.

“Get to budget stability, repair the relationship with the boosters and in the immediate future hire a baseball coach,” Coburn said on Tuesday. “Those are the main three.”

Coburn took over when Stan Wilcox left for the NCAA about nine months ago. He has a background in budget and finance, as well as experience as chief of staff to former president Eric Barron as well as current president John Trasher.

On Friday, Thrasher elevated Coburn from interim to permanent athletics director. In Coburn’s view, his job hasn’t changed because of Thrasher’s decision but he admits that it does likely provide a “sense of stability for the department.”

Coburn touched on a wide range of topics on Tuesday at the ACC’s spring meetings, which are also featuring meetings between the league’s football and basketball coaches.

You already have two ACC titles under your belt after women’s soccer and women’s track & field picked up championships.

Coburn: Yeah, that was pretty nice. I’m not sure how long that pace will continue. As an interim, we got soccer. A natty in soccer.

How can you help Taggart get things turned around?

Coburn: We’ve been working on that. You saw the changes that he made in the coaching staff. We worked together on that. There were things we had to do to make that work. I think we’ll continue to do that. He knows what he needs to do and I think he has shown that he is willing to do what he needs to do. He has a goal in mind. He’s been through this before. He knows how it works. He knows there are pressures that happen initially and how to deal with it. I think we’ve made some changes that will help a lot.

How does his experience at Western Kentucky and South Florida help him?

Coburn: It gives him a perspective that you don’t panic. You stay with your program, you make the changes that you need to make as you go along. And you get there.

How is the baseball search going?

Coburn: I think this is one of the premier programs. And I think we’ve had a level of interest in that job that reflects that. I think we’re going to be able to make a good hire. I’m very comfortable there. So is the president. (Coburn had told the Osceola last week that a decision on a new coach may come after another coach’s team is done with his NCAA postseason. But Coburn also said he is looking to get a new hire in quickly to recruit.)

How prepared is FSU for the ACC channel?

Coburn: We will be ready to go by mid-August. Everybody is well aware of the deadlines. I think we’re very, very close to being ready to push the button. We’ve done any number of broadcasts already. I think we were further along than virtually anybody in the league. That’s not problematic for us.

With the launch of the network, they’re going to want quality inventory. Is there a feeling about how often a team will appear on the ACC Network?

Coburn: The message that we’ve gotten loud and clear from both ESPN and our consultants is, ‘If you want this thing to work, you have to be flexible.’ If you want to go back to our relationship with the boosters, that’s a message that is going to have to be transmitted and accepted because there are going to be games on the network at certain times of day that they’re not happy about but if we’re going to make the network work, we’re going to have to do that. And I think our coaches get that already. But we’re going to have to make sure the coaches understand but more significantly the boosters and fans.

What has been your learning experience, spending time with other athletics directors here at the ACC meetings?

Coburn: Not coming up through the ranks, I don’t have all the connections. That’s my biggest drawback. They’ve been helpful. Just learning the language, the acronyms … they educate me. They don’t treat me like I’m a moron.

Are there other areas of interest among the ACC athletics directors?

Coburn: The main points of interest are gambling, the network and then all the litigation swirling around, particularly the case in the northern district in California on antitrust. Those have all been very interesting learning experience for me.

Is gambling out of schools’ control?

Coburn: You have to figure out how you want to approach it at the federal level and at the state level. There’s a lot of political strategy going on. But the other thing that’s critical and it wasn’t obvious to me until I started listening is the control of information. The control of information, they’ve got these systems now where in-game data that will be available live for people that want to bet on whether the next shot made is a three-pointer or a two-pointer. We control that information and whether we give it to the TV station or the radio station to broadcast that information in-game impacts everything. There’s far more than meets the eye.

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