During my time covering the Jax Seminole Club’s 2021 Kickoff event, I was able to sit down with Seminole Boosters CEO Michael Alford and ask him a few questions. I want to thank Mr. Alford for his time and graciousness with me, and Tomahawk Nation looks forward to more conversations with him in the future!
NT&T: Mr. Alford, can you explain your first year here so far and where the Boosters were when you walked in and where they are now?
MA: Everyone has been so welcoming to me and my family. So many of my buddies were athletes here that have gone on, and I played at another institution, but they always talked about authentic people at Florida State. You’re kind of like, “Okay, everybody at every school says that, right?” Then you get here, you get to Tallahassee, get around the state and meet people. And it’s so true. People are passionate and compassionate when they are talking about Florida State, and how caring they are, making sure you’re doing great things. They really care about the institution.
So it’s been a three year membership base analytics, and we had dipped down to 9,000 members. One time, we were at a high of 15,000. And that’s about $6 million in lost revenue that we’re not able to fund leadership and educational opportunities. That’s really what our job and our mission is, to supply those educational opportunities. Because a lot of our student athletes are first-generation college-goers and their families don’t have much. But now you’re changing expectations. And that’s what’s so important for us to wake up and go to work every day and try to grow and provide them opportunities.
NT&T: What would you say is the biggest difference coming from Central Michigan University to FSU?
MA: The weather! The weather. CMU is an interesting institution, we were able to accomplish things there and facility wise, especially at that level, they now have the best facilities in the Mid American Conference (MAC). And we were able to hire some unbelievable coaches there, we hired nine new coaches and five of them became Coach of the Year in their first or second year. It was all about going through our process and identifying what they needed to be successful.
That’s our job, is to make sure that we’re giving our programs and our student athletes what they need to be successful in their sports and in the classroom and outside the institution. So we were able to do that, and make great strides. Those are a lot of the things we’re trying to do here, is meeting with all the coaches, finding out what they need to be successful, and then putting a game plan together. We can’t address them all right away, but what can we address that is going to have the most impact on the programs right now? That’s what we work towards.
NT&T: When you stepped into the role at FSU, when you first did that survey of the landscape, what was the most pressing need that you saw? And have you solved that need, or what kind of progress have you made in that?
MA: That’s a great question. I’m going to hit on two things. You are always going to hear me talking about getting our (Seminole Boosters) numbers back up. I’m really proud because we’re changing our message. Of course, it’s always tied to tickets, ticket locations and things like that. I want to present and help alumni understand messages about what are the educational resources that the annual fund can provide. And I’m happy to say we’re at an all-time high in that 40% of our annual fund members, non-seasonal donors right now, are spread across the country in places you might not think when you think “FSU”. It’s been awesome going out and getting people from Chicago and Dallas, talking to you and saying that even though I can’t make it to Tallahassee for the games, I believe in what you’re doing and I want to help.
Second, it’s facilities. We have to catch up with that. And facilities matter, whether you like it or not. We can’t just sit here and say it’s alright while our peers pass us by. So we really need to address our facilities right now. We have some campaigns going on to slowly upgrade multiple facilities, build new ones, and do it over time. So we’re not going to discourage architects that are brought in to do a master plan. You know, what’s the most pressing thing we need to do now? And then let’s put a plan together. We can hit these marks over the next 10 years of addressing every sport that’s in need, and we can keep Florida State among the upper tier in facilities with the help of donors.
NT&T: One of those facilities that we hear a lot about is the football-only facility. Any updates on that?
MA: Sure. It’s gone really well so far. We’re going through construction and design phase, that sort of things, and that’s really the nuts and bolts before we put a shovel in the ground. Have to make sure we’re responsible, do it right, and hit the needs. So that’s likely going to take a typical 12 month process.
NT&T: Is there a projected date for the shovel to hit the ground?
MA: Factoring in 10 to 12 months for the construction design phase, so anytime after that 18 months, hopefully we’ll be good to go. We have to continue to fundraise. That’s working, tying in stadium revenues and everything to try to address them.
Very happy with what we just did in the weight room, which was one of my first impressions when I got here. The weights were literally crumbling. After each use, guys would have to sweep up where the weights hit the ground as little bits came off. That can’t stand. Thanks to a great partnership, that allowed us to go in right now and fix that weight room.
We’re also doing it in the football locker room, upgrading some things and making it better. Also very excited about a new design to the entrance tunnel that really incorporates the program’s history, gives the team a nice kick to get out on that field and go to work at a high level.
NT&T: Can you give us some insight about the working relationship between you and Mr. Coburn, the athletic director? How that’s evolved since you first got here and what your relationship is like?
MA: Oh, we speak day to day. AD Coburn, our wonderful President Thrasher, plus Coach Norvell, we talk and champion what is going to happen today to make us better tomorrow. You know, it’s a daily conversation that we’re having. We’re in a four-way, 100% alignment, talking about the needs and the vision and make sure that we put together the plan to address those needs. And it’s that way with other coaches too. And everyone knows where we are, where we stand, where we want to go. So the transparency has been unbelievable. We have the same vision, which is important to moving the athletic department forward.
NT&T: If you had a message for ‘Nole Nation, as they read this article, what would you tell them?
MA: I would ask them to go out and join the Boosters, help contribute to the annual fund. It would help us out tremendously, all that money goes back to support our student athletes. It allows us to really make a difference for them and for the university. That’s the biggest message I have.
Again, I want to thank Mr. Alford for his time and candor and an enjoyable interview. He is clearly passionate and driven to move FSU forward, and speaking with him cemented my belief that FSU hit a home run by hiring him as CEO of the Boosters.