Wake Forest AD expects programs to improve in 2015-16

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) — Many construction projects are taking place at Wake Forest.

The school is building a new football practice facility and a new home for its golf teams. It hopes to start work on its baseball facilities soon and is figuring out the long-term plan for its basketball arena.

And the school’s most visible programs — football and men’s basketball — are going through reconstructions of their own.

In an interview with The Associated Press, athletic director Ron Wellman says there was progress shown during the 2014-15 academic year and adds that in the coming year, “most of our programs now are in a position to take a significant step forward.”

That includes those two high-profile sports that posted losing records under new coaches last year.

Dave Clawson went 3-9 in his first year coaching a football program that since 2008 has no winning seasons and one bowl appearance. Danny Manning was 13-19 in his debut season leading a basketball program that has finished above .500 just once since 2010.

Those records contributed to Wake Forest’s 90th-place finish in the standings for the director’s cup — awarded to the nation’s top overall athletic department. Among fellow Atlantic Coast Conference members, only Pittsburgh (96th) was lower.

But after some multi-year lulls, its two most visible sports have legitimate reasons for optimism in 2015-16 and beyond.

Clawson’s football team will have only a handful of seniors and is bringing in one of the school’s highest-rated recruiting classes. Manning’s team returns virtually every key player from a team that lost seven ACC games by single digits.

“We’re going to be very young (in football), but our fans are going to see that we’re going to be very talented, too, and there’s a real bright future,” Wellman said. “With everybody coming back in basketball, too … there’s reason to think this could be a year of significant advancement.”

Among the other highlights: The baseball program produced the ACC player of the year, first baseman Will Craig, and two other all-conference first teamers. The field hockey team won the ACC title and women’s golf finished 13th at the NCAA championship.

And men’s tennis freshman Noah Rubin reached the NCAA singles championship match before he turned pro.

Wake Forest is also undergoing a rather ambitious building boom.

The football team’s $21 million indoor facility is scheduled to open either in the fall or winter. The $4.5 million building for the golf teams is targeted to open this fall. The school hopes to begin work on a $10 million project for the baseball team that will include a clubhouse, locker room, coaches’ offices, a training center for pitchers and eventually an indoor or covered practice infield.

And the school is mapping out some plans for the Joel Coliseum, with Wellman saying he hopes to release them later this summer. The options could include adding loge and club seating and space for groups.

The school, which purchased the arena from the city two years ago, is considering the sale of its naming rights.

“That is something that will be on the table, but our first step is to really finish the strategic facility plan so any potential naming rights-holder will have the opportunity to see what the vision for the coliseum really is, rather than what it is today,” Wellman said.


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