A.D. Cragg Announces New Vision for SJU Athletics



The new athletic director giving a speech in Carnesecca Arena

Brendan Myers, Sports Editor

What’s in store for the future of Carnesecca Arena?

Athletic director Mike Cragg refused to rule out any possibility, saying in a phone interview with The Torch, “without question, it certainly needs to be addressed.”

Improving the 58-year-old arena is among a series of new goals and initiatives regarding the future of St. John’s Athletics that Cragg unveiled Monday night in a press release.

“It’s the hub of St. John’s Athletics,” Cragg said. “Something needs to be done — insides, outsides, fan amenities.”

Cragg said The Beck Group, a Dallas-based real estate development company, will be tasked with working with Deputy Athletic Director John Diffley and looking for “facility improvement, renovation, replacement, and new construction over the next 10 years.”

The Beck Group is no stranger to Cragg, as the two worked together during his time as deputy athletic director at Duke in North Carolina. The development company was involved in several Duke projects including construction on football team’s practice facility and an enhancement to its basketball arena Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Any upgrade at Carnesecca Arena will be part of Cragg’s ambitious master plan.

The tasks he laid out for St. John’s Athletics involve upgrades to facilities, developing a new vision for the Athletic Department and improving the satisfaction of student-athletes that represent the Red Storm across the school’s 17 Division I athletic programs.

“Our student-athletes need to have a great experience,” Cragg said.

The University will be aided by two outside firms in order to help fulfill the goals laid out by Cragg. The Nevada based Pictor Group will be involved in researching industry trends to help lay out what the department is calling “The Strategic Plan for Red Storm Athletics.” This new plan will “reinforce the department’s mission and vision and establishes measurable goals and objectives,” according to the release.

Another facet of the new goals include facility renovations.

Cragg noted that he believes that St. John’s is behind in regards to facilities of their Big East competitors – such as Providence, where they are in the process of opening up a new practice facility, and DePaul, who opened a new basketball arena last season.

Cragg told The Torch he wanted to “articulate” the goals and visions that he has for the Athletic Department after the recent turnover that St. John’s Athletics has seen.

Former Director of Athletics Anton Goff left the University last June after just two years in charge. Kathy Meehan served as an interim athletic director during the span between Goff and Cragg’s hire in September, filling an interim role she also worked in prior to Goff.

The constant flux at the top of the department has made for a somewhat stagnant era in terms of tangible improvements for athletic facilities.

Cragg feels that the stabilization was necessary in order to make a plan and fix issues that arise along the way. He sees this as a big step so that St. John’s can continue to move forward with new initiatives to the program and keep all administrators on the same page regarding the future progression of athletics.

“It’s not a good methodology to to just pick and choose [as you go along],” Cragg said. “It’s important to state very clearly.”

With talk on facility upgrades at St. John’s comes curiosity from fans about Carnesecca Arena. The on-campus arena can hold up to 5,602 people and has hosted more Big East Conference games than Madison Square Garden has over the past few seasons.

It most recently underwent a $30-million renovation that took place over three years in which the lobby was expanded, new ticket windows were added and a new center-hung scoreboard was unveiled. The renovation was finished in 2008.

Some St. John’s fans have taken to social media to voice their complaints, saying that seating is uncomfortable and tight quarters make it difficult to purchase concessions. Cragg made it clear that it will be addressed but did not go into specifics.

While he remains committed to improving the quality of the experience for student-athletes, Cragg sees the importance of not forgetting about the Red Storm fans.

“This is a community that’s excited and very proud of their school,” he said.

After being hired in late September, Cragg says he’s been active in meeting with players and coaches across all the programs to gauge their opinions on how different aspects can be improved.

The new Athletic Director constantly says that he believes St. John’s can, and should be competing for Big East championships in every sport.

“[St. John’s] was in need of being able to articulate our goals,” Cragg said.

Cragg said the goals right now are bold, and results won’t be seen overnight, but he won’t let that stop him from making his visions for Red Storm Athletics appear.

“I can bring a lot,” he said. “I know what a championship program looks like.”