Looking back on his first semester as athletic director of the University of the Virgin Islands, Terry Layton says he's pleased that the men's volleyball team made the playoffs and a UVI weightlifter broke a record in the ODI, the predominantly Puerto Rican college athletic conference in which UVI competes.
Also, he says, it was satisfying to see that the volleyball squad "played its first collegiate schedule."
The university joined the Organizacion Deportiva Interuniversitaria — or Inter-university Sports Organization — in the spring of 1998 after an ill-fated flirtation with NCAA membership under the last previous athletic director, James Hatfield.
UVI appointed Layton, a 29-year coaching veteran, to take over the direction of its athletic program in August after two years without a permanent person in charge. Dr. Ronald Harrigan, as vice president for student affairs, assumed the added duties of acting athletic director after Hatfield's contract was not renewed in the fall of 1997.
Although Hatfield had been brought aboard to develop an NCAA program at UVI, the administration ultimately concluded that the money needed to cover the massive travel costs for participation in mainland competition wasn't there. Harrigan set the plan in motion to have UVI affiliate with the ODI instead.
Priorities for spring semester are to "get prepared for basketball and tennis," Layton says. UVI will host the ODI conference tennis tournament on St. Croix on March 23-25; play will be on the Buccaneer Hotel courts but participants — about 120 students from UVI and 11 Puerto Rico colleges — will stay on the St. Croix campus.
Coming into the job last summer, Layton set as his goals to expand sports activities, intramural events and financial profits within the UVI athletic program. "It is kind of a dream- maker job," he says. "We are in the process of getting things changed and going in the right direction."
He has put together a five-year revenue plan in hopes that the new sports center under construction on the St. Thomas campus will generate considerable income for the university. The gymnasium in the facility will have a seating capacity of 3,500, according to physical plant director Leo Francis.
Sending UVI sports teams to play in Puerto Rico can easily cost $5,000 for a trip. Once the new sports center is open, Layton sees the Puerto Rican athletic teams coming to the Virgin Islands instead. And he plans on attracting some mainland teams, too.
He sent out letters of invitation, citing the Blazing Photos web site as enticement, "to see what teams might come down" for four-team weekend tournaments in men's volleyball and men's and women's basketball. Sixty-four schools replied asking for more information, and he has "a list of about 12 that seem really interested," mostly NAIA and Division 3 NCAA schools.
The "interactive photo tour" of St. Thomas and St. John on the web site (www.blazingphotos.com) has gotten many people excited about coming to the Virgin Islands, Layton says. It consists of a dozen photographs, mostly of pristine beaches, perfect sunsets and panoramic harbor scenes. "Every time someone calls me from Nebraska, I say look at this — and they want to come when they realize how beautiful it is," Layton says.
What's needed, he says, is to be able to guarantee those schools a package offering housing, discounted airfares and other means of minimizing travel costs.
His overall focus, he says, is on "building the base of the athletics program." Figuring out "what we are going to charge for the new facility, who is going to get the money, and where the money will go are just a few of the procedures and policies for the future" that he has to formulate.
Construction work on the sports center was delayed but should "take off" in January, he says. "All contracts are in place; they're just waiting for materials." His best guest is that the facility will open its doors next September, since the contractors face stiff penalties if they take more than 93 days to finish the exterior walls and more than 145 days to complete the interior. However, he isn't booking any events until Nov. 1, even though "we have a Danish gymnastics group coming in August that we'd love to have in there."
While the facilities will be available for rental by non-university organizations, the first priority is still to meet the needs of the UVI physical education classes and team practices.
"We have rental of all our sports facilities for off-campus people," he notes. The cost depends on whether the group is non-profit, and whether it's a long-term user.
"If you tell me it is non-profit, we are going to make it as low as possible," he says, adding that he looks at each group's situation. The not-for-profit Blades Fencing Club, for example, which has been using the deck of the clubhouse behind the Herman E. Moore Golf Course on Saturday afternoons for several years, is paying $50 a month.
Sometime an adoption program trade-out is put in place. If a group "takes care of the facility it uses and keeps it up, we give them a break on the fee," Layton says. As a case in point, he says, "the 50 Plus softball team does an excellent job."
If a group utilizing university property intends to make a profit from an event, several conditions kick in. For one, only Coca-Cola commercial beverages may be sold at any event held on university property because of a contract UVI has with the soft drink company.
The five-year contract "gives us promotional money," Layton explains, and in return "the company has explicit rights to have Coca-Cola on campus."
One of the steps Layton has taken to increase playing opportunities for university sports teams is to have them play community sporting organizations in intramural games in basketball, cricket, pool and tae-bo for students.
Layton came to the athletic director's job with experience as a college and professional coach with an extensive background in the Caribbean. He was the head basketball coach at Adams State College in Alamosa, Colo., when the team made it to the playoffs. His coaching record stands at 254 wins and 44 losses. He has coached professional basketball teams throughout the Caribbean and in Taiwan and has conducted Olympic coaching clinics in the Caribbean, South and Central America, and the Middle East.


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