Drew's Views: Airport bill on the hill, and a timely coaching change at UTC

Drew's Views: Airport bill on the hill, and a timely coaching change at UTC

March 22nd, 2013 in Opinion Free Press

HEADLINE: TAC Air dispute lands at Tennessee State Capitol

THE RECAP: TAC Air, which provides fuel and hangar space for private airplanes at the Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport, is supporting a bill which would block future use of grants from the state's Transportation Equity Fund to "compete" against "existing, privately owned" private plane service facilities.

The Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport Authority, a government agency which manages the airport, has used $15 million in state grants to build a government-owned private plane service facility to compete with TAC Air.

DREW'S VIEW: It's about time members of the Tennessee General Assembly work to prevent further instances of state dollars going to subsidize socialist-style government attempts to compete with - and kill - existing private businesses.

Not only has the airport authority devoured $15 million in tax money from the state transportation equity fund to build hangar space and service areas for private planes, but the facility has lost more money on top of that.

Because almost no one uses the airport authority's government-owned private plane service facility, the venture costs the airport and, ultimately, taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars a month to subsidize its operational expenses. Sometime this month, the airport authority is expected to lose its millionth dollar on the project -- and it's only been open since July 2011.

That's $1 million that could've been used to renovate the airport's shabby commercial terminal or increase safety at the aging airport instead of bailing out a $15 million taxpayer-funded boondoggle that should never have been built.

Hopefully this legislative proposal will prevent any more state dollars from going to this, or any other, government attempts to get in the private plane storage, maintenance and refueling business.

HEADLINE: Shulman out as UTC basketball coach

THE RECAP: The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and its men's basketball coach John Shulman have agreed to part ways. This season, the Mocs managed only a 13-19 record and the program has not had a winning year since the 2008-09 season.

Shulman, who has one year left on his contract, asked for an extension and the school declined. He will be paid the balance of his contract - $138,000 - in monthly increments.

DREW'S VIEW: Gumption. Cojones. Backbone. Guts.

Those things are what it takes to walk into your boss' office and ask for a contract extension after four losing seasons, which is exactly what Shulman did.

Unfortunately for Shulman, gumption, cojones, backbone and guts didn't make up for his lack of success as a basketball coach and, more evidently, a recruiter. His most successful seasons came with some players recruited by former coach Jeff Lebo.

Shulman's performance has come with a real cost to the school and its athletic program. A successful men's basketball team at UTC means more money from concession and souvenir sales possibly, more revenue from post-season tournaments, and more ticket sales.

Ticket sales have been a particular problem for UTC. Since Shulman took over the UTC men's basketball program, season ticket sales at McKenzie Arena have plummeted from 1,430 to just 841 this past year.

To compound the issues, 104 miles up I-24, one college basketball program with similar resources (Middle Tennessee State University) made the NCAA Tournament as an at-large team. Just 30 miles further up I-24, another program with fewer resources and tougher entrance requirements than UTC (Belmont University) has made the tournament six of the past eight years and sits on the verge of becoming a mid-major powerhouse.

Both schools are in tougher conferences and have a more picked-over recruiting base.

Why are MTSU and Belmont so much more successful than UTC at men's basketball? They have found great coaches and aren't afraid to pay them what they're worth to keep them.

When searching for a new coach, UTC needs to be willing to write a big check to lure a great coach to Chattanooga. Paying a little more in salary will bring in a lot more in revenue to UTC athletics.

"Drew's views" is a weekly roundup of Free Press opinions about topics that appeared in the Times Free Press over the past week. Follow Drew on Twitter: @Drews_Views.