BATON ROUGE -- LSU athletic director Skip Bertman has agreed to a contract extension and has announced that he plans to retire as athletic director in June of 2008.
The agreement provides for Bertman’s service as Athletic Director Emeritus for two years following his retirement. The contract terms will take effect once approved by the LSU Board of Supervisors.
“By the time I retire I will be 70 years old and will have spent the greatest 25 years of my life as an LSU Tiger,” the former five-time national champion baseball coach said. “The memories and the friends I will take with me will be cherished forever.”
As athletic director emeritus, Bertman will assist the athletic department and the University’s “Forever LSU” capital campaign, and will participate in fund-raising for the University in general and the athletic program in particular, while assisting with the University’s transition to a new athletic director.
“There are still many things to accomplish in my final year as AD, and I look forward to the two years as emeritus AD and the new challenges they will present for the betterment of the entire University,” Bertman said. “My wife, Sandy, and I recently celebrated our 45th anniversary, and we determined that the age of 70 is a great time to step away from the day-to-day activities of the athletic department.
“I thank (Chancellor) Sean (O’Keefe) and the Board of Supervisors for this opportunity to fulfill my goals as the athletic director and then to assume an important role in the University mission.”
O’Keefe praised Bertman for his accomplishments as baseball coach and athletic director.
“Skip’s record as a five-time national championship baseball coach is well-documented, but his tenure as athletic director is equally accomplished,” said O’Keefe. “He introduced a modern, effective financing strategy that has placed the athletic program on sound financial footing. Few universities across the nation host athletic programs that are self-sustaining and support university operations. LSU is counted among that few number thanks to Skip Bertman. He achieved this goal by engineering a major athletic facility overhaul that has made LSU nationally competitive in athletic and academic achievement.
“Many years from now we will look back on this period in our history and reflect on this as the beginning of the golden era of LSU Athletics. That’s what Skip Bertman has done for LSU – a legacy that is unparalleled and unlikely to be surpassed.”
From the beginning of his tenure as athletic director, Bertman was dedicated to establishing a comprehensive and competitive athletic program aimed at success throughout LSU’s 20 varsity sports. In all, LSU has won eight Southeastern Conference titles and seven national championships under Bertman’s administration, and total attendance at LSU athletic home events has risen to a record 1.1 million fans per year.
Annually, 12 to 15 of LSU’s sports teams participate in post-season competition, most of which finish in the nation’s top 15 on a regular basis.
Bertman came to LSU from the University of Miami in the fall of 1983 and immediately breathed life into a lagging baseball program. His energy and vision turned the Tiger baseball program into a winner and a perennial national championship contender.
Under his direction, the Tiger baseball program became a revenue-producer at LSU as Alex Box Stadium became home to the highest attendance in the nation 11 years in a row. He led the Tigers to five national championships, winning the College World Series in 1991, 1993, 1996, 1997 and 2000.
As he established one of the most successful careers of any coach in college baseball history, he launched the major league careers of scores of former Tigers. Bertman served as the head coach of the 1996 U.S. Olympic Team, capturing a bronze medal, and since his retirement he has been named to the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame, the American Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame and in 2006 he was named to the inaugural class of the College Baseball Hall of Fame.
On January 19, 2001, Bertman was chosen to become LSU’s eighth athletic director. He immediately set out a facility development plan that would make LSU’s athletic physical plant as attractive as any in the Southeastern Conference.
He worked hand-in-hand with the Tiger Athletic Foundation to raise funds for the renovation of the Old Gym Armory to create the Cox Communications Academic Center for Student-Athletes that opened in 2002. Today, the Academic Center is widely considered the finest of its kind in America.
In 2003, Bertman introduced the Tradition Fund, a bold but essential initiative, creating a ticket contribution plan that gave LSU the necessary revenue to fund a nationally-competitive program while enabling the athletic department to embark on an aggressive facility building program.
Under Bertman’s direction, and with participation from the TAF, LSU has seen a renovation of the west side of Tiger Stadium, the construction of a Football Operations Center, and the renovation of the Pete Maravich Assembly Center. He has put into motion the construction of new stadiums for baseball and softball, a new basketball practice facility and a new merchandise store.
Football has enjoyed its greatest success in half a century under Bertman’s administration. The Tigers have played in three BCS bowls in the last six years, and have played in an LSU record seven straight post-season bowl games. In 2003, LSU won its first national championship in 45 years.
During his tenure, Bertman has placed an importance on the total athletics program, including an added emphasis on the promotion of women’s sports. The LSU women’s basketball program has enjoyed its greatest success under Bertman’s administration, reaching the Final Four three consecutive years, and all programs have a full allotment of scholarships and coaches.
Bertman has been an innovator in athletic administration. In 2005, he oversaw the consolidation of LSU’s sponsor and media rights into one of the most lucrative multi-media contracts in the history of collegiate athletics as LSU forged a partnership with CBS Collegiate Sports Properties. He has overseen an ultra-successful departmental website, LSUsports.net, that gives fans unprecedented online access to information and purchase of tickets, merchandise, photos, memorabilia and auction items that has created new revenue streams for the athletic program.
In 2005, Bertman guided LSU Athletics through a trying period in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The LSU athletic complex became a hub for hurricane medical recovery efforts, and Tiger Stadium served as a temporary home for the NFL’s New Orleans Saints.
And in 2006, the LSU became the first school in SEC history to outright win the league title in both men’s and women’s basketball, as both teams advanced to the Final Four.