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January 19, 2009 - Use of endowments for athletic fundraising grows

The Chronicle of Higher Education investigated the amount of fundraising for athletic endowments at the nation's largest higher education institutions and raised the issue of priorities in relation to academic fundraising in the current economic downturn.   The report stated that last year, 54 of the biggest sports programs brought in a total of $1.1-billion in cash gifts, with 27 percent raised to build or renovate facilities.  Since 2002 athletics programs have raised nearly $4-billion for capital expenses. According to the Chronicle, at least eight programs stated their intent to bring in more than $100-million each to defray the rising costs of college sports, including a goal of $500-million at the University of California at Berkeley, a goal of $350-million at Duke University, and a goal of $250-million at Boston College.

In an effort to secure funding for athletics, many institutions have endowed particular aspects of administrative positions of their athletics programs.  The report noted endowments for coaches' salaries ($1-million for the volleyball coach at the University of Virginia), team expenses ($8-million for the men's golf program at the University of Georgia), and scholarships ($32-million for 284 of Ohio State University's athletes, including the entire second string on the football team).  "There's nothing more important than securing the future — and that's what endowment does," said Chuck Sleeper, senior associate athletic director at Michigan State University.

The article includes charts on institutional fund-raising targets for athletics, a comparison of athletic and institution endowments, and athletic endowments for 55 of the 73 colleges in the six major conferences participating in the football Bowl Championship series.  To access the article and charts, link here.