Dialing for dollars – it’s not just for reserve funds anymore.
Wealthy donors are fueling a boom in gifts to major-college sports programs, with the biggest athletics departments reporting a total of more than $1-billion in donations last year, according to a survey released this week by the Council for Aid to Education. It’s the third time in the past four years that sports gifts have topped $1-billion…
During 2014 those colleges raised a collective $1.26-billion for sports, the largest one-year haul in the past 10 years of the survey. Texas A&M’s share was the second-biggest one-year total in the survey’s recent history. In 2013 the University of Oregon brought in nearly $133-million for sports.
The wealthiest programs accounted for the vast majority of contributions. Last year the top 20 athletics departments reported collective donations of more than $700-million—more than half of the $1.26-billion raised.
That money will help cover large capital expenditures and fast-rising coaching salaries, say athletic directors at several big colleges. In some programs the dollars will go toward endowments to offset increasing scholarship costs.
“A lot of the facilities we compete in were built with state dollars, and that will rarely happen anymore,” said Greg Byrne, vice president for athletics at the University of Arizona. “Many of us have had to look ourselves in the mirror as our infrastructure has needed replacing, and realize that philanthropic gifts are going to be the only way to solve that issue.”
Don’t forget more TV money.
Seriously, if you want to know what’s driving college athletics to care less about the average fan who attends games and more about, well, just about everyone else it caters to, look no further than a decline in state funding support. Reasonable minds can differ on whether that’s good or bad, but it’s clear that it has consequences. Because big schools want big money.