Jimmy Bass: Every Donor is Important

Jimmy Bass, Mississippi State's new Senior Associate Director of Athletics for Development and Marketing and Bulldog Club officials Straton Karatassos (Associate AD/Athletic Development) and Bart Gregory (Field Representative/Development) have been busy the past month.

On July 25th, I talked with Jimmy Bass about the things that he hopes the Bulldog Club can accomplish. Since then, he, Strat and Bart have been busy covering the state of Mississippi and a few out-of-state areas setting up a Bulldog Club network that will implement those plans.

"We've been out re-establishing the Bulldog Club structure such as setting up our volunteer structure we call the Bulldog Reps," said Bass. "We've established and been at organizational meetings and follow-up meetings in Jackson, the (Mississippi) Gulf Coast, Meridian, Memphis and Vicksburg. We were going to Louisville today, but we got weathered out. We are working on the dates to go to Birmingham, the Delta and Tupelo.

"We have the state of Mississippi divided into 10 districts and we have four out-of-state areas that we are going to organize; Houston, Memphis, Birmingham and Atlanta. We will do additional out-of-state areas such as Huntsville (Alabama), but those are the four that we are going to concentrate on.

"Strat and Bart each have 5 districts. They have been to all the organizational meetings and they are starting their follow-up meetings to solidify the leadership structure. They are doing some training sessions. Our plan is to have all 10 of our in-state districts organized and our leadership identified by the end of the year."

What did Bass notice as he and the rest of the Bulldog Club officials visited with the various Bulldog fans at each stop?

"They were hungry for leadership, hungry for a plan and direction," he said. "As an example, we were in Vicksburg last week. Their district, which is District 6, has six counties in it. We have already identified who the district chair will be for their district and we've also had people volunteer. They will be our eyes and ears away from campus in these areas."

Initially, in Mississippi alone, Bass expects to have a a chair person for each county in Mississippi as well as a couple hundred Bulldog Rep volunteers throughout Mississippi.

Bass gave an example of what the volunteers will do in their districts.

"For example, in January we will go to a (Bulldog Club) uniform renewal date," said Bass. "Every Bulldog Club member will get their renewal form, which we will ask them to send back by March 15th with their pledge. It doesn't have to be their payment, but the amount they intend to give to the scholarship fund for 2006 and the date they want it billed. That will help to determine their priority. Then, right around April 1st, we will print football ticket applications for 2006. In theory, once we send out renewal notices and special marketing announcements for any program we are trying to push, (the volunteers) will follow-up with telephone calls and letters."

While the organization of the Bulldog Club is the most important thing that needs to be taken care of at the moment, there are other plans in the works, such as contacting MSU fans who currently aren't Bulldog Club members.

"There will be an effort next year to contact (MSU alumni and friends of MSU)," said Bass. "We'll probably do it at different times of the year. We'll find a way to ask even if we use the (Mississippi State) alumni magazine. There will be ways that will allow us to ask everybody to join."

But he, his staff and the 100's of volunteers will have their work cut out for them considering there are approximately 110,000 alumni of Mississippi State, just a few of whom are Bulldog Club members.

"When the last annual report came out last year, there were 5,240 Bulldog Club members," said Bass, who hopes to increase that to 10,000 as soon as possible.

He hopes to help facilitate that increase by not only making it easier to join the Bulldog Club, but by also letting each person in the Bulldog Club know the importance of their contribution, whether it be $100 or $100,000.

"We are going to create a system where people feel welcome and know how important their contribution is," said Bass. "Every donor will know how important they are to the future of what we are doing here.

"And we are in the process of revising our website. We hope to have an on-line donation center where folks can actually renew on-line. We'll not only do monthly drafts (from a checking account), but even do a monthly bill on somebody's credit card if they want to do that."

And the Bulldog Club also has plans in the works to make sure its members are kept informed as to what is going on within the club.

"In the 4th quarter of this year, we have a series of letters that will be sent to our current members letting them know the important dates, including the renewal date and the deadline for getting their pledge back in," said Bass. "And on the first of January we hope to start doing a regular publication that will be sent to Bulldog Club members (several times a year)."

Included in that newsletter will be announcements of special events.

"We will mention special events like our spring caravan where we will have Sylvester Croom, Rick Stansbury, Sharon Fanning and some of our other (head) coaches speak at Bulldog Club meetings in each of the 10 districts that I mentioned earlier," said Bass.

Although all of the above is important to the future of the Bulldog Club, what is the current status of the Bulldog? Where is it financially and where does it need to go?

"The Bulldog Club annual scholarship fund raising last year was 2.6 million dollars," said Bass. "We also ran a lot of other monies through the system. The total money that was run through the Bulldog Club was 9.7 million dollars, a lot of which was debt service. The debt service was for such things as the skyboxes, option seats, the club level and some other capital improvements such as the Holliman Center construction and the baseball expansion. The bottom line is the scholarship money was $2,607,070, but the scholarship bill was actually 5 million dollars. If we are able to pay for the scholarship bill, then that frees up 2 or 3 million dollars that can be spent in other areas."

There are plans in the works to help generate that additional 2.4 million dollars.

"What we are considering right now is going to a per seat contribution for every seat in the priority section," said Bass. "As of now, that just applies to priority areas, not every seat in the stadium.

"Where we eventually want to get the program to is that every seat is tied to a per seat contribution, just like Georgia, LSU, Kentucky, Tennessee and many other colleges already do. It could be as little as $50 a seat. That means, if you buy two seats, you give $100 to the Bulldog Club. There's nothing special about doing this. It's just an attitude that we want to be the best and each person is going to do their part to help Mississippi State be the best. We can't be 9th in fund raising and expect to be 1st in sports."

And, according to Bass, this could be a huge money maker in the future.

"If we sold all of the season tickets in the priority areas where we are selling and assigning Bulldog Club members to, we would raise 5.2 million dollars," he said. "If we sold every seat that we have, then we would raise almost 7 million dollars a year.

"Where I came from, NC State, the Wolfpack Club raised a lot of money based on parking. In fact, people at NC State are more concerned about their parking than where they sit in the stadium. It is important to people where they tailgate and have a good time before and after the game. That's why it is important for people to respond to the renewal notices in February next year, because that will affect their priority for seats and parking."

And, if MSU athletics is to succeed, then MSU fans will have to step up to the plate and do their part, not for any perks and benefits they might receive due to their contributions, but for something close to their heart - their university.

"People should give not because of anything they get in return, but because they love their university," said Bass. "If you want Mississippi State athletics to succeed, the Bulldog Club has to succeed. The difference between Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, NC State and North Carolina is their people know they have to give to provide that margin of excellence."

Gene Swindoll is the publisher of Dawgs Bite: Powered by GenesPage.com, the source for Mississippi State sports on Scout.com sports network. You can contact him by email at swindoll@genespage.com.

Gene's Page Top Stories