Tuel cool, but cheerleaders pitch another 10

WASHINGTON STATE cheerleaders were wearing football jerseys emblazoned with the No. 10 during Saturday's Homecoming game with Arizona State. While freshman quarterback Jeff Tuel, who sports No. 10 on the field, does indeed warrant attention, the cheerleaders weren't clad in the number because of him.

They were wearing No. 10 because of Dan Meyer. He's WSU's assistant athletic director overseeing the annual scholarship fund -- a fund that WSU must bolster in a significant way in order to keep pace with the rest of the Pac-10.

On Friday, he announced an ambitious plan to increase the size of the WSU Athletic Foundation (formerly the Cougar Club) to 10,000 members by next October. For those keeping score, that's 10,000 by 10/10.

They're calling it the 10/10/10 initiative.

The need is clear: WSU ranks dead last, by a long ways, among all Pac-10 and Big Ten schools in both total donors and total donations to athletics.

On one hand, the 10/10/10 goal is formidable, because the Athletic Foundation currently counts less than 6,000 members. That means they need a whopping 4,000 more by next year at this time.

On the other hand, the task is imminently doable in light of two facts: the minimum annual donation to become a member is just $100; and more than 98 percent of the living alums, friends and supporters in the university's database have yet to join the team.

WSU's annual athletics scholarship bill totals more than $6 million. About $3 million of it is covered through donation. That leaves a $3 million chasm.

"This gap is covered by athletic department operating expenses that would otherwise be directed toward sport program improvements. With tuition increasing by 14 percent in each of the next two fiscal years, due to university budget shortfalls, the challenge will be to narrow the scholarship gap between costs and donations."

Ultimately, WSU would like to have all of its athletic scholarships covered through its endowed scholarship fund. Right now, just 20 of WSU's 85 football scholarships are fully endowed. By contrast, all of USC's football scholarships are fully endowed and roughly 50 to 70 are at each of the other Pac-10 schools.

"The Athletic Foundation has a number of major projects on the table, with none bigger than the Martin Stadium Phase III renovation," WSU Athletics Director Jim Sterk said. "But this initiative (10/10/10) is vital, because our annual giving to scholarships has not kept pace with our scholarship bill. When we can't cover scholarship costs with annual donations, it puts us behind our Pac-10 competitors in a significant way."

Meyer calls the 10,000 goal "extremely aggressive, but I believe we must set aggressive goals at this time."

He also said his aim is more than the infusion of new donors. He also will continue to push current donors to raise the amount they're committing to the Cougs each year.

"There are a lot of Cougs in the Northwest and around the country, who, because of time, travel, or family commitments, cannot make a season ticket purchase, so a donation to the Student-Athlete Scholarship Fund is a great alternative for these folks to show support of our program," Meyer said.

Those interested in becoming a member of the Athletic Foundation have a number of options to consider. At the official website of the WSU Athletic Foundation , an individual can click on the "Give Now" link to donate online. They may also call 877-IMA-COUG during business hours to speak with a representative of the Athletic Foundation about giving options. Finally, they could simply mail a check for a minimum of $100 to the WSU Athletic Foundation at P.O. Box 641602, Pullman, WA, 99164-1602.

"We hear people say ‘I would give if only I was asked,'" said Meyer. "This is as clear as we can be to Cougar Nation: We need your support now …"

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