Going for the Gold

Last week, WVU Athletic Director Ed Pastilong called for more funding in a report to the Board of Governors on the state of the Mountaineer Athletic Program.

If anything, Pastilong's goals for new fundraising, which he roughly set at $500,000 for this year and as much as $1.5 million for future years, doesn't go nearly far enough.

WVU is currently involved in its "Building Greatness" program, which has a goal of raising $250 million for the entire school by December of 2003. (As of April 2002, $216 million of that total has been raised, so it looks as if Building Greatness will meet its goal.)

The down side to this is that Building Greatness barely includes the Athletic Department. While its true that a few donors, including former Mountaineer great Sam Huff, have earmarked some donations for endowed athletic scholarships and the like, the fact is that athletics is barely more than a blip on the radar in this campaign.

What's even more bothersome is that many schools have fundraising efforts underway right now that either solely target athletics or make them a major part of the overall picture.

For example, the University of Arkansas, which in many respects is comparable to WVU, is in the midst of a $900 million campaign. Of that, almost $109 million will be dedicated to the athletic department. (It's also instructive to note that Arkansas Athletic Director Frank Broyles is a member of the fundraising committee.)

Stnaford University is in the midst of an even more ambitious campaign which is seeking $1 billion dollars in gifts. Of that total, full endowment of athletic scholarships, along with endowments of head coaching positions as well as of entire sports are available.

That leads to another area that has yet to be fully mined: sponsorships and endorsements. Take a look at Clemson, for example. Their endorsement opportunities are publicized on their web site and promoted heavily.

We also editorialized last month about the need for WVU to recruit and encourage small donors. (Again, Clemson's IPTAY club is a model that could be followed and implemented.)

Obviously, WVU doesn't have the resources or moneyed almuni that some of these schools have. It would be unrealistic to expect West Virginia Universtiy to garner $1 billion dollars in donations. On the other side of the coin, however, athletics at the state's university will never prosper if they continue to struggle just to make ends meet.

If all of these sources of income were aggressively pursued, and if the Board of Governors and President Hardesty realize the value of successful athletic programs to the overall health of the University, then West Virginia has a chance to move up the ranks in the Big East.

If, however, the status quo continues and these commitments and aggressive strategies aren't implemented, then the Mountaineers and their fans will continue to look back on the 1980s as the last of the golden eras.

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