Mailbag Question: Regarding the Athletic Department and Donors

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Mailbag Question: Regarding the Athletic Department and Donors
Hey Guys,

With all the talk about facilities and upgrades for the athletic department, I was wondering who the big donors that usually fund these projects are. Are they the same big donors that donate to the university itself?

Does it hurt the athletic department that they have to be self-funded where other college programs aren't this way? Does all the money they have raised over the last couple of years for the school major projects hurt the athletic department? Does the university not like their donors to donate to the athletic department?

What is the deal regarding hoops and why they cannot seem to get any of the donors to donate to their program, but sports like softball, baseball, wrestling, and other women's sports seem to be able to raise money to build new facilities?

I know a lot of question and understand if you guys can't answer them or don't feel like putting this information out there...Thanks...Randy.
Thanks for the question. There are a several questions in there.

1) Who are the big donors to the Athletic Department and are they the same as the big donors to the rest of the University?

This really varies because there are a couple of people who are among the largest donor to both the Athletic Department and the academic side of the University of -Michigan. These include Steve Ross, Bill Davidson, the Ford family, and Ira Harris (all well above $1million lifetime to the Athletic Department, and far above that to the rest of the University of Michigan).

Second, there are groups of people who focus their giving on the Athletic Department, but not so much elsewhere. These include Junge, Mortenson, and Don Shepherd.

Finally, there are bunches of people who give LOTS of money to the University of Michigan, but little or none to the Athletic Department. These include the Taubers, Erbs, Sam Zell, Al Taubman, etc.

The thing to remember is that this is not a contest. The University of Michigan has a very good development operation--at the Athletic Department and across campus. Joe Parker and his team in athletics work closely with the rest of the development people to figure out who the high potential givers are, and what they are mist interested in. Some like athletics and others could care less. Some love medicine, and other Native American studies. The University of Michigan figures that if you have money, they will offer you something to support, and then send in the right people to push your buttons. Therefore, the Athletic Department and the University complement each other. They really do not compete with each other.

2) Does making the Athletic Department be self-funding hurt the Athletic Department? It definitely makes life more difficult. When they wanted to build Breslin up at Michigan State, they just put a fee on all student bills. When Ohio State wanted new athletics facilities, the University borrowed and guaranteed the money to do it. Bill Martin has to figure out this stuff on his own. Therefore, it definitely makes life more challenging. However, it is also the right thing to do. There are many people at the University of Michigan who do not care about athletics, so why should the University tax them to make Bill Martin's life easier?

There is sometimes some tension between specific units when going after a donor (for example, several units on campus have asks big out of Bill Davidson and Steve Ross. All the units that get a "no" will be annoyed at whichever school gets a yes. Nevertheless, as described above, in general the development people coordinate closely and work toward the same end. It is only the Looney tunes (Duderstadt, Pollack, and women’s' study types) that really see this as a zero sum issue.

3) What is the problem with basketball? There have been two issues that interacted. First, the Ed Martin scandal really turned off many donors. Who wants to be associated with that cesspool? In addition, the University really let this fester so, instead of turning the page, the University essentially frozen for 3-4 years, with a steady drip of revelations.

Second, while Tommy Amaker was clean, he was also a huge introvert who did almost no outreach to donors. The other programs you mention (Baseball, Wrestling, Football, Softball, Gymnastics) all had coaches who did lots of outreach. They got to know the donors. They beat the bushes. They asked for donations. Tommy Amaker did almost none of this--and it showed in the anemic support for his program.

written by ErocWolverine

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