There is a good reason football is often called the “front porch” to a university. It is a welcome inside. It stokes the fire of an alumni (donor) base that, sadly, academics often can’t touch.
There are no shortcuts to becoming a great football program. But when it comes to fundraising, there is perhaps no greater shortcut than football.
If you needed further evidence of that, focus your eyes squarely on Texas A&M.
According to school’s website, Texas A&M raised $740 million in the past year — over $300 million more than any previous 12-month period.
Various school higher-ups attributed a number of factors to this outpouring of money. To their credit, they did not sidestep the obvious one: Heisman winning QB Johnny Manziel and a resurgent football program that began playing in the best conference in the country, the SEC, in 2012.
Texas A&M Foundation President Ed Davis said on the website that there was “euphoria” over this athletic success, leading to a number of donations earmarked for renovations to Kyle Field, the football team’s home stadium.
Skip Wagner, president and CEO of The 12th Man Foundation — which spearheads athletic fundraising — said: “There has never been a more exciting period in Aggie athletics history.”
This is interesting to think about as the Gophers attempt to privately raise $190 million for a massive athletics facilities upgrade.
We would not pretend to compare the football fervor in Texas to that in Minnesota. If Manziel was wearing maroon and gold, it would be a big deal but not a religion.
Still, Norwood Teague was hired as AD last year with a reputation as a gifted fundraiser. He also said earlier this year that he defines a successful football program — his vision for one, anyway — as one that is “in the upper half of the league and competing for championships.”
That wouldn’t move athletic-based fundraising levels to Manziel territory at the U — can’t imagine what would — but it would be a nice start.
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