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Continued: Part One: Full interview with U of M fundraising chairman Lou Nanne

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  • Last update: January 14, 2014 - 10:27 PM

A: Of course I’ve seen it. I’m embarrassed by it, I’m embarrassed by the fact that we have so much going on in the state of Minnesota and we have great facilities for professional sports — which I love, I’m happy for that — but at the same time I see our students go and study in the hallways of Bierman, they don’t have enough room in the study hall, they’re eating on card tables and training tables, compared to the plush places these other schools have got, I see Northwestern raising $200 million for better facilities now.

I see Texas A&M have Johnny Manziel one year and they raise $550 million. I say, ‘What is this? We’re the state of Minnesota. This is our jewel.’

Q: So how did this happen? It didn’t happen overnight.

A: It was complacency. For too long, too often, we just take things as they are and no one really focused on the fact that we were falling behind. We just took things for granted and people don’t’ really realize when you’re successful in athletics you raise more money for academics. It’s not only you need less for the state, the state contributes to the state of Minnesota and we get a trickledown effect and that’s been cut way back,. But it’s not only that we raise money for, if you look at the money raised by successful athletic teams at their university you see a direct correlation in the increase in donations for the whole university. It’s mind boggling what happens.

Q: But there are going to be people that touch on your main point that we’ve competed in non-rev sports for years and in a lot of sports the key is the coach, not facilities. Why do we need it now?

A: Non-rev sports, first of all non-rev sports are not going to drive the university. They’re not going to be able to exist if this continues. People cut sports, Wisconsin cut baseball. Non-rev sports are always in jeopardy of being cut as things get tighter and tighter. We want to get to the position where we maintain what we’ve got in non-rev sports and continue to compete. But that’s not what drives, you can talk about competing in non-rev sports, that’s why they are, non-rev sports it doesn’t generate any income, unfortunately. Football, I’m a hockey guy but I’m not an idiot, I love hockey but I know football is the most important athletic team at the University of Minnesota. The more successful they are the more successful we are.

Q: Would that be your philosophy? It has to be the revenue [sports] that are the priority?

A: Yeah it is. Well that’s exactly, that’s what allows these other sports to exist. There’s no doubt about it. And it’s football more than basketball and more than hockey.

Q: So is the priority getting football what they need first?

A: Well no, that’s not just the priority, that’s part of the whole picture. The priority is upgrading all the facilities for everybody, but we’re talking not just football practice field, we’re talking places where these kids can study, where these players can have training tables, where they can eat, that’s for everybody. It’s just this is the overall plan that has never been addressed and it’s time to address it.

Q: And this plan does that?

A: Yes this plan does that.

Q: What if I’m a wrestling guy and I hear what you’re saying about football but what’s important for me is getting that locker room for wrestling, or getting the new track. How do I know that is going to get done?

A: Well you can earmark your money for a specific sport.

Q: You can?

A: Yeah you can, we can do that, but you have to raise enough to get the project done. But this is the problem we’ve had and there has been too much thinking of — I’m a hockey guy, but the money I’m donating now is not for hockey. Hockey needs to upgrade its dressing room, it’s over 20 years old, it’s still a great arena but you tore down the Metrodome, it was [34] years old, you have to improve things, but I know the overall plan addresses everything so I contribute to the overall plan.

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