Q: There are prominent people who say that money is out of control in major college athletics, and will be the death of major sports. What’s your reaction to that?
A: Well first of all, I have to tell you one thing, they have been saying that for 20, 40 years, it doesn’t change. Everything goes up. … You don’t compete in the league and not give your athletes the opportunity to win. We are never going to be at the top of the spectrum for facilities and coaching salaries, etcetera. We don’t have 100,000-seat stadiums like Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan, so we’re never going to have as much revenue. But there’s no reason for us to be at the bottom, and we’re at the bottom.
Q: Do you worry about major college athletics, where football coaches like Nick Saban make over $5 million?
A: But they take in $150 million [in revenue]. Be realistic. Why do a lot of salesman make more than the president of a company? Because they bring in business.
Q: Do you run into people who say why aren’t you raising money for academics?
A: Athletic success raises money for academics. The people have to start correlating that.
Q: How is it that in this state, with so many big corporations, raising money, at least athletically, has always been so difficult?
A: That’s the question that I think we’re trying to address. … I go to that little town in Ann Arbor and I see everything they got and I say, ‘What the hell is going on here?’… I personally think that the focus got away from the university when those pro sports teams came here, and we never got it turned back.
Q: And there wasn’t ever a solid fundraising plan?
A: That’s right, I don’t think there was a full-scale plan to get people involved. I really don’t think that “the ask” has been there. It’s like me, I never got involved in the University of Minnesota until the year 2000, I graduated in 1963. Someone came over and said, ‘Louie, we’d like you to be part of it, we’d like you to donate.’ I said, ‘Fine.’ And I got involved. They asked, ‘Why are you doing it now?’ I said, ‘Nobody ever asked me.’
Q: Are you optimistic of finding a major donor?
A: I am, but I wish you wouldn’t say major donor. We’re looking for $190 million, however we get it, not because of a major donor or donors. We don’t need a couple of top [donors] to be successful, but obviously it would make it easier.