Texas athletics has been on a spending spree of late, pumping almost $15 million into football and basketball upgrades. It’s being driven by record donations.
The athletic department announced Thursday that more than 13,000 donors contributed $56.6 million to the Longhorn Foundation for the 2016-17 fiscal year, which closed Aug. 31. That smashed the previous annual mark of $48.5 million set in 2007-08 during the capital campaign to expand Royal-Memorial Stadium.
This year’s total included $38.9 million in cash gifts, which accounts for approximately 20 percent of the athletic department’s annual operating budget, according to UT.
“We truly appreciate our donors,” UT men’s Athletic Director Mike Perrin said in a statement. “They provide critical resources in areas which are fundamental to the student-athlete experience.”
Longhorn Foundation director Amy Folan thanked the school’s donors for their “generosity and leadership.”
“We are incredibly grateful to Longhorn nation for their continued support,” Folan said. “They are vital to our success.”
This past year, the school received 38 gifts of $100,000 or more as part of the Foundation’s Leadership Giving program. Gifts of more than $100,000 can be designated for specific purposes by the donor. That could include endowed scholarships, capital projects or estate gifts, the school said.
Texas had fallen behind in college football’s arms race in terms of facilities. New coach Tom Herman walked Perrin and UT President Gregory L. Fenves through the football building and explained how and why the program needed a facelift inside the Moncrief-Neuhaus Athletic Center.
The UT administration approved $10 million in upgrades, including state-of-the-art lockers that cost $8,700 each and generated untold amounts in national publicity for the program. New wall graphics were also put up, and now the building has a contemporary feel.
Over in basketball, the school recently completed $4.5 million in renovations that allowed for three new basketball courts — one in the Erwin Center and two inside Cooley Pavilion. The men’s and women’s teams also got similar lockers like the football program.
A new center-hung scoreboard will also be a welcome upgrade inside the Erwin Center this season, even though the building will be imploded in several years to make way for medical school expansion.
The design, construction and financing of a new basketball arena is the biggest long-term project facing Fenves and UT athletics.
While football and basketball get all the headlines, the school takes pride is treating its other 18 varsity sports in first-class fashion. The Longhorns will open a new tennis facility this fall and continue to support championship programs in swimming, golf and track.
“The increased philanthropic support from our donors is crucial to sustain our success,” women’s Athletic Director Chris Plonsky said in a statement. “The impact of leadership gifts on capital projects and our scholarship program is immeasurable.”
Contact Brian Davis at 512-445-3957. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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