The overwhelming role of donations in athletics

Kathryn Nicolai, Investigative News Editor

The University offers a variety of sport programs for students within the categories of varsity, club, and intramural. The success of all programs is reliant on funding from both the University and outside sources.

The 27 varsity sport programs on campus receive funding allocated from the University’s budget based on programs’ various operating costs, such as travel, equipment, and the number of student-athletes in the program, according to Associate Director of Athletics Jon Terry. Gender equity is also maintained through equitable men’s and women’s teams funding “according to both the spirit and legal obligations of Title IX,” Terry said.

However, funding provided to varsity programs from the University only serves as an initial foundation.

“It is certainly not enough to fulfill the needs of a successful Division I program, however, so that’s where fundraising comes in,” Terry said.

The Bison Club assists all varsity programs in fundraising activities and works with coaches throughout the year to set fundraising goals based on budgetary needs, said Terry. Numerous donors have established endowments that Terry credits with providing additional annual funding for specific sports.

Terry emphasized the pertinence of fundraising and donations for varsity programs on campus.

“Alumni, parents, and fans are our primary donors, and without their support, our varsity programs would not be able to operate, much less thrive, at the Division I level,” Terry said. Numerous other events are organized to aid funding. For example, Athletics engaged in a 24-hour fundraising challenge raising approximately $500,000 in a single day, according to Terry.

The Graham Building opened this past fall and houses both the Student Health Center and a new wrestling training center. The building was brought to fruition after a multimillion dollar gift from alumnus Bill Graham ’62, who Terry called “one of the University’s largest supporters.” Graham was co-captain of the wrestling team during its undefeated season from 1961-1962.

Terry expressed his gratitude towards having University alumni to “step up and support major facility needs,” specifically in the past 15 years. The Kenneth Langone Athletics & Recreation Center (which includes the Krebs Family Fitness Center, Berger Family Weight Room, Kinney Natatorium, and Sojka Pavilion), as well as Holmes Stadium, Emmitt Field, Graham Field, Depew Field, Becker Field, and Bachman Golf Center were all completely financed by private donations, according to Terry.

Club sports, similar to the varsity program, have limited funds set aside within the University budget. Terry said that funding is allocated to each program based on historic needs, and the remaining costs of operation and travel are reliant on either funding or dues.

“Some sports clubs do a good job fundraising (or have willing parental support) and pay no dues at all. Other clubs do require dues to cover team costs,” Terry said.

In order for club sports to advance to varsity status, “the highest levels of university leadership” need to decide based on numerous factors, Terry said. Wrestling was the last program to advance to varsity status. In 2002, the program was re-classified as a “club-varsity” program in 2002, and then elevated back to a varsity program in 2005.

The Bucknell Men’s Rugby Football Club (BURFC) team recently ranked 11th in the nation out of 185 National Small College Rugby Organization (NSCRO) playoff eligible teams.

“Players have to pay a small due to USA Rugby, the national overseeing body of all rugby operations, to play in matches but there are no dues otherwise,” team captain Chuck Emrich ’18 said. The funding from the school provides the team with their own practice pitch maintained by facilities, as well as the ability to bring all 40 team members to away games, according to Emrich. “In my opinion, we have sufficient funding from Bucknell for a club of our nature, and we have been able to succeed because of it,” Emrich said.

The University’s women’s squash team recently earned the title of best club team in the nation and 32nd best team in the College Squash Association (CSA). The last two years have been the team’s most successful in the program’s history on campus. The team is fully funded from donations from alumni, family and friends, as well as fundraisers, according to co-captain Cleo Greenwood ’18.

“It’s completely free to be a member of the team, we do not have dues from any of the players. We want to ensure that the best players have a chance to be fully active members of the team, regardless of financial resources,” Greenwood said.

However, Greenwood noted current players and parents of current players who want to help the advancement of the program account for a large sum of donations, which she views as vital to the program. Because the program is student-run by co-captains Greenwood and Ali Lenard ’18, it is their responsibility to spend the team’s money in the efficient and appropriate way, with help from Associate Athletic Director of Recreation Services Karen Landis.

Squash is not a part of the NCAA, Division I, Division II, or Division III, according to Greenwood. As a result, club teams are all included in the CSA.

“We compete against varsity teams with school funding, coaching staffs, and recruited players. It is imperative that we receive enough donations each year that we can compete at this level,” Greenwood said.

Many other club teams on campus require members to pay hefty dues. The University’s Equestrian Team costs each member $600 per semester. According to co-captain Leah Cannon ’18, the dues include 10 lessons and show expenses (four shows in the fall and two in the spring), while the funds allotted by the University cover the costs of competitions. Cannon said the team has been fundraising through the University’s Day of Giving and working soccer games and football concession in order to help the team to buy new equipment, such as saddles for lessons.

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