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Campaign to Make Wildcats More Competitive in Big Ten

June 13, 2006

Northwestern University has launched a $15 million fund-raising initiative to increase its endowment for intercollegiate athletics.

The goal of the initiative is to improve support for Northwestern's athletic programs to better compete with Big Ten schools, all of which have larger athletic endowments. Reaching the goal would place Northwestern in the middle tier of those schools.

“This fund-raising effort is critical to the financial future of our athletic program,” said Athletic Director Mark Murphy. “The biggest challenge facing us is that we do not have the financial resources of Big Ten schools and other schools that we compete against.”

This makes it difficult for us to keep up with our competition in terms of operating budgets, salaries and staffing, Murphy said.

In announcing the initiative, University President Henry S. Bienen said, “Intercollegiate athletics have long been an integral part of Northwestern University life. Support of our athletic program is important for the intellectual, social, and personal development of student-athletes.”

A major goal is to expand the endowed scholarships for student-athletes. At the start of this academic year, Northwestern had only 44 of its 453 student-athletes supported by endowed funds. Those funds came from only 41 donors. Those donors were honored at a luncheon last month in the N Club.

There are two options for endowing an athletic scholarship to support a student-athlete, with both providing only partial support for one student annually. A minimum $50,000 gift is needed to endow a named, unrestricted scholarship fund, and a $100,000 gift establishes a named scholarship endowment that may be directed to a specific sport.

Support for scholarship endowment increases in $100,000 increments, with each amount providing partial support for a student in Northwestern's 19 varsity teams.

The Athletic Initiative also seeks gifts to support the Wildcat Fund, endow coaching positions and fund improvements of some facilities.

Wildcat Fund

Increased annual support is sought to grow the Wildcat Fund from about  $1.5 million to $2 million yearly. The Wildcat Fund provides unrestricted monies that  enable the Athletic Director to direct funds to programs in great need and to take advantage of unforeseen opportunities.

Donors can contribute to the Wildcat Fund at four levels:

Wildcat Patron ($250-$1,499)

Wildcat Benchwarmer/Wildcat Benchwarmer Premier ($1,500-$2,999/$3,000-$4,999)

Benchwarmer Platinum ($5,000-$9,999)

Director's Circle ($10,000 or more)

Coach and Sports Endowments

An endowed head coaching fund that directly underwrites the coach's salary and related expenses is the highest honor the University can bestow on a coach, Murphy said. “As Northwestern seeks to attract and retain top coaches, the ability to demonstrate a commitment to sports programs that is underwritten by endowed funds will be a critical factor for our success,” he said.

These funding opportunities are available:

Endow and name the athletic director's position ($3 million)

Endow and name a head coaching position for a varsity sport ($1 million-$2 million)

Endow and name an assistant coaching position ($750,000)

Minimum level to create an endowed fund to support a specific sport ($50,000 or more)


Funds are sought for future upgrades and expansion of athletic facilities, as needs arise. This initiative will build on major improvements in recent years, including Ryan Field, Anderson Hall and the lakefront playing fields. Funding opportunities are now available for spaces in Anderson Hall, including the Burton Academic Advising Center, and for new locker rooms (men's and women's basketball, women's coaches and officials) to be built in Welsh-Ryan Arena.

The Athletics Initiative is directed by a committee of alumni and supporters of Northwestern's athletic programs. The committee co-chairs are Raymond F. Farley, retired president and chief executive officer of S.C. Johnson & Son, Inc.; Richard H. Dean, private investor and managing partner of Dealand LLC, a family real estate development company; and Wendy M. Nelson, vice president of operations for Carlson Hospitality Worldwide. All three are alumni of Northwestern.

More information is available by contacting Shon Morris, associate director of athletics development, at (847) 467-1268 or at s-morris@northwestern.edu.

Topics: Campus Life