A.D. Report -- April 21, 2009

April 21, 2009

Corvallis, Ore. -

            The Oregon State Athletic Department and the future of Beaver Nation are at a crucial crossroads right now. In the next few months, our ability to make significant progress to grow our donor base will have a profound effect on our future.

            It’s a classic good news/bad news story that I want to share with you in this A.D. Report. It’s a tale of an athletic department that’s working on parallel tracks to determine its future course. And, unfortunately, the backdrop of this story is the far-reaching recession and economic uncertainty that has the country gripped in a vise with no end in sight.

As I explained in “The Turn”, the six-part series published in December, we’ve launched an effort to roughly double our donor base by 2012. Through our “Expanding Beaver Nation—12,000 Strong by 2012” campaign, we’re encouraging current donors to hit the recruiting trail. If each of our donors recruited one new football season ticket holder or one new $100-a-year donor, we’d reach our goal. It’s that simple.

I want to focus on the good news first. We recently completed our annual BASF (Beaver Athletic Scholarship Fund) fund-raising drive. Given the state of the economy, we are pleased with our results and want thank everyone who contributed during these especially difficult times.  We grew our donor base by 230 donors this year and kept our average donation at about $1,750 per contributor.

Approximately 11 percent of our returning donors raised their donations, with the average increase coming in at $600. Overall, donor numbers and total dollars raised decreased about 4 percent when compared to last year’s results.

It’s interesting to note that while our donor numbers did increase, we’re not keeping pace with the cost of our programs. In many cases, it’s our same loyal donor base and the same people who continue to step up to the plate. To keep our programs in tact, we must grow our donor base significantly, and it’s still not too late to get involved.

Growing Beaver Nation with new donors is what we really need. Remember “12,000 Strong by 2012?” Today’s donor base totals about 6,700 and places us eighth in the Pac-10. If we reached our goal of 12,000 donors, we’d tied with USC, the conference’s leader in terms of donor numbers. This is where we need to be to level the playing field and continue to compete in the conference’s top tier.

 As you can see, we’ve got some work to do to grow our donor base. Although it would be great to have new donors give at similar levels as our established donor base, that’s not a pre-requisite. We just need all of our current donors to recruit one new $100-a-year donor. If we raised an additional $600,000 that would roughly support a year’s funding for one of our Olympic sports. It’s a numbers game in which we have to expand the base with small donations—reminiscent of what we accomplished with the “Raising Reser” effort.

Because gifts and football tickets make up 40 percent of our annual $47 million athletic department budget, they’re a key source of revenue to support our student-athletes. This brings me to the other side of the story.

While we’re working diligently to raise money on the revenue side of the equation, factors beyond our control are at work in the macroeconomic environment. The ongoing recession has created challenges unlike any we’ve ever seen before. We’re forecasting significant decreases in the money the athletic department receives from the university general fund and state lottery dollars. This scenario has created uncertain times ahead and has required us to look at potential cutbacks in our programs.

Regrettably, this is the other track we must pursue by performing our due diligence internally. As I’ve already shared with our coaches, student-athletes, faculty and university administration, all sports and non-sport programs are on the table for possible cuts or as a last resort even elimination from our slate of offerings. The only exceptions are football, men’s and women’s basketball, and volleyball. These sports are required by the NCAA to maintain our Division I standing and membership in the Pac-10 Conference. Additionally, football and men’s basketball represent our two major revenue-generating programs.

Because we’ve been forced to be a lean program for many years, we’ve already taken many cost-cutting steps that other D-I programs are now implementing. For example, “USA Today” recently ran a story about how the current economy is affecting college athletic programs. Ohio State was one example cited. That powerhouse is now cutting its per diem from $65 to $45 and starting to consider bussing its football team to nearby destinations. Our per diem has been $32 for the past decade, and our football team busses to Seattle.

So we don’t have a lot of fat left to cut. We’re already at the proverbial bone, which means programs may have to be cut unless we can raise more money on the revenue side. Be assured—this is not meant to be a scare tactic. It’s a regrettable reality of the times we’re all living in and experiencing with every financial statement that arrives in the mail.

To look at every possible angle, I’ve convened a blue-ribbon task force made up of donors, alumni, and prominent business community members to help advise me and our senior staff on possible options. Our time line is fast. By June, we’ll need to make some major decisions. Those decisions and subsequent announcements will be based partly on how well we’ve succeeded at growing our donor base.  But any changes to our programs will not become effective until July 1, 2010. This means we’ll have at least a year to raise funds to try to save affected programs.

The time to act has arrived. We all need to work together to expand our donor base and provide meaningful motivation for new contributors. Remember, BASF donations fund all 17 of our sports—not just football. And donated dollars represent much more than prime stadium seating and parking spaces; these contributions fund scholarships and result in educational opportunities for our student-athletes. From tuition and books to housing and study halls, your donations enable so many forms of support for these kids. Many of our student-athletes wouldn’t even go to college if it weren’t for your generosity.

As you can clearly see, the future of Oregon State’s athletic programs truly depends on all of us. It is Beaver Nation, in fact, who ultimately will decide what our future looks like. You’ve shown many times that you can rise to the occasion to support YOUR program, and, again, I have no doubt the power of many can accomplish so much.

With the simple click of your mouse, you can quickly make a difference. Send this report and the link on to five friends and ask for a $100 donation. If we all work together, we can reach goal—“12,000 Strong by 2012.” Go Beavs!



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