Since January 2011, Mississippi State Athletics has raised over $40 million as part of its “Today.Tomorrow.Forever” initiative towards athletic facilities.
The record number over that span is indicative of the consistent rise in giving at MSU over the last several years, as the Bulldog Club has secured gifts and pledges for Davis Wade Stadium expansion, the Leo W. Seal, Jr. Football Complex and future projects for nearly every sport, ranging from track and field to softball and tennis.
Adding in the totals from priority seating obliagtions, MSU’s record number grows to around $70 million over just a two-year span.
“While several athletic departments throughout the country have seen a decline in private support,” Director of Athletics Scott Stricklin said, “the Bulldog Family continues to be relentless in pledging major gift donations, which have allowed our department to construct and maintain first-class facilities for our student-athletes, coaches and fans.”
The growth started seeing large spikes annually over the last several years.
In 2009, the Bulldog Club, which operates on a calendar year schedule, received a cash-in-hand number of $2.4 million, a figure excluding pledges for the future and ticket sales.
In 2010, the number jumped to $4.6 million.
2011: $6.7 million.
And in 2012 MSU hit $7 million in gifts received that year to “Today.Tomorrow.Forever.”
Senior Associate Athletic Director for Development Bo Hemphill said several factors have led to the consistent increase in giving, but he traces much of it back to the excitement as several programs have introduced new coaches, outlooks and expectations.
“People began to understand that for us to compete in the SEC, our facilities needed to be improved. We play in the toughest conference in the nation and we need to have facilities that allow our student-athletes to train and prepare to compete against the best teams in the country,” Hemphill said. “With the new renewed excitement across several programs, people were willing to go above and beyond with gifts to change our facilities. Through ‘Today.Tomorrow.Forever.’ every student athlete from every sport will benefit from the increased generosity of our numbers.”
The increase in philanthropic giving has been significant, but MSU still gets around two-thirds of its annual number from priority seating obligations for tickets to Bulldog sports. In 2012, the Bulldog Club brought in $13.7 million from ticket obligations, combining with all other giving that calendar year for a number just a shade under $21 million.
When expansion of Davis Wade Stadium is complete, Bulldog Club officials expect to see an increase of about $4 million to that number.
Of course, much of the revenue will go straight back to paying for the expansion.
While the big football projects have been a large part of MSU’s fundraising, Hemphill believes the numbers can stay consistent and keep growing. The Leo W. Seal, Jr. family donated $12 million toward the new football facility, a gift pledged out over the course of several years, but the Bulldog Club has also received five gifts $1 million or more, 10 over $500,000 and 22 more over $100,000 in the last 26 months.
Huge gifts like the Seal’s aren’t likely to come every year, but Hemphill thinks maintaining the current pace is plenty possible.
“It’s very realistic,” he said. “The $12 million gift is not a common occurrence. “It was one of the largest gifts in college athletics that year, but major gift fundraising is not an overnight process. Most of those big gifts come from people that have been with us for years, and not just on the athletic side. A lot of our donors are also providing endowments to support the academic side of the university.”
And it’s not all about football, Hemphill said.
“We, basically, have a project complete or in the planning phase for every sport we have,” Hemphill said. “I think it’s really due to the excitement level of our fans and willingness to participate and then our coaches getting out and building relationships.”
As Hemphill said, it’s not restricted to only sports, either, as athletics and academics have grown together at Mississippi State.
As a part of the “StatePride” initiative, the MSU Foundation was able to secure over $118 million in private gifts since its launch in 2009, continuing to grow just as the athletics side did.
The two initiatives are not unrelated, Hemphill believes.
“It’s important to work with the MSU Foundation in cultivating relationships and making the university better as a whole,” he said.