In 2005, Kevin Anderson sat down with William Foley and asked the wealthy benefactor for the largest single donation in service academy history. The bill was $15 million, the goal an indoor practice facility at West Point for its cadet-athletes. Foley pledged to write the check. The official announcement went out in July that year.
“Long story short, I’ve lived these, and I know it can be done,” Anderson said Tuesday by telephone. “If we can do it at places like West Point [with their donor base], we can definitely do it at the University of Maryland.”
As a conversation about the report released Tuesday by a University of Maryland commission drifted to discussions about building an indoor practice facility in College Park, Anderson expressed no concern over the recommendation that a sizable portion of the athletic department’s funding come from donors, and not revenue earned from moving to the Big Ten.
“From the very beginning, looking at this, coming here, one of the things I talked about is that we have the resource space to be like many of our sister universities,” Anderson said. “If you go and look at most of these universities that have great programs and great facilities, it’s been done by the generosity of the alumni and their fans. I think we’re no different. I believe there’s a base out there that will support us developing our venues, so our athletes can compete at the highest level. It’s not a big concern.”
One issue: The $15 million donation that Foley and his wife, Carol, pledged to West Point is a far cry from the money likely necessary to erect a similar building on the Maryland campus. President Wallace D. Loh estimated that such a project would cost anywhere from $50 to $80 million, a steep price tag for an athletic department already operating at a substantial deficit, and one that has lagged behind others in terms of fundraising.
From the outset of the discussions that eventually resulted in Maryland announcing its move away from the ACC, Anderson understood that any additional Big Ten revenue would be invested in athlete performance and well-being. “Looking at other projects,” he said, “brick and mortar would most likely come from fundraising.”
Anderson also cited his experience as an assistant athletic director at California and Oregon State, where similar facility upgrades occurred. “Nothing came out of their operating budgets,” Anderson said. “Part of the reasoning and the appeal of being the athletic director at the University of Maryland, I know we have that kind of base of supporters that are more likely to support us and be generous enough to give us the kind of resources we need to bettering our facilities.”
Still, planning, fundraising and building an indoor facility may take time, and Anderson has more pressing issues at hand. The report expressed concern over sluggish football season ticket sales without providing exact numbers, only writing that, “Actual football ticket sales fell short of projections.” According to Anderson, things are looking up, and the athletic department expects the Big Ten move to provide even greater ticket revenue.
“I am optimistically encouraged,” he said. “I will say that I know we can do even better. Going into the season, and what we’ll be able to do on the field, will just encourage people to look at purchasing tickets. I’ve been telling my staff and everybody, I hope the folks who have given up on us, they look at us and at least give us another change. At least those who are waiting, I hope they don’t wait too long. Going into the Big Ten, I know we’re looking at increased ticket sales.”
MORE FROM THE POST ON THE COMMISSION’S REPORT
— Tracee Hamilton: A bundle of financial contradictions.