He is the man you always see at college games. Ever-present, usually decked out in the school's colors, glad-handing everyone in sight, remembering everyone's name, grinning from ear to ear, always concerned about everybody's problems.

He listens with a concerned look as alumni tell him the quarterback is a bum. He shakes his head in confusion when asked why the coach doesn't throw the ball more. He sends Christmas cards without fail and knows everyone's birthday, astrological sign and favorite color.

He is the collegiate fund-raiser. The money man. And as the 1970s wind down and the 1980s begin he is rapidly becoming the most important and influential member of most athletic departments around the country.

If you're going to make it in football and basketball on the Division I level of the NCAA, you better have an effective fund-raising program. Without the money raised by the fund-raiser, most of today's collegiate programs would drown in red ink. Red ink does not produce national championships.

Thus, the fund-raiser who produces the dollars is just as important as the coach who recruits the studs.Without his money the coach wouldn't be able to afford the studs. Even worse, the school probably wouldn't be able to afford the coach capable of recruiting the studs.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Last year the seven conference schools received slightly less than $13 million in contributions to their athletic programs. These figures pale next to total budgets at the schools -- which are generally about 50 times more than the athletic budget.

The money given to sports programs does not include contributed insurance policies, endowed scholarships and bequests. It includes only dollars contributed during the year. All seven schools expect their dollar figures to go up this year.

Perhaps Clemson Athletic Director Bill McLellan best summed up the feeling of most modern athletic departments in their approach to the games played by student-athletes: "I don't look at sports as some kind of fantasy," McLellan said. "To me, it's a business. Simple as that."

The reason for the emergence of the fund-raiser as perhaps the key figure in most collegiate programs is basic: money is tight and expenses are soaring.

There was once a time when football and basketball revenues could support an athletic program. In a few places, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Alabama, that still is close to being true.

But at a vast majority of schools, football and basketball revenues, even with the university making an annual contribution to the athletic program, are not enough.

Rising scholarship costs, the advent of Title 9, the new-found importance of nonrevenue sports, and travel expenses have made it impossible for more than 90 percent of the Division I colleges in the country to break even -- unless they aggressively solicit private donations.

"Fund-raising has become a necessity in this day and age, you just can't survive on football and basketball revenues," said Duke Athletic Director Tom Butters, a fund-raiser who became the head man because he was good at raising money."Intercollegiate athletics is at a point where it could become like major-league baseball -- you'd have it in Atlanta, but not in Charlotte. Expenses are that tight."

The ACC got a head start on most schools in the fund-raising area because it has never had the football revenues Southeastern or Southwestern conferences or Big Ten. ACC schools were more aggressive than the others. c

Last year the ACC raised more money in contributions than any other conference. Other conferences have only begun to take their fund-raising seriously in the five years. Some ACC schools, Clemson and North Carolina for example, have been fund-raising more than 40 years.

Even though they have only been at it for a short period of time, schools like Michigan, Michigan State, in on $1 million annually in fund-raising.

Those numbers pale, however, against the nearly $2.4 million raised last year by Clemson and the $2.35 million taken in by North Carolina.

Money is especially tight at private schools like Duke, Wake Forest and Stanford. Duke and Stanford, in addition to their regular fund-raising efforts, have set up endowment programs to endow scholarships in the future.

An endowed scholarship is a single athletic grant paid for annually by a private contributor. The contributor places a certain amount of money in the bank and eventually the interests from the money is enough to pay the coast of one scholarship each year.

An endowed scholarship at Duke costs $100,000; at Stanford $150,000. One does not need to produce that much cash on the spot to endow a scholarship. Instead, a contribution of several thousand dollars in cash or the purchase of an insurance policy can pay for an endowed scholarship.

The money is placed in a bank where it begins drawing interest. After a number of years the interest being earned annually will be enough to pay the $8,000 that one scholarship costs now.

The larger the initial cash contribution, the sooner the interest will be large enough to pay for a scholarship. The cast contributed will eventually be the endowment's base, used only in case of an emergency. The interest will pay for use scholarships themselves.

In spite of the high cost of these scholarships, Duke has endowed 71 scholarships in two years, Stanford 53 (at higher cost).

"These programs are truly amazing, no doubt about it," said Tom Fields, Maryland's chief fund-raiser. "Our major concern here right now is paying the scholarship bill each year. If we can do that, we're doing a pretty good job."

Ten years ago when Fields took over the Terrapin Club, annual contributions totaled $29,000. Last year the figure was $938,000. That impressive figure, however, ranks Maryland seventh in the ACC.

"Most schools all over the country have accelerated their solicitations greatly the last 10 years because of the economy," said John Swofford, executive vice-president of the University of North Carolina's educational foundation (Ram Club). "I think supporters of the various schools realize just how important these contributions are today."

The Ram Club at North Carolina and IPTAY (I Pay Thirty [dollars] a Year) at Clemson are two of the nation's oldest and most successfull fund-raising organizations.

Interestingly, neither organization went over $1 million in annual contributions until five years ago. "Maybe the $1 million figure is some kind of magic mark, it gives you more credibility," McLellan said. "Or maybe it's just that we're working harder at raising money now than in the past."

The latter seems more likely. Whereas in the past fund-raisers were often just loyal alumni who did little more than glad-hand at football games, they now are for the most part, assistant athletic directors with staffs of their own.

The incentives extended by fund-raisers are far more than handshakes. Contributors know that the more they give, the more they receive in benefits, which range from receiving a newsletter, through privileged parking to the number one incentive to ACC contributors -- basketball tournament tickets.

Qualifying for the right to buy tournament tickets has become more expensive each year. Last year a North Carolina contributor had to have given the university a minimum of $8,500 over the years to qualify to buy two tickets. For four tickets, $11,000. That figure will go up this season. The other Big Four schools are not that far behind.

Some contributors give as little as $30 a year, others have given as much as $250,000. Most schools have "lifetime memberships" or something similar for their larger contributors. At Clemson the cost is $35,000, generally given over seven years. At Duke it is $25,000 but next June the figure will double.

"That figure, $50,000, is worth about the same as $25,000 was 10 years ago when we started the program," said Butters.

Fund-raisers stopped thinking they could get the money they need strictly from alumni several years ago. At Clemson, close to 40 percent of IPTAY contributions a year ago came from nonalumni.

"This is one of the great textile centers of the world," McClellan said, referring to nearby Greenville. "A lot of business people migrate here and they adopt Clemson as their school.

"We don't differentiate between alumni and nonalumni contributions. What you get depends on what you give."

Which, for all the fund-raiser, is the bottom line. "Often Ivy Leaguers migrate to the West Coast," said Stanford's Doug Single. "We know that Stanford is an Ivy League type of school and figure they may be interested in adopting Stanford since they can't be close to their alma mater. That's why we get a lot of nonalumni (more than 40 percent) giving."

These figures are in sharp contrast to a State school like North Carolina. The Ram Club is 40 years old. It started exclusively as an alumni group. Even though it is no longer restricted to alumni, only about 50 percent of last year's contributions to the Ram Club came from nonalumni.

The reason: UNC has so many alumni who live in the state and readily contribute to the school that it has never had to solicit nonalumni.

But now, "we're encouraging non-alumni to join." Swofford said. "We'd like to have nonalumni members. In the past, because we do have an extremely cohesive alumni, we haven't had to go beyond our alumni contributions. Now, it's different."

It's different all over the country. Even at Southern California, traditionally one of the nation's strongest athletic programs, fund-raising is rapidly growing in significance.

"We've had the Trojan club since 1923," said Nick Pappas, the university's head fund-raiser since 1952. "But it wasn't until 1961 that we went after really large contributions when we started the Cardinal and Gold Club."

The Cardinal and Gold Club is for contributors of $750 or more. That figure will go up to $1,000 next year. Last year USC raised about $1.25 million. This year, according to Pappas, the goal is $1.5 million.

"Until eight or nine years ago football provided most of the revenue we needed to keep our program in the black," Pappas said. "But nowadays that just isn't going to happen anymore. I don't think there are any major schools in the country that could pay all their bills without soliciting private contributions."

"Private contributions" is a crucial phrase. Unlike the general fund-raising programs at most schools, athletic departments generally do not solicit corporate contributions -- which makes the dollar figures that much more staggering.

"It would be difficult to justify going to a major corporation and trying to solicit a large sum of money for athletics," Duke's Butters said."If you're going to get that kind of contribution, most of the time, it should go to the purely educational side of a school. That should be the No. 1 priority, after all."

What the fund-raisers and athletic directors do not talk about it is the influence those that contribute can exert on a program.

When Frank Kush was fired recently at Arizona State there was a hue and cry from many fund-raisers. Members of the Gamecock Club at South Carolina have pressured the school for several years to remove Frank McGuire as basketball coach. This will be McGuire's last year.

"Most people feel that if they contribute money they have a right to voice their opinion," Fields said. "And they're right. But that's as far as it goes. I don't think anyone here would ever be influenced by what the fans want.

"We've got 40,000 quarterbacks or coaches in the stands every week. That doesn't mean they understand what's best for the team. But we certainly aren't going to ask them for money and then tell them we don't want to listen when they have something to say."

McLellan points out that Maryland is at a disadvantage in fund-raising much the same way it is at a disadvantage in selling tickets: there is lots of competition for the athletic dollar.

"We're a big fish in a small pond here," McLellan said.

"Our biggest competition is the lake, people going fishing. Maryland has the Redskins, the Bullets, the hockey team. People can only spend so much. When they start talking to nonalums, they've got a lot to compete against."

Fields is hoping to push Maryland over the $1 million mark this year. Except for Duke, Maryland has the youngest fund-raising organization in the conference. Clemson has the oldest -- 45 years.

Maryland has a relatively small number of contributors -- 1,900. But that figure is pretty much in line with the rest of the ACC schools, North Carolina's 6,000, and N.C. State's nearly 5,000. Southern Cal has one of the larger programs outside the ACC with about 4,000 members, almost half of them nonalumni.

The one major school -- outside the Ivy League -- which does not specifically solicit athletic funds is Notre Dame. It is against school policy to do so. All athletics come from the school's general fund.

"But," one competitor points out, "don't think when they're out raising money for the school they don't point out how important contributions are to them to keep the school athletic program on a continued high level."

From the general fund, the Notre Dame athletic department receives more than $3 million annually to run its program, a figure slightly higher than Maryland's annual budget which includes contributions, and the stipend from the school and student activities fees, which traditionally have paid a large portion of all athletic costs.

Where does it all end? How long can athletic departments approach their fans, palms open asking for cash, future promises and the family jewels?

"As long as you have a product to sell people will respond," said Butters."We think we have something to offer these poeple. They want to see the teams here do well. Unfortunately, in today's world, one of the things that takes is money.

"People understand that."