The Athletics Committee of the Board of Trustees discussed strategic fundraising, increasing the university’s donor base and using Temple’s entry into the Big East Conference as a school-wide opportunity during the committee’s last scheduled meeting of the year on Sept. 19.
Acting President Richard Englert, a guest at the meeting, said Temple, which is playing in the Big East in football this season and will enter the conference for most other Olympic sports in 2013, has a chance to showcase itself as a university through athletics.
“The Big East is not just athletics, it’s an entire university relationship,” Englert said. “When we are on TV for a Big East game, we suddenly are in new markets. We have the opportunity to showcase our faculty, students and programs. The Big East gives us new opportunities that we haven’t had in the past.”
Athletics Chairman Lewis Katz outlined the difference between the revenue sharing in Temple’s former home for football, the Mid-American Conference, and the Big East. Temple received $50,000 a year from the MAC and the school hopes to receive $6 million to $10 million to participate in the Big East once contracts are negotiated, Katz said.
“That’s why we worked so hard,” Katz said. “Hopefully some of that money will be used to get people to come to our games. We should do everything in our power to get people to fill those stadiums.”
“We should get Temple football to be something that Philadelphia adopts for Philadelphia,” Katz added. “It’s the only real college football program in our city, and somehow we have to market it for people to be interested in it, and that costs money.”
While Temple’s move to the Big East increases the school’s athletics budget, Englert said it also allows Temple to improve upon its profile as a research insititution.
“Joining the Big East, we join institutions that we want to see as our peers in research,” Englert said. “The University of Cincinnati, The University of Connecticut, Rutgers University – those are top notch research institutions, those are the kinds of institutions we want to be shoulder to shoulder with.”
The board addressed new ways to increase fundraising and participation as a way to ensure that Temple doesn’t make the same mistakes it made when it was asked to leave the Big East in 2001 due to a lack of university support and poor attendance.
Newly appointed Assistant Vice President and Associate Athletic Director Mark Ingram gave a presentation on the Owl Club, the fundraising organization for athletic development, and included strategies for increasing the school’s donor base.
Ingram proposed introducing a priority points system to give incentives to donors to renew their membership. The point system would delegate one point to a donor for every $100 given, two points for a donor who owns season tickets and three points for every consecutive year in which a donation is given, Ingram said.
“We want it to be very clean and transparent and easy to understand,” Ingram said. “It will reward those who may not be able to make a large gift, but have spent a long time with us.”
Ingram also plans to establish “giving deadlines” as a way to keep donors involved with the university. March 1 and June 1 deadlines will be set for donors hoping to gain priority seating and other benefits for football and men’s basketball, respectively, Ingram said.
“When you’re a season ticket holder and things don’t go right with the team, removing that commitment and not buying tickets the next year is easy to do,” Ingram said. “But when you make a gift and buy season tickets, you’ve made a different investment in the program that makes people want to stay in.”
Ingram said the school needs to increase the size of the Owl Club, which has 1,900 non-student members, overall. Temple ranks last among Big East football members in the size of similar alumni fundraising programs. Cincinnati, which has a full-time enrollment of 30,793 as opposed to Temple’s 31,413, has 5,200 members in its alumni organization, Ingram said.
While discussing innovative ways to raise money, Ingram said the school needs to cautiously approach the way it goes about fundraising one of its ongoing projects, a new boathouse for the men’s crew and women’s rowing teams.
Temple has been a part of ongoing negotiations with the city to secure a plot of land north of the team’s former boathouse, the East Park Canoe House, and south of the Strawberry Mansion Bridge to build a new boathouse on Kelly Drive. Ingram said that the school needs to develop creative methods to raise the $8 million to $10 million needed for the project.
“If we are not very careful about how we approach that project, it will fall flat on its face,” Ingram said. “Rowing isn’t a sport where a large group of fans watch on television like football or basketball, so there is a narrow group of prospects for that so we have to be very careful about who we approach for that.”
“We can’t announce that the boathouse is happening and everybody get on board because the 1,000 or so prospects that we have will all give $100 and we’ll be sitting with $10,000 for a $10 million project,” Ingram added.
Senior Associate Athletic Director Kristen Foley said the city is still evaluating surveys submitted by Temple for a new boathouse at the city council session in June 2012 and hopes to have the process complete by the end of October.
Joey Cranney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @joey_cranney.