Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
Washington State's Athletic Foundation is looking for a few more good Cougars.
Though the football team is struggling and attendance is on the wane inside Martin Stadium, the foundation announced an initiative Saturday -- named "10/10/10" -- to increase its membership to 10,000 over the next year.
The school is in the midst of a stadium renovation project, but the new initiative is specifically about an urgent lack of money to pay for scholarships.
The scholarship cost for the last fiscal year was more than $6 million, offset by donations of almost $3 million, resulting in a $3 million gap, the school reported in the news release. That gap will be covered by athletic department operating expenses that would otherwise be directed toward sport program improvements. With tuition increasing by 14 percent in each of the next two fiscal years, due to university budget shortfalls, the initiative's purpose will be to narrow the scholarship gap between costs and donations.
“The athletic foundation has a number of major projects on the table, with none bigger than the Martin Stadium Phase III renovation,” athletics director Jim Sterk said in a statement. “But this initiative is vital, because our annual giving to scholarships has not kept pace with our scholarship bill. When we can’t cover scholarship costs with annual donations, it puts us behind our Pac-10 competitors in a significant way."
The school reported that there are presently 6,000 foundation members, which requires a minimum annual gift of $100. Membership has fluctuated from the mid-5,000 to low-6,000 range over the last five years.
So boosting membership to 10,000 in one year may be a considerable challenge.
“This undertaking is extremely aggressive, but I believe we must set aggressive goals at this time,” said Dan Meyer, assistant athletics director overseeing the annual scholarship fund. “The financial challenges we face require an infusion of new donors to the program. We will continue to push our current donors to raise their commitment to the Cougs on an annual basis, but I want to invite new Cougs to step up and join us in this initiative."
It's clear this initiative arises from an urgent need.
“This is as clear as we can be to Cougar Nation: We need your support now, even if it is not possible to reach every Coug with a face-to-face appeal," Meyer said. "If you have never contributed to Cougar Athletics before, become an Athletic Foundation member with a gift of at least $100 to student-athlete scholarships. And if you are a current donor, we thank you, and ask you to consider raising the bar this year, if possible.”
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