WASHINGTON – University of Maryland fund raisers are anticipating a big bounce donations as a result of the Terrapins men basketball team first-ever appearance at the NCAA Final Four tournament this weekend in Minneapolis.
And the head of the head of the alumni association said her phone is already “ringing non-stop” with former students energized and enthusiastic about their alma mater.
“We absolutely expect a surge in alumni association membership and interest in the university at large,” said Danita Nias, the executive director of the University of Maryland Alumni Association. “Our phones have been ringing non-stop. It started happening when we got to the `Sweet Sixteen’ level.”
Vice President of University Relations Brodie Remington, who oversees all fund-raising activity, said the Terps’ Final Four appearance “will definitely provide a very positive and tangible benefit.”
“The impact will not be immediate but will be evident over the next year and two and three,” Remington said. “As a large, public research university, we don’t inspire the same kind of bonding with our alumni as, say, elite private institutions. So the visibility and euphoria of the Final Four puts us front and center.”
Nias echoed that sentiment.
“When a number of people see their alma mater on the national news, in the paper, that inspires pride and a willingness to be involved in some way. People want to be associated with a successful enterprise,” she said.
That excitement has manifested itself in a jump in membership in the Athletic Department’s Terrapin Club. The club, which is the “official private support unit for Maryland athletics,” has seen 50 to 75 new members in the past two weeks, said Joe Hull, the associate director of athletics for external operations.
The club currently has 4,900 families who ppay “anywhere from $125 up to $10,000 and beyond,” Hull said.
The Athletic Department also gets a portion of the tournament revenues, which are evenly divided by member schools of the Atlantic Coast Conference. Schools in the conference shared $6.5 million in both 1998 and 1999 and $7.4 million in 2000, according to Nikki Watson, assistant to the NCAA’s director of finances.
The university also stands to gain money from sales of merchandise — such as shirts, sweaters, book bags, hats and beer mugs — with any of the school’s logos, such as the “M” or “Terrapins” or a picture of Testudo, the school’s mascot turtle.
Maryland, like all other schools in the ACC, shares an 8 percent royalty on the wholesale price of such merchandise with Atlanta-based Collegiate Licensing Co., which handles all contracts and other dealings with manufacturers. The school’s share is split evenly between the Athletic Department and the university.
Brian Darmody, the university’s assistant vice president for research and economic development, said Maryland merchandise earned roughly $300,000 in 2000, about $100,000 of which eventually went to the Athletic Department.
Darmody, who is also Maryland’s trademark licensing director, said the collegiate licensing market has stagnated in recent years. But the Terps’ Final Four appearance means there is “no question this will be a record-breaking year for royalties even if we lose to Duke tomorrow.”
Almost as important as what’s happening now, said university fund raisers, is what has happened in recent years to put Maryland in a position to capitalize on the Final Four showing.
Remington said there has already been a significant jump in both the numbers of alumni donating and in the amounts they give annually. In the past five years, he said, participating alumni have risen from 6,500 to 13,500, while donations have gone from $35 million to $75 million per year.
He expects the numbers to rise to 15,000 and $100 million, partly because of the Final Four.
Nias said the number of dues-paying association members has risen 10 percent per year for the past three years, to around 27,000. But that is only a fraction of the roughly 258,000 people who have ever graduated from the university.
Doug Nelson is the chief financial officer of the University of Maryland College Park Foundation, the body formed nine months ago to manage money given to the school. He said the foundation already oversees $75 million, including a portion of the mammoth “Bold Vision Bright Future” campaign, a seven-year, $350 million fund-raising drive.
“The campaign goes through June 2002, and already we have gone above the ($350 million) goal,” Nelson said.
Remington attributes the upsurge in donations to groowing alumni pride and better connections through better fundraising techniques.
“We are out there, making connections,” he said. “And when you have a Final Four where 4,500 alumni are going to Minneapolis to see the game, you can make a lot of connections.”
Remington said that the most-important reason for an increase in donations is “the ever-improving academic quality of the university” and the fact that people “don’t rally around sinking ships, they want to support winners.”