New athletics director Danny White is no rookie when it comes to building a strong fundraising foundation for a successful athletics program.
At the University at Buffalo, White started a long-term fundraising project in order to develop its athletics program, and helped rake in a $3 million donation to the university in 2013. Now, at UCF, he’s helped bring in nearly $1.3 million to the UCF Football Excellence Fund in just a few months.
Further establishing the Excellence Fund is just one of White’s goals, along with developing a more competitive advantage in the American Athletic Conference and re-energizing the school’s fan base — all in an effort to rebuild the football program from a crushing 0-12 season.
The Excellence fund will support the newest members and coaches of the 2016 football team. Donations will be used to purchase equipment such as helmets and uniforms, produce assistant coach salary enhancements and cover travel expenses for recruiting trips and facility upgrades.
Mark Wright, the senior associate athletic director and assistant vice president for development said the fund is approaching $1.5 million and will be disbursed over the next four or five years, $325,000 per year.
“As in any enterprise, there is a process of budgeting for certain items on an annual basis,” Wright said. “So, often when we have transitions there are some unforeseen and extraordinary sorts of items that we did not anticipate. A part of transitioning our program under coach Frost’s leadership and the kind of environment he is trying to build also involves dressing up some of our football operations areas, especially those associated with recruiting student-athletes.”
So far, the majority of the fund comprises 13 separate $100,000 donations.
“The alumni are really engaged and upbeat,” White said. “I’ve been really surprised about the amount of people who have stepped up and contributed the $100,000 gifts in such a short period of time.”
Assistant Athletics Director Andy Seeley can already see light at the end of the tunnel and, like White, realizes fundraising is the core of developing a bright future for UCF Athletics.
“[White] is doing a really great job in my opinion,” Seeley said. “Fundraising has become a major focus, and he has a background there and that’s something we’re really excited about as a department, to see where we can go with even more resources.”
White plans to utilize UCF’s large undergraduate and alumni population to rebuild the program. With help from this fan base and the Orlando community, White sees UCF’s potential to become more competitive in the American Athletic Conference as a “progressive, innovative, fast-growing university.”
“I’m really positively surprised how many people are die-hard fans and are really passionate about our athletics program,” White said. “That’s been really fun to experience. If everybody just gives what they can, then that’s when our size will really be an advantage for us.”
Beyond the donations, White believes a strong administrative foundation will also push the program to the best of its ability. Between recruiting and new leadership, White sees great promise for the future.
“We’re all pretty tired, but we’re working hard. This is an important time to get started the right way, and to get launched with our new leadership and our athletics department,” White said.
As for the donations that have been made so far, White sees no immediate plans for them. The coaching staff is determining the program’s priorities before committing the money to any specific area.
The ultimate goal, White said, is to direct the fund to enhance the student-athlete experience as much as possible, while attracting new recruits in order to “achieve the kind of competitive excellence that we want [at UCF].”
Samantha Bequer is a Contributing Writer for the Central Florida Future.