Alumni. That's the obvious first answer to the question.
But, I feel almost more importantly, athletic alumni. Who more than those who played and benefited from an athletic experience should be interested in supporting the programs they were in? After all, a lot of us who received financial aid feel an obligation to give back. Somebody gave so I could go to school, I should pay it forward.
Now, about a year ago, there was a bit of a flap about this very issue, specifically about football. It was not the best of moments and there were some who sensed a bit of a rift between Kyle Flood and Julie Hermann over her comments.
Well, if there was a rift, it seems to have passed. But the issue of funding is still there...and always will be. But there is truth in the idea that those who received should, when and as they can, give back. And if, for example, most athletes did that, what kind of an effect would it have.
Let's look at a sport near and dear to me: Wrestling Somewhat randomly, let's look at those who lettered from 1960 to today. Including those still on the team now, there are 356 letterwinners. And let's say that on average each of those 356 athletes pledged $500 over the next five years. That's an average, figuring some might not give and others will give more. And pledging means they are giving that amount over five years, so they don't need to give it all at once. What do you get?
The math is pretty simple. A $500 gift times 356 people gives you a quick $178,000. What does that give you? With 9.9 scholarships for wrestling, and with in-state total costs at $29,875, that provides Scott Goodale with about 60% of what he needs to provide all those scholarships. And if most of your scholarship costs are covered, that frees up other university monies for other necessities of running a Big Ten program.
Look at it another way: Generally, an endowed scholarship runs about $50,000 at Rutgers. Over five years, those gifts just endowed three-plus scholarships. Which means long term, you've reduced the need for annual funding for scholarships.
Think $178,000 can help renovate/redo a wrestling room or a locker room? I'm thinking yes.
Run the same exercise with a larger pool, this time go with baseball. There are 564 letterwinners. That provides $282,000. There are 11.7 scholarships in baseball; that would cover about 80% of scholarship costs. Or it could endow just over five scholarships. Or for that $3 million indoor facility? You've got almost 10% covered.
Former baseball coach Fred Hill speaking at a baseball alumni fundraiser in January
These are examples, and nurturing donors is not an exact science. Good stewardship of donors is key, and that is something that Rutgers, unfortunately, is learning late in life. But if the athletes themselves could start the ball rolling, there's an opportunity to grow the funding we need.
And while there is a need to broaden the fan/donor base at Rutgers, a starting point is right there now in the form of student-athletes and the letterwinners.