The department of athletics announced last week the introduction of the First Down Club, a fundraising initiative to aid in raising money for the Football Excellence Fund.
Each athletic team has an excellence fund created for it, so donors can give to a specific sport or the program as a whole.
Director of athletics Lee De Leon said the initiative was part of a solution to help decrease the difference left by the football program operating at $250,000 below the median budget of the Southland Conference.
“The First Down Club is money that supplements the operating budget,” De Leon said. “We created the First Down Club to help us bridge that gap and get closer to the median [budget] in the conference. If we plan on spending a dollar over what we get from the school, then we have to raise that separately and that’s where the First Down Club comes in.”
The Football Excellence Fund covers the cost of recruiting, travel, summer school stipends, equipment and preseason meals. Deputy director of athletics, Dave Kinard said the excellence funds help donors see how they’re helping.
“The biggest thing is letting them know where their money is going,” Kinard said. “I think a lot of people are hesitant to give, whether it’s to the university or to athletics, so we’re trying to be very specific to where their dollars are going. And if there are football fans out there and they can know that it’s going to recruiting or travel, that’s something that they can put a tangible thing to, versus just going to the black hole.”
Anyone who gives $100 or more annually to a sport is considered part of the Wildcat Club, but De Leon said to qualify for the First Down Club specifically, one must donate $1,000 or more to the Football Excellence Fund. The initiative breaks up into five different levels and offers new perks based on the amount given per year.
The top level is the National Champion and is for donors who give more than $25,000 per year. The perks for this level include things like an all-expenses paid trip with head coach Adam Dorrel, access to practice, a private signing day event, four pre-game sideline passes at all ACU home football games and several other things.
The $1,000 amount is known as a starter. These benefits include access to practice, access to a season kickoff luncheon with Dorrel and a weekly email from Dorrel.
With football having just began its journey in Div. 1 eligibility, Kinard said it might be hard for people to give since the results aren’t there yet. But this initiative allows people to lay the ground level for the future.
“I think it’s a need that we see and have identified and we hope that need will be met,” Kinard said. “When [success] happens I think it’s easier for people to jump on board, but it really is that these people are going to be the foundation makers to propel our program.”
This fundraising initiative has already received a $100,000 matching gift for the next three years.