By Ryan Burnett
Murrow News Service
Since the hiring of new football coach Mike Leach, more than $1 million in annual giving has been pledged to the athletic fund at Washington State University, putting it on pace for a record year.
“As of Jan. 30th, we have seen $1.1 million donated,” said Christopher Walker, associate director of Cougar Athletic Fund.
Much of that has been attributed to Leach, who was hired on Dec. 6. Since Leach’s hire, more than 700 new members have made donations, and the number of total donors is approaching 5,000, Walker said.
Bill Moos, the university’s athletic director, said he hopes to see a continued increase in annual giving, which funds athletic scholarships.
“Our goal is to have our annual giving totals equal to our scholarship costs, which is right around $7 million,” Moos said.
On top of increased annual donations, the athletic department has already sold more season tickets than it has in the past four years, and has already sold seats that haven’t been put in place yet.
“We have already sold out all of our new suites and premium seating before the construction of them even began,” Moos said. “When construction is complete there will be 21 suites and 1,200 club seats and low seats.”
The 21 suites sold for up to $50,000 each, while the 1,200 club seats sold for $1,700 to $2,000.
“We would not have sold the amount of season tickets or gotten the amount of donations if it weren’t for the Mike Leach hiring,” Moos said.
During the tenure of Paul Wulff, the former WSU coach, donations reached $2.8 million in one year, Moos said.
This year’s donations include only annual gifts; they do not include special donations like the $3 million gift from Greg Rankich, CEO of Redmond-based Xtreme Consulting Group, Inc.
Rankich, a 1994 alumnus, made the single-largest donation in the history of Cougar athletics. In an email, Rankich said he has steadily increased his donations since the hiring of President Elson Floyd and Moos.
“I had already donated a significant amount of money to WSU and had already been honored as a ‘laureate’ donor back in 2005,” Rankich said in an email. “At that time, it was because the accumulated total giving impact was over $1 million.”
Rankich said it was “important to me to support the university and future Cougars.”
In addition, the Pac-12 television contract – the most lucrative in the history of college football – will net WSU $20 million annually.
Moos said those funds will go towards an $80 million renovation of the university’s Martin Stadium, with the project expected to be completed by the 2012 Apple Cup game.
“The renovation process wouldn’t have been able to start up so quickly if it wasn’t for the TV contract,” Moos said. “Nearly all of that money is invested into facilities and the infrastructure.”
Along with the Martin Stadium renovations, WSU has also approved a major athletic facility.
“Washington State has committed to build a 77,000-square-foot football complex that will contain a huge weight room, training room, locker room, meeting room, offices and training table, which we will enjoy in the near future,” Leach said at a press conference.
Rankich said he hopes his gift spurs further donations.
“I hope my commitment to WSU helps compels other alumni to think about their own giving and the impact they can have on WSU and maybe even be an inspiration to WSU students as they graduate, to think about the impact they can have on WSU, future students, and of course the world,” he said.
The Murrow News Service provides local, regional and statewide stories reported and written by journalism students at the Edward R. Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University.