The seventh annual Wildcat alumni challenge is underway

Inside+of+Nicholson+Pavilion+where+alumni%E2%80%99s+donations+help+fund+the+athletic+programs%2C+staff+and+events+ran+around+the+community.

Casey Rothgeb

Inside of Nicholson Pavilion where alumni’s donations help fund the athletic programs, staff and events ran around the community.

Sean Bessette , Staff Reporter

The seventh annual Wildcat alumni challenge began on Oct. 1 and will run through Dec. 1 to raise money for the athletics program.

“The purpose of it is to engage our former student athletes and get them in a position to give back to our sports programs,” Associate Athletic Director for Development Troy Nealey said.

Nealey described the challenge as an annual mini fundraising campaign and a competition between all sports.

The first $25 of each donation goes to the Wildcat Athletic Fund. Anything above that amount can go to a specific athletic program of the donor’s choice.

According to Wildcatsports.com, there is an award that adds a $5,000 bonus for the team with the highest percentage of former student athletes giving back, a $2,500 bonus for the team with the highest number of student athletes giving back and a $2,500 bonus for the team that raises the most amount of money.

This year’s challenge is different from the previous years. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic there is added importance placed on this year’s challenge.

“State funding was cut this year because of COVID-19, so that trickles down to everywhere across campus and athletics is no different,” Nealey said.

According to Nealey, athletics is also losing money since there are no fall sports happening.

The format in which alumni are contacted has also changed. Traditionally, current student athletes would get together and call former student athletes, but this year they’re using texting, according to Nealey.

Director of Athletics Dennis Francois said athletics is more focused on the number of donors giving back rather than the amount of money raised.

“We want to grow that base. We want to grow the number of former student athletes giving back and supporting their alma mater,” Francois said.

According to Francois, when he was first hired, only 1.7% of student athletes were giving back. Within a couple of years, that number grew up to 8-9% and continues to grow.

Additionally, Francois believes it is important for alumni to give back. He thinks the experience former student athletes had was partially due to the donations of alumni before them, so it’s important to give back to the student athletes of today so they have an equally as good, if not better, experience.

The same message was echoed by head softball coach Alison Mitchell.

“I think there is a lot that the game gives to athletes. I think it’s really important that at least there is a connection and you do what you can to support your university in whatever you’re able to,” Mitchell said.

The goal set for this year’s Wildcat alumni challenge is set for 500 donors and $75,000.