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Schools Hoping Cinderella Run Funds Facilities

Tuesday, 22 Mar 2011 | 1:43 PM ET
Boatwright Memorial Library
University of Richmond
Boatwright Memorial Library

When fans came into the University of Richmond bookstore on Monday morning, they wanted Sweet 16 shirts.

“It’s the 'McDonaldization' of society,” said bookstore manager Roger Brooks. “Thanks to the Internet, people want everything in now.”

When they do hit the store this week, Brooks wants to make sure that no Spiders fan walks from the store without the Sweet 16 item that they wanted.

“We won the Atlantic 10 and everything we had sold out quickly,” Brooks said. “I don’t want to repeat that failure.”

The sudden cashing in on gear gets much of the attention because it’s so visible. But the money from Richmond Spiders gear goes directly to the university, which funds 40 percent of $20 million athletic department budget.

The more important comes in through donations earmarked for the athletic department, used for improving facilities.

Richmond has an impressive $150 million athletic department endowment and they use four percent a year to pay off scholarships, which cost $52,000 each.

The school’s first run to the Sweet 16 since 1988 will bring in much needed dollars. Annual giving is currently at $1 million, said the school’s athletic director Jim Miller.

The school has been trying to restore Millhiser Gym, where the teams played from 1921-1947, into a state-of-the-art practice facility for the men’s and women’s teams.

The project was announced in June 2008, but Miller admits that the team’s run in the tournament has added “a new sense of urgency to getting it done.”

Before the Butler Bulldogs played in the championship game against Duke last year, athletic director Barry Collier announced that they would restore 83-year-old Hinkle Fieldhouse, where the teams still play, and that the project would cost at least $10 million.

It has since been determined that a more accurate number is $25 million though Collier said he doesn’t know at this point what the fundraising goal will be. Another magical run in the tournament can obviously help to change projections.

Butler’s athletic department, which is a non-profit organization, has already set a record for donations and that’s with two more months to go in the fiscal year, Collier said.

The university does contribute to Butler’s athletic department budget and although applications were up 10 percent for this past year’s freshman class — Butler’s biggest class ever — Collier said the school has not committed to giving the athletic department more money to spend.

VCU, the only team to have played three games to get into the Sweet 16, announced just last month said that it would add 200 seats and a new club level to its 7,500-seat Siegel Center.

VCU athletic director Norwood Teague said that greater fundraising due to the tournament could hasten the timetable. It’s roughly a $4 million project and VCU, whose athletic department is funded mostly by student fees (70 percent) has raised $1.5 million this year. They’ve also hit $1 million in corporate advertising for the first time ever this year, though they’ll admittedly have to fight with the University of Richmond for the local dollar.

Teague said the two teams making the Sweet 16 was the biggest thing to happen to Richmond since the Civil War.

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