BLACKSBURG, VA – The Virginia Tech Athletics Department announced today a new fundraising campaign titled “Drive for 25,” with the department seeking to increase membership in the Virginia Tech Athletic Fund (aka the “Hokie Club”) to 25,000 members.
With current Hokie Club membership of 10,609, per the tracking page on the new Drive for 25 website announcing the program, this is an audacious program with the goal of more than doubling Hokie Club enrollment. In a press conference announcing the program, Virginia Tech Director of Athletics Whit Babcock noted that Hokie Club membership has been static around 11,000 members since the late 1990s.
Babcock said that Virginia Tech’s Hokie Club membership total of less than 11,000 people ranks 11th in the 15-school ACC. He noted that Clemson, Louisville and Florida State all have just under 25,000 members in their athletic fundraising clubs.
Drive for 25 Geared Towards Fundraising for Scholarships
Babcock explained that the focus of the Drive for 25 program is to fund scholarships for Virginia Tech student athletes.
“It is about raising money, we’re not going to hide behind that,” Babcock said. “It is specifically for scholarships … it will not be used for coaches salaries, or AD salaries, no frivolous spending … it simply provides our foundation and the cornerstone of all we do.”
In the last six years, Virginia Tech’s athletics scholarship bill has risen from approximately $9 million to an estimated $14.4 million for 2016-17, and the increase in scholarship costs has no end in sight, as the cost of higher education grows and state funding of higher education decreases.
Babcock pointed out that an athletic scholarship at Virginia Tech is not a “free pass” — the athletics department pays the cost of the scholarship to the university. Virginia Tech has about 500 scholarship athletes and a total of just over 300 scholarships that it must pay for. (Many athletes are on partial scholarships.)
According to Babcock, a scholarship for an athlete who comes to Virginia Tech from in-state costs $25,329 per year, while an out-of-state scholarship costs a whopping $42,327 per year.
The Hokie Club currently doesn’t raise enough money to pay for all scholarships via donations. Of the $20 million raised by the Hokie Club in its most recent year, only $11.5 million is available for scholarships — the remaining $8.5 million was earmarked for facilities or was otherwise restricted.
The athletic department will have to pay for the remaining $2.9 million scholarship funds from an “already tight ” operating budget of approximately $80 million, per Babcock. He said that athletic budget figure ranks 10th in the ACC and 40th among “Power 65” schools.
Frank Beamer to Serve as Spokesperson for Drive for 25
Former Virginia Tech head football coach Frank Beamer has agreed to serve as the spokesperson for the Drive for 25. Beamer will speak at various functions and at many of the Hokie Club’s spring Orange and Maroon Tour events about the importance of scholarships and how those impact the lives of student-athletes.
“I know firsthand from both my experience as a student-athlete and from coaching just how important scholarships are to young people here at Virginia Tech,” Beamer said. “Scholarships change lives, and that’s why Cheryl and I have always been willing to give to help these student-athletes not just to play sports, but to get an education. Many of my former players wouldn’t have received that opportunity otherwise.
“So I’m looking forward to being a part of this campaign and feel honored to be a part of helping young men and women even though I’m retired. There is no better way to help our student-athletes than to join the Hokie Club, and I’m encouraging all of Hokie Nation to do so. I know they want to invest in what we’re building here at Virginia Tech.”
Beamer is, of course, a member of the Hokie Club himself and has given extensively to Virginia Tech over the years.
“I think you people would like for us to beat Clemson, Louisville and Florida State. I feel certain that’s the goal around here, but we’ve got to beat them in this area here.”
Minimum Gift of $25 Per Month Sought
While figures of $14.4 million and $80 million are daunting numbers, Babcock suggested that new members come in at just $25 a month, or $300 a year. If 14,000 new members came in giving just $25 a month, Tech would bring in $4.2 million more per year.
Babcock also suggested $250 per month, or $2,500 per month, or even $25,000 per month. “If you’re one of the ones who can give $25,000 a month, please call me direct on my line and I will take your call,” Babcock promised.
In addition to retaining current Hokie Club members, Hokie Club officials plan on marketing new members through mass mailing, emailing them a link to a newly created and user friendly website for the Drive for 25 initiative along with a PDF tri-fold brochure with all the details. The site allows alums and fans to contribute easily, and it also contains a facts page and an interactive chart that tracks membership during the initiative.
The site includes a video that features Beamer and the importance of the Drive for 25. Infographics explaining the Drive for 25 will be released through the athletics department’s social media platforms as well, as part of continuous education of fans on how to invest in the future of Tech’s student-athletes.
“The Drive For 25 is about young people and opportunity,” Babcock said. “It’s about competing at the highest levels, it’s as simple as that. The Drive For 25 is the single best way that you can get involved and help us continue our momentum in athletics, period.
“We will achieve this goal of 25,000 and falling short is not an option.”
For more information, please contact the Hokie Club office at 540-231-6618, or by emailing the Hokie Club at [email protected]. Visit the Drive for 25 web site by clicking below.