Virginia Tech Athletics Announces $400 Million “Reach for Excellence” Fundraising Campaign

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(Ivan Morozov, 2018)

Virginia Tech Athletics announced in a press release and press conference this morning that the department is embarking on an eight-year, $400 million fundraising campaign called “Reach for Excellence,” with the goal to bolster Virginia Tech Athletics in key areas, make the department more competitive in the future, and enhance the student-athlete experience.

The $400 million goal for athletics is part of a larger $1.5 billion Boundless Impact campaign that is already underway campus-wide at Virginia Tech. Reach for Excellence began at the same time the university announced the Boundless Impact campaign in October of 2019 and is slated to conclude in December 2027, a span of roughly eight years.

“Athletics is an important part of the Virginia Tech experience, supporting the university and our local economy, and creating national visibility that engages our worldwide community of alumni, friends, and fans,” Virginia Tech President Tim Sands said while highlighting the Reach for Excellence campaign alongside Athletic Director Whit Babcock and other university leaders.

Over the eight-year time frame, that’s an average of $50 million a year in fundraising for Virginia Tech Athletics. That’s an ambitious goal for a department that in recent years has raised about $30-$33 million in donations per year, excluding occasional major gifts like the $15 million gift pledged in 2017 that funded the recently-completed Student-Athlete Performance Center. Since Virginia Tech raises about $250 million over an eight-year time frame at current levels of donation, a $400 million goal represents an increase of $150 million over the usual giving levels, or almost $20 million extra per year.

“To take Virginia Tech Athletics to the next level of competitiveness,” Sands said, “we need to resource athletics in the top-third of the ACC and the Power Five programs. To reach that level, we are committing to enhancing support from all sources, including significant private support from this campaign.”

Reach for Excellence Areas of Focus

The budget increase will support athletics in three primary areas: facilities, coaching/staffing, and the student-athlete experience.

The $400 million goal has five major components in mind.

  • A football enhancement fund to build a program that consistently competes at the top of the ACC, by allotting $30 million over time for recruiting, assistant coaches’ salaries, quality-control coaches, player development, and capital needs.
  • Renovations to improve Cassell Coliseum, with at least $50 million to be raised privately.
  • The Drive for 25 initiative to increase Hokie Club membership to 25,000 and raise $20 million annually for student-athlete scholarships.
  • Striving for comprehensive excellence for all sports by providing operating expenses, facility improvements, nutritional and strength and conditioning programs, and more.
  • Increasing the number of student-athlete scholarship endowments to expand capacity to support students and broaden reach in recruiting.
Justin Fuente Virginia Tech Reach for Excellence Campaign
Virginia Tech’s Reach for Excellence campaign states: “We must correct our competitive disadvantage and enable Coach Justin Fuente to continue building the best developmental program in the nation.” (Ivan Morozov)

The Football Enhancement Fund

Football is the most high-profile sport at the university, and the Reach for Excellence web site openly admits “The football program is underfunded compared to its peers, at a time when winning universities must embrace new ways to empower their coaches … We must correct our competitive disadvantage and enable Coach Justin Fuente to continue building the best developmental program in the nation.”

The $30 million that the campaign is seeking to raise for football will be allocated in five areas. Note that this is increased spending over what the athletic department currently spends on football:

  • Recruiting support and staffing: $5 million
  • Assistant coach salaries: $10 million
  • Quality control coaches: $5 million
  • Student-athlete development (for post-football life): $2 million
  • Capital (facility) needs: $8 million

For more details, see the Football section of the Reach for Excellence web site.

Cassell Coliseum Renovation Reach for Excellence
(Cassell Coliseum Renovation concept drawing courtesy Virginia Tech)

Cassell Coliseum Renovation/Expansion

Cassell Coliseum is nearly 60 years old (it opened in January 1962), and university leadership has decided that rather than build a new venue, they’re going to improve and expand the existing structure, which has the advantages of a prime location close to the rest of campus and the student population, plus an intimate environment that is intimidating for opponents.

The project is estimated to cost $75 million, with about $50 million being raised as part of the Reach for Excellence campaign.

Plans call for:

  •  A new glass entrance along Washington Street
  •  Extended concourse areas along both sides to allow fans easier access to different sections of the coliseum
  •  The addition of high-end premium seating areas, including club seating and luxury suites on both sides

In addition to the concept drawing above, three other concept drawings were released (click the thumbnails for larger images):


For more information on the Cassell Coliseum project, click here. And do not miss the department’s 12-page PDF that details the project, which can be downloaded here.

Drive for 25 Initiative

Announced in December of 2016, the Hokie Club drive for 25 has increased membership from 10,609 donors when it was announced to 19,625 members as of today. Membership has nearly doubled in just four and a half years, and Virginia Tech Athletics is continuing to push towards a membership goal of 25,000 members.

Virginia Tech released the graphics below to show progress since the inception of the Drive for 25 and to highlight progress in recent years (click for larger images).

For more information on the Drive for 25 as part of the Reach for Excellence campaign, click here.

Scholarship Endowments

Many fans don’t know that the Athletic Department pays the university for the costs of educating student-athletes. Virginia Tech Athletics spent $17 million in tuition, books, room and board, fees, and cost of attendance during the 2019-20 academic year.

Most of that money must be raised every year, but like all universities Virginia Tech also has an athletic endowment that generates investment income to help pay for scholarships. Virginia Tech’s athletic endowment totals about $70 million, and in recent years the annual investment income from that endowment has averaged about 4.25%, which equates to about $2.8 million in annual income to help pay the $17 million scholarship bill.

In a perfect world, the athletic endowment would be so large that its earnings would generate enough money to pay the entire scholarship bill, instead of having to raise funds every year. A few universities have this luxury, but Virginia Tech does not.

To that end, Virginia Tech Athletics will pursue additional endowments – gifts or pledges of $100,000 or more – that are invested and provide a steady stream of annual financial support to pay for scholarships. To learn more, click here.

All Sports Support

Lastly, the Reach for Excellence campaign will provide funding to support the rest of Virginia Tech’s athletic programs in key areas as appropriate:

  • Upgrades to team facilities
  • Nutrition, development, and strength and conditioning support
  • Increases to our operating and recruiting budgets, and more

For more information, click here.

An Ambitious Initiative

As mentioned above, funding the $400 million Reach for Excellence requires annual donations of $50 million over eight years, a substantial increase over Virginia Tech’s current donation level of $30-$33 million per year.

“This is an exciting day and the culmination of years of careful planning,” Virginia Tech Director of Athletics Whit Babcock said during the Reach for Excellence announcement. “We know that our athletics program plays a central role in the student experience and the strong bond our wider community has with Virginia Tech. The past year has seen financial challenges due to COVID-19 and other factors, but we are confident in our long-term vision and our path to achieve it.

“We appreciate the university’s show of support and commitment to excellence across Hokie sports. We also appreciate all the donors who have already stepped forward to help — and the many more who will. We are all in this together. Instead of someone doing everything, we’re asking everyone to do something.”

Other important figures in the Reach for Excellence campaign will be Virginia Tech Vice President for Advancement Charlie Phlegar and Senior Associate Athletic Director for External Operations Brad Wurthman.

To explore the Reach for Excellence Campaign and learn more, click here to go to the Reach for Excellence web site, where you can watch videos, read more, and donate.



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24 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. Should have been announced at the infamous presser announcing “hey everyone we have a football coach and we’re keeping him”.

  2. Every time Whit announces something like this, as a long time Golden Hokie, it seems to be code for “pay more, get less”. I’m curious if this will be funded via new intiatives or by increasing donation levels, etc? The Hokie Club is growing slowly and the burden seems to be placed on the backs of the existing membership.

  3. For context, I was listening to an Atlanta sports radio station last spring, and the conversation was about the financial impact the pandemic could reek on college athletic departments and how their financial condition were going to be adversely impacted by what laid ahead. One of the guests said that UGA had a cash operating reserve of over $100.0 million. This wasn’t an endowment account, not a current operating budget, it was a contingency in-the-bank cash account. None of the amounts in this article contemplate such an account of any amount for VT.

    1. I thought VT Athletic Department used to pay X millions per year back to thr University. This was over and above any principal on loans owed to the university. Does anyone know if this is correct?

      If it is correct, if that money had been placed in a cash operating reserve, the AD would have been in a much stronger position.

      1. It may have had to do with rights ownership, where the university owned licensing rights. That may be what you’re describing here. Not entirely certain, but could possibly explain.

  4. Ugh, I’ve been so excited to see how they reimagined the exterior of cassell. This just looks uninspired. I also don’t think they’ve really made the space around the stadium any better. On a cold or rainy basketball or football game where do you stand outside to meet up with your friends out of the elements?

  5. Dividing $400M by 256K would mean, in a perfect world, every living alumni would need to donate $1563.
    Just something to think about.

    1. Or $33 a month for 4 years. If only 65% (~167k) gave $50/mo for 4 years, problem solved. I am sure they have ran a number of scenarios of expected donations by various alumni demographics, but throwing out a small number like $50/month (less than 1 date night) could put things in perspective.

      1. Haven’t watched the podcast yet which I’m sure talks about this, but this is a lot of cash they expect to generate when our drive for 25 is creeping up very slowly. At the rate it’s going we won’t be anywhere near $400m without massive big donor help each year

    2. $1563 divided over 10 years equals $156.30 per year per Hokie. in a perfect ‘burg if everyone gave that, it would be very achievable.

      the $400M question is: how do we get all 256K Hokies to each do their $156.30?

      (no matter your answer) we can do this even if a couple K don’t put in the minimum.

      the more i think about this Reach for Excellence goal and the tangible results we will see, the better i feel about it and our VT future going forward.

      Let’s Go! … Hokies! … … Reach for Excellence! … … Let’s Give$ … Hokie$!

  6. I had seen renderings of the planned renovation before but these are considerably more detailed. If the design components are accurate, it looks like the press box is moving back to the floor?? It also looks like the club areas will replace the tables on the court but we may have to wait to see the final details. It also looks like this design will remove the glaring afternoon sun pouring the tunnels and blinding folks on the east side. I am quite impressed with the new design elements blending with the old. It will be interesting to see the concourse views in the hopes of solving the traffic issues, particularly after the games.

  7. I think the $400 million is really over 10 years. 2017 – 2027. The years 2017 and 2018 were the non-public phase of the Boundless Impact campaign, but are included in the projected totals. Still, I like the enthusiasm this will bring. It’s what the fanbase needs.

  8. Wow is right. I always thought that a refurb of Cassell was the way to go but didn’t think there was any way to do it well. I stand impressed.

    1. Me too. I had often thought the way to expand was to flatten the first 20 rows or so, which would allow some vertical space to work with. Looks like that idea was the right one.

      I was extremely skeptical of spending that much to renovate Cassell, but this looks good.

  9. any idea how much capacity would drop with the renovation? I do think that it’s a great idea, but i’m curious about the capacity part.

    1. Me too. But I think that is the wave of the future. The reality is that in person attendance at sporting events is deceasing, and the key is to enhance the experience for the people who do go.

      1. That’s true of many industries, as we have discussed many times here on TSL. For example, movie theaters in the last few years have cut capacity — because they’re never going to be full again — in favor of more luxurious seating for fewer attendees.

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