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.
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/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):
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.
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.