Mountaineer Athletic Club Leaving No Approach Unused As New Campaigns Launch
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Competition rules in the Big 12. From the fields to the courts, every one of the conference’s 10 members are vying to outpace one other on the scoreboard.
As such, secrecy has become paramount. Coaches are loath to discuss anything, and keep practices under viewing restrictions rivaling those of obtaining a tour of the National Security Agency. Discussions of anything that might assist an opponent, from game strategy to tactics, are couched in the most general of terms. Even the student-athletes themselves are instructed not to provide any inflammatory comment that might provoke an upcoming foe.
It might come as a surprise, then, to learn that one aspect of the athletics landscape isn’t so restricted. In fact, open sharing is the norm. That’s in the area of fundraising and support — or as termed by those that practice it, “development”. Rather than keeping the veil of secrecy drawn, those in the business of attracting financial support for their schools’ athletic programs actually meet regularly to share ideas.
Imagine for a moment WVU head football coach Dana Holgorsen sitting down to discuss his game plan with Gary Patterson. Or Bob Huggins sharing his pressing plans with Lon Kruger. But that’s just what Mountaineer Athletic Club Director Ben Murray, along with his staff, does with their Big 12 counterparts.
“One thing that is great abut the Big 12, we meet with the other development officers twice a year,” Murray revealed. “The good thing about fundraising is that we can use some ideas they may have had, because we aren’t competing with each other for the same donors. We have a great charisma with the [other Big 12 schools].”
If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then compliments are flowing quickly around the league, as each school tries to tailor what it learns to its own devices. There’s also the collective experience that West Virginia’s current staff brings with it from previous jobs.
“On our staff, we have a lot of people with experience from other places,” said Murray, who himself counts stints at Old Dominion, UNLV and James Madison on his resume. “We try to incorporate that into West Virginia, but we are in a unique situation, and we also want to create our own ideas and form our own strategies.”
Murray has an excellent track record at WVU, having secured more than 120 major gifts ($25,000 or more) in his first two years on the job from 2010-12. As impressive as that and other achievements have been, however, he now faces the largest one of his career. West Virginia’s recently announced “Climbing Higher” campaign, which includes major renovations and new construction impacting every varsity sport on campus, will be totally funded by donations. That’s $100 million that Murray and his staff will have to solicit and secure.
“It’s been an 18 month process of getting our plans set,” Murray said. ” While we did the plans for the facilities, we also did it for fundraising. We’ll have a tiered approach for large gifts, smaller gifts and medium-sized gifts. Sometimes it doesn’t always work out how you want it to, so you have to adjust on the fly, but we feel really good about the impact we can have on our student athletes.”