The University of Missouri and Oregon State have hosted events like this with great success. Now the University of Minnesota is hosting a scholarship fundraiser of its own, as the Golden Gophers welcome Big Ten rival Purdue to the Sports Pavilion on Sunday, January 31 at 2 p.m. Central. The dual meet will be broadcast on a tape delay on the Big Ten Network at 10:00 p.m. Central on Sunday.
At this dual meet -- dubbed the Gopher Wrestling Endowment Meet -- all ticket proceeds will go directly to the Minnesota Wrestling Scholarship fund.
As the University of Minnesota wrestling program celebrates its 100th year, the money collected at the end-of-January dual meet will ensure the program will continue to be strong into its second century by continuing to provide scholarship opportunities to worthy scholar-athletes.
How Minnesota came to host the Endowment Meet
"Missouri did a similar event last season," said Joe Russell, long-time assistant coach at Minnesota. "I talked to Kevin Roberts (assistant coach) at Oregon State to learn more about the event they held earlier this season. I sent an email to University of Minnesota Athletic Director Joel Maturi, and he agreed to it quickly ... They're supportive of what we're doing, and thinking about the long-term stability of the program."
Joe Russell (Photo/The Guillotine)"Endowments are the foundation of any athletic department and any program," Maturi said in an article announcing the event. "Our long-range goal is to endow all athletic scholarships in our wrestling program. We truly appreciate all who will attend the meet to assist us in our goal."
The details of the Gopher Wrestling Endowment Meet the fell into place quickly, according to coach Russell. "Our Development Office called other schools to see how they did things. Here's how it'll work at our event: The Ticket Office sends a check for the total amount collected for the dual to Development, who will then assure that it all goes toward scholarships for wrestlers."
As Russell explained, fully 100% of the money collected at the January 31 dual will go to the scholarship fund. He also made clear that a ticket purchase for the Purdue dual is NOT tax deductible, in that the fan is receiving something of value -- great wrestling action -- in exchange for the ticket purchase.
"Minnesota wrestling fans should be excited to know that their ticket money is going to support individual wrestlers."
"J Robinson (Minnesota head coach) encourages us to take risks, and try new things," Russell continued.
J Robinson (Photo/The Guillotine)In fact, Robinson, promotion-minded head coach at Minnesota, said in the announcement article about the event, "It is a great opportunity for the wrestling community to do two things that can demonstrate the power of wrestling. First, having a great fan base will show how important wrestling is in Minnesota, and second, it is every fan's wish for their donation to go directly to wrestling. This accomplishes both goals. It doesn't get any better."
Learning from the success of the Tigers ...
The Minnesota wrestling program is modeling its fundraiser on similar events hosted by Missouri and Oregon State.
For the opening dual meet for the 2008-2009 season against Hofstra, the Missouri Tigers held an event called Wrestling Supports Wrestling. As head coach Brian Smith explained it, the idea came from a position of strength: self-endow the program while it's still thriving.
Brian Smith (Photo/Tech-Fall.com)"At the time, programs like Arizona State and University of Oregon were being eliminated," said Smith in an interview for this article. "Sadly, college wrestling tends to be reactive, rather than proactive. We decided to be proactive, and generate support while our program is still healthy ... Putting away money for the future."
In a 2008 article announcing the event, coach Smith explained how sports like wrestling can be hurt when revenues from traditional big-money sports take a hit: "Suddenly basketball and football teams sell no season tickets and schools have to cut programs. Usually wrestling is one of the first to go. So I want to put the sport in a position where people will say, ‘Well, that program is pretty well-off so let's leave it alone.'"
Missouri's Wrestling Supports Wrestling event attracted about 1,500-2,000 fans, and generated approximately $12,000-$15,000 for the Tigers' wrestling endowment fund, "despite being up against hunting season," coach Smith said in the interview for this article.
Brian Smith cited an added benefit: "We've received bigger checks from our alums who were aware of our fundraiser event ... We now have money coming in to grow the program."
... and the Beavers
Oregon State had its first scholarship fundraising event early this season -- Sunday, November 22, 2009 -- in a three-way meet hosting Wisconsin and Boise State.
"We had read about Missouri's event," said Kevin Roberts, assistant wrestling coach for the Oregon State Beavers. "We have a Wrestling Endowment Fund, and wanted to continue to add to it. This is so important, especially as tuition, travel and other expenses of running a college wrestling program continue to grow."
Jim Zalesky"Coach (Jim) Zalesky talked to the administration about it, and they bought into it right away."
"We had over 3,000 attend our event," according to Roberts. (The event was held at Gil Coliseum on the Corvallis campus.) "Usually we average about 1,000 fans. With that boost in attendance, we took in about $30,000 for our fund."
"It was a win-win for the administration and for our Endowment Fund."
According to Roberts, some considerable thought was put into selecting the right event for Oregon State's scholarship fundraiser.
"We wanted to have it before the high school wrestling season, so we could encourage high school wrestlers and their families and friends to attend."
Kevin Roberts (Photo/Dennis Wolverton)"We also tried to pick teams that would be good draws," continued Roberts.
"When we promoted our event, we were positive. We made it clear that were not in trouble, which, out here, with the loss of wrestling programs at (University of) Oregon and Portland State, was a very important message to communicate. We made it clear that Oregon State has one of the biggest wrestling endowments in the nation, and wanted to build on that endowment, to perpetuate the program."
"We hope to make it an annual event (at Oregon State)."
In talking about the upcoming event at Minnesota, Missouri head coach Brian Smith said, "It's great for wrestling fans. You get see the highest level of folkstyle wrestling with two Big Ten teams. You'll see elite college athletes in action for the price of a movie ticket, or a fraction of the cost of seeing a big-time college football game. And it's all for a great cause."
The University of Minnesota's Gopher Wrestling Endowment Meet vs. Purdue will be held Sunday, January 31 at 2 p.m. at the 5,700-seat Sports Pavilion on campus. Tickets may be purchased online at GopherSports.com or by phone 1-800-UGOPHER, or at the gate.