Local News

Report: Tar Heels Have No. 1 Sewn Up – in Sports Fundraising

Posted October 1, 2007 7:41 p.m. EDT
Updated October 1, 2007 8:59 p.m. EDT

When it comes to money raised or pledged to athletics, a recent survey by the Chronicle of Higher Education shows the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is at the top of the list, ahead of any other university across the nation.

With 28 varsity sports, the university is one of the country's largest athletic programs. It raised $51 million in pledges or donations for athletics last year, alone.

"I think it's a matter of competition," said Walter Sturdivant, former UNC football player and general manager of Tar Heel Talk radio station WCHL-AM.

"We're also talking about a matter of reality. It is reality that the demand to have winning teams is there," he said. "And players want to play for a winning program."

A new high-priced football coach and new facilities fueled those dollar amounts last year.

Former University of North Carolina system President Bill Friday calls the economic emphasis dangerous.

"We've got it now to where athletics are part of the culture of the country," he said. "We're not an entertainment institution, we're not a commercialization institution where they come to. We're supposed to be a teaching school."

The trend has the attention of the National Collegiate Athletic Association, which recently announced that only six universities bring in more than they spend on athletics.

That is the premise of the Chronicle report – that while some universities are posting higher athletic donations, academic donations remain flat.

That, however, does not hold true for UNC-Chapel Hill. Academic fundraising is also on the rise, with its current campaign raising a record $2.2 billion.

"You have runaway pricing going on, when it comes not merely to what you're paying for the facilities, but what you're making fans pay to get into those facilities," said Hodding Carter, a member of the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics.

Even though big-money sports, like basketball and football, help pay for all varsity sports, Carter said he believes the system of raising more money will collapse and that a scandal will end the competitive dollar race.

He believes the schools' priorities are "completely out of whack" when it comes to athletic fundraising and spending.

Among other ACC schools, North Carolina State University placed 14th on the list, with more than $27 million in donations received last year. Duke placed 17th, with nearly $25.5 million.