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MTU won't punt football program, after all

University announces plan to fund team through donations, events, ticket sales

The Daily Mining Gazette
March 31, 2003

HOUGHTON — Less than two weeks after cutting its 82-year-old football program, Michigan Tech University has decided to bring it back.

Athletic Director Rick Yeo said the team will return to Sherman Field this fall with a plan to become self-supporting with private funds.

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On March 18 Yeo said Tech would have to cut the team in a cost-cutting move. Now, the team will keep its previously announced schedule starting Aug. 30 against Ashland University in Houghton.

Head Coach Bernie Anderson said MTU and alumni have a plan that will guarantee the program’s survival for at least four more seasons.

“We never want to go through this again with these young men,” he said.

Anderson and Yeo broke the news to the 100-player team during a meeting this morning.

Defensive end Josh Kunnath, a third-year applied ecology major from downstate Macomb, said hopes for the program’s revival grew during the past two weeks.

“Some of us didn’t give up hope,” Kunnath said.

Defensive lineman Casey Nelson, a sophomore economic and business finance major from Grand Marais, Minn., said he’s extremely happy about the news. He said he hopes the team’s revival will motivate the players on the field next season.

“This is either going to motivate us to go out and pummel ... teams next year, or its going to hurt us,” Nelson said.

MTU cut the football team after a March 5 announcement by Gov. Jennifer Granholm that Tech’s state appropriation would be cut by 10 percent. Tech expects to save $350,000 from not funding the football program.

Under the plan, a combination of endowments and up-front contributions will fund the team, according to Anderson.

“Our alumni will raise enough demand funds to guarantee our team that their playing days are secure,” Anderson said. “Additional funding will be endowed to guarantee recruited classes that their time here will be financially secured.”

Yeo said Dennis Euers, a 1966 football alumnus from Fayetteville, Ga., was instrumental in helping develop the plan.

“It’s unbelievable the amount of time he’s put into getting this accomplished,” Yeo said.

After hearing word about the team being in jeopardy, Euers said he and several other alumni started working on a business plan.

“There was no doubt in my mind that we’ve got to think outside of the box,” he said.

The plan includes four major components. By June 1, the team needs to raise $300,000 in contributions. About $550,000 needs to developed in special event revenue, fund-raisers, contributions and season ticket sales; the program hopes to sell 1,000 season tickets annually. Alumni donations will hopefully fund a $1 million football endowment by the end of the year with an additional $3.5 million endowment by next year.

Yeo, Anderson and Euers worked to put the final touches on the plan this weekend. The plan was circulated among the 35-member Football Advisory Council, which gave its unanimous consent.

Euers said he’s confident that the plan will succeed especially if university supporters step up and “make a difference.”

“Athletics is the front porch of the university,” he said. “Without that front porch, it’s even more difficult to sell the university.”

Previously, Yeo said a $10 million endowment was necessary for the team’s survival. Euers said that isn’t necessary because there are other sources for money aside from an endowment.

Yeo said he wasn’t surprised that the alumni were able to develop a plan to save the team. He said there are a lot of close-knit alumni from Anderson’s program.

“There aren’t a lot of programs around that send players as well-prepared and disciplined to meet life as there are here,” Yeo said.

Kunnath said the team will do whatever is necessary to keep the program afloat. He said the plan sounds realistic.

“I don’t think it’s a rushed decision at all,” Kunnath said. “I think they’re pretty confident about what they’re doing.”

Yeo said the events of the past two weeks will have some lingering effects on the team and the university.

“There’s definitely going to be some scars after going through what we went through,” he said.

Anderson said the team is resuming practices and work toward reestablishing the team’s core values of trust, commitment and care.

“It’s one step forward and now we continue to take steps in the right direction again and put the pieces of the puzzle together,” he said.

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