Virginia Tech Athletics Launches $400 Million "Reach for Excellence" Fundraising Campaign
Virginia Tech athletics announced the launch of the "Reach for Excellence" fundraising campaign on Tuesday morning, a $400 million initiative aimed at bringing the Hokies athletic department into the top third amongst the ACC and Power Five conferences financially.
Virginia Tech school president Dr. Tim Sands, director of athletics Whit Babcock, head football coach Justin Fuente, and head women's golf coach Carol Robertson all gave prepared statements, with the Q&A session moderated by associate athletic director for strategic communications Pete Moris.
In his opening statement, Dr. Sands expressed his excitement over the fundraising push, stating that athletics is "an important part of the Virginia Tech experience" that supports the university and local economy. Sands stated that the town of Blacksburg generates over $100 million per year on home football weekends alone - a startling number that underscores the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic had on the local economy last fall with limited attendance at home games.
Per the school release, the Reach for Excellence campaign is billed as the largest ever campaign for Virginia Tech athletics, and is part of a broader $1.5 billion fundraising initiative for the university known as "Boundless Impact: The Campaign for Virginia Tech."
The Reach for Excellence campaign encompasses five major pillars with its $400 million goal. These pillars include a football enhancement fund, renovations to Cassell Coliseum, The Drive for 25, comprehensive athletic department excellence, increasing scholarship endowments.
"We are committed to winning ACC and national titles, and we have a clear plan to get there (across all sports)," Babcock said, reiterating that the plan for the athletic department was bold, and would propel Virginia Tech into becoming the role model for athletics in the ACC.
"We acknowledge that this campaign is bold, but Virginia Tech shouldn't have to take a backseat to anybody," Babcock continued. $150 million of the $400 million goal set forth in this fundraising campaign has already been raised, putting Virginia Tech athletics nearly halfway towards the overall goal as the university approaches the alumni base.
For football specifically, Babcock's aspirations were clear for the money raised for the Football Enhancement Fund.
"We must move from a challenger to a champion brand. Our aspiration at Virginia Tech is clear. It is to win the ACC, to get into the final four in The College Football Playoff, and to win a national championship."
The Football Enhancement Fund has a goal of $30 million, with $5 million going to recruiting positions, $10 million for assistant coaches, $5 million for quality control coaches, $2 million for student-athlete development, and $8 million for capital needs, including renovations to the locker room and players lounge. Babcock stated that renovations to the players lounge will begin this summer, with hopes of full completion before the fall football season.
"Achieving and sustaining success as a football team begins with attracting the right type of student-athletes, coaches, and support staff for Virginia Tech," Fuente said in his prepared statement on Tuesday.
"We have a responsibility to this university and to this football team to give these young men the resources and support that their peers across the ACC and other Power Five programs currently receive. Our staff is dedicated to helping Virginia Tech reach its objectives on the football field. In turn, we need the investment in this program and its student-athletes to reflect the lofty expectations placed on them. Thank you for your support, and Go Hokies!"
While the success of the football program is key to any major university's athletic department, the largest capital improvements coming out of Tuesday's press conference centered around the basketball programs at Virginia Tech.
Cassell Coliseum, the longtime home of Virginia Tech men's and women's basketball, is due to be renovated. The Reach for Excellence campaign aims to raise at least $50 million privately for Cassell Coliseum, which opened in January of 1962.
Babcock said that initial plans for the $75 million renovations include a glass-enclosed entryway to the arena, and enhanced club seating. While early renovation plans call for a reduction in capacity, Babcock said that the end goal is to keep Cassell's capacity at around 9,000. The arena has held 9,275 fans since the seating upgrades that took place in 2020. While there is no set timeline to begin renovations to Cassell, Babcock says that the plans will be put into motion "as quickly as the funding comes in," and hopes that all renovations would be fully-completed to the arena in the next four-to-five years.
FY21 Budgetary Shortfall
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Babcock mentioned that there was around $47 million that the university could not collect throughout the 2021 fiscal year. Through salary reductions and other easing, the university is hoping to reduce the deficit to around $15 million for FY21.
Initial Timeline of the Reach for Excellence Campaign
The Reach for Excellence campaign was supposed to be unveiled just prior to the spring game in 2020. Because of the onset of the pandemic last spring, the athletic department had to pivot on the timeline of the announcement.
Home Basketball Games During Renovations to Cassell
Babcock said that the university has met with designers about phasing the renovations in during the revitalization process of Cassell. The goal is to allow Virginia Tech's men's and women's basketball programs to continue playing home games while the renovation process is ongoing.
"We would like to keep our teams in play here (during the season)," Babcock said.
On Name, Image, and Likeness Legislation
Babcock mentioned during the Q&A session that Virginia Tech athletics supported the NIL (Name, Image, and Likeness) legislation surrounding the potential for student-athlete compensation.
"We have discussed it...and we will be ready for (if and when it is passed)."
Supporting the Entire Athletic Department is Key
Babcock mentioned that this $400 million initiative will benefit the entire athletic department, not just the major sports programs, stating that "the rising tide lifts all ships."
Virginia Tech women's golf coach Carol Roberston echoed that sentiment.
"Our entire athletics department has a vision to make all sports even better, and the Reach for Excellence campaign will do exactly that. It's big, it's bold, and it can provide us with the resources needed to be national championship contenders in all sports. I'm confident that our fan base will join in because we need them. Giving isn't about making a donation, it's about making a difference."