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Friday, May 24, 2024 — Houston, TX

Athletics exceeds fundraising record

By Amber Tong     9/1/15 2:27pm

The Owl Club, Rice Athletics Department’s fundraising branch, has raised a record-breaking $2.3 million, a 52.6 percent increase from the $1.51 million in donations they received the previous year.

Director of Rice Athletics Joe Karlgaard said the unprecedented fundraising success speaks to the growing support from Rice’s fan base.

“We surpassed our previous annual fundraising record by $500,000, and we are thrilled with the signal of support this sends from our alumni and friends,” Karlgaard said.



According to Karlgaard, cultivating donor loyalty was key to the accomplishment.

“We really tried to emphasize continued and consistent annual giving as part of our vision for becoming a department with 16 programs of excellence,” Karlgaard said.

Following previous examples, the department is planning to spend the extra money on needs unforeseen in the budgeting process, according to Karlgaard.

“Each year, we set a goal for the Owl Club and incorporate that goal into our budget,” Karlgaard said. “Our goal last year was $2.2 million, and we exceeded it by $100,000. We used those funds to help us fund unexpected expenses that were not accounted for in the budget.”

Sergio Santamaria, football sport head and executive board member of the Rice Rally Club, said since 2013 Rice Athletics has demonstrated a dedication to brand awareness which almost predicts the fundraising success.

“I find it as no surprise that Athletics had a record year — ever since the arrival of [Joe Karlgaard], Athletics’ vision for growing the Rice brand has been very evident in all they do,” Santamaria, a Duncan College sophomore, said.

Almost every Athletics employee has spent less than two years at Rice and brings fresh perspectives to the office, according to Santamaria, who visited Rice Athletics for an externship last semester.

“There’s definitely new blood and an exciting attitude toward the future of Rice Athletics,” Santamaria said.

Santamaria said he hopes to see increased investment on things with lasting impact, such as infrastructure, personnel and publicity.

“I’d like to see the money spent on the long-term investments of Athletics — its facilities, its coaching staffs and, of course, its on-campus presence with students,” Santamaria said.

Swim team captain Taylor Armstrong said she hopes the money goes toward  sports that are not regularly advertised.

“We see a lot of publicity and game advertising for men’s football, baseball and basketball,” Armstrong said. “However, ask any of these supporters at these games how many women’s sports they’ve attended and the most frequent answer heard is zero.”

Armstrong said she wonders whether the lack of involvement and support in women’s sports is due to student apathy or lack of publicity.

“We can have four people at a home swim meet and they will be the parents of my teammates because Rice lacks advertising women’s sports,” Armstrong said.

On the other hand, according to Katie Jensen, a member of the cross-country team, some Rice athletes have felt the positive impact of additional financial resources.

“I think [Rice Athletics] is trying to have a bigger presence on campus and I think that the extra fundraising is good for facilities and bringing more student-athletes into the mix,” Jensen, a Lovett College junior, said. “I know track and field is getting a new locker room so I'm excited about that.”

Jensen said she would like to see the extra donations being utilized to foster relationships beyond Rice.

“The extra money could be spent on connecting the athletics department to the community and doing more to encourage sports in areas surrounding Rice,” Jensen said.



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