Ragin' Cajuns Athletic Foundation
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April 12, 2009 Joshua Parrott Daily Advertiser "Ragin' Cajun Stimulus: Foundation covers the bases; join the conversation";
RAGIN' CAJUN STIMULUS: Foundation covers the bases; join the conversation
UL seeing immediate benefit from formation of athletic foundation as needed funds begin flowing to university
Joshua Parrott • firstname.lastname@example.org • April 12, 2009
Scott Farmer expected to receive a lot of feedback from UL's fan base in the first week after the Ragin' Cajuns Athletic Foundation was introduced to the public in a press conference on April 3.
Farmer wouldn't talk about specific dollar amounts from early donations, but UL's senior associate athletic director said that the immediate response for the RCAF has been overwhelmingly positive. He should know since he was involved in helping pass out nearly 4,000 brochures about the organization on April 4 before the annual spring football game and a home baseball game against Middle Tennessee.
Last week, RCAF chairman John Bordelon told The Daily Advertiser that in the 48 hours leading up to press conference that board members received nearly $100,000 in community donations. In fact, during the press conference, the foundation reportedly got two checks that topped $10,000 hand-delivered to the podium from the audience.
"We had a lot of supporters show up at the press conference, and they opened up their checkbooks and handed us checks before they left," Farmer said. "When I was handing out brochures last Saturday, people were telling me that they were hoping for something like (the RCAF) to come along.
"Every day, more and more checks come in the mail."
And while every dollar counts during the early stages of the RCAF, Farmer realizes that it takes more than just money to make the organization successful.
You need a vision. Then you need a plan. Then you need a foundation. And above all, you need to communicate that to your fan base. There's also the importance of the university and athletic foundation being on the same page in terms of short-term and long-term goals and solutions.
That's part of what Farmer and others from the RCAF learned when they consulted schools across the country about some of the struggles their respective athletic foundations faced in the early going. Some of those schools included nearly every member in the Sun Belt Conference, LSU, the University of Washington, North Carolina State and Appalachian State.
Farmer said people from the Tiger Athletic Foundation at LSU were "very helpful" and "handled every question we had."
Rick Perry, the TAF's executive director of operations, remembered being in a similar situation back in 1987 and was more than willing to help. At that time, the TAF was just getting started. (In 1978, the Varsity Club was formed as a division within the LSU athletic department. Five years later, it was replaced by Tigers Unlimited, a non-profit corporation. After becoming a tax-exempt charitable organization from federal income tax under section 501 (c) (3) of the Internal Revenue Code in 1984, Tigers Unlimited reorganized and amended its articles of incorporation to formally change its name to the TAF.)
Much like the TAF at LSU, the RCAF's mission is to be the main fundraiser for UL's athletic teams. That includes overseeing an Annual Athletic Fund that will provide essential dollars to operate the athletic department on a yearly basis. There's also a Capital Fund for specific initiatives, including facility improvements, endowments for coaching salaries, tutors at the Student-Athlete Athletic Center and maintenance dollars to sustain facility improvements.
The timing couldn't be better for the RCAF's arrival given the current economic climate for the university. Gov. Bobby Jindal recently suggested budget cuts of $67 million to the state's UL system - including $13.7 million for the Lafayette campus - to help address a $1.3 billion state shortfall. UL's total athletic budget is currently a shade more than $10 million. UL athletics would face the same percentage cut for state-appropriated funds as the university itself.
The TAF, which started with four full-time employees, now has 24 at last count. The RCAF hopes for similar growth and success in time.
"They're doing exactly the same thing we did when we started in 1987," said Perry, the TAF's executive director of operations for the past eight years. "We talked with athletic foundations at Clemson, North Carolina State and Texas A&M because they had been around and were successful. It was a great way to get information from every single group and see what fit for us. You get ideas from different people and develop your own system based on your own fan base and your needs.
"There's no need to reinvent the wheel."
According to Farmer, the biggest step right now is to make sure UL fans know they can help support their school through the RCAF. Donors receive priority parking passes for football and men's basketball games by contributing to the annual fund.
"The first year is really about educating people," Farmer said. "We want to get the word out that the annual fund is the vehicle to get reserved parking at football and basketball.
"At the end of this year and going into the second year, we will have some targets on the specific (amount of) money we want to raise for the future."
Last week, UL athletic director David Walker said the university and the RCAF could begin planned facility renovations by as soon as August. At that time, Walker had hoped improvements would begin at Alfred and Helen Lamson Ragin' Cajuns Softball Park and at the track and soccer complex.
After that, Walker said the next projects would be at M.L. "Tigue" Moore Field for baseball and at Cajun Field. As the RCAF grows financially, there are expected endowments for coaching salaries, scholarships and tutors for the Student-Athlete Academic Center.
Walker was out of the office this week and unavailable for further comments.
Farmer said university officials have met with architects, who have come up with preliminary designs and renderings of what those upgraded facilities would look like. But Farmer added that there are no blueprint or engineering drawings available at this time.
The idea behind the upgrades, Farmer said, is to improve the "game-day atmosphere for fans, coaches and student-athletes." He did not go into further detail about the specific plans, which would likely include improvements to restroom facilities, locker rooms, coaches' offices and media press boxes.
One concern is the lack of space at the track and soccer complex. The current facility is the home to seven athletic teams - soccer, men's and women's cross country, men's and women's indoor track and men's and women's outdoor track.
"We definitely need to take care of our fans," Farmer said. "But we need to take care of our coaches and student-athletes, too."
Private funding, Perry said, can provide a school with the "extra support that's going to allow you to go beyond where you were in the past and do what you want to do for your athletic program in the future."
He expects big things in the future for UL athletics.
"I know the support people have for those programs," Perry said. "That's a passionate fan base. I know they're going to enjoy success as soon as things get rolling there."
The key, UL president Joseph Savoie said, is to plan for today and not worry about the past.
"This is all about looking forward," Savoie said at the RCAF press conference. "We may face temporary or momentary difficulties, but we always need to be facing forward and moving forward, which is what this organization helps us to do."* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
The wait is over: UL introduces RCAF
UL turns corner with addition of Ragin' Cajuns Athletic Foundation
Bob Heist • email@example.com • April 4, 2009
Aretha Franklin sang about it. And fans of Cajun Nation have begged for it.
Ragin Cajuns Athletic Foundation chairman John Bordelon talks about its formation Friday during a press conference at the Petrolum Club in Lafayette. UL introduced the RCAF to the public on Friday. (Photo by Brad Kempfirstname.lastname@example.org)
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April 1, 2009 Cajuns Introduce RCAF - Link to RCAF Page Included
Media and fans are invited to join officials with the University of Louisiana as the Cajuns unveil the Ragin’ Cajuns Athletic Foundation during a press conference at The Petroleum Club. John Bordelon, president of the RCAF, will discuss the purpose and structure of the foundation and also introduce board members. Scott Farmer, senior associate director of athletics, will comment on the strategic plan of the RCAF and its priorities.
The press conference for the Ragin’ Cajuns Athletic Foundation will be held on Friday, April 3 at 9:30 a.m. in The Petroleum Club, 111 Heymann Boulevard.