31 Flavors of Football: Private Giving on the Rise

To help you and me get through the drudgery of August, I will present in this space a daily scoop of MSU football-ness, as inspired by a certain ice cream chain. August has 31 days, so I’ll let you work it out from there. Here is today’s flavor.


Mississippi State might have one of the smallest athletic budgets in the SEC, but there is a good bit of cash flowing into Starkville. The school has brought in a record amount of donations the past couple of years, and it’s spending $100 million on major football facility upgrades: construction of the Leo Seal Jr. Football Complex, and expansion of Davis Wade Stadium.

The expansion project is actually going to be paid for mostly in bonds, but school officials fully expect the program to generate enough revenue to pay it all back over 30 years. That’s assuming the revenue keeps coming, which it will if Dan Mullen can keep winning and is able to sell all those extra seats.

A cool $7 million in private gifts is being put toward the $75 million expansion, and the football complex is being paid for entirely with private money, including a $12 million donation from the Seal family.

As I mentioned, giving is on the rise at MSU, which collected more than $32 million in gifts and pledges during the 2011-12 fiscal year. The 2010-11 fiscal year saw a record $37.6 million come flowing in, bolstered heavily by gifts to the football complex. And of course, there is the ongoing “Today, Tomorrow, Forever” initiative, which exists specifically for facility improvements. Athletics director Scott Stricklin told me a few days ago that the campaign has raised approximately $26 million over the past two years.

What does this influx of cash mean for MSU? Well, the hope in Starkville is that it puts the athletic program – especially the football program – on par with the rest of the SEC, or at least significantly closes the gap. Doing that makes it a lot easier for coaches to tell prospective athletes that MSU has everything they need facility-wise, which should help make the close-knit family pitch more of a deal closer.

Listen, this is college sports at the highest level. It’s a business, and in the end, business is about money. Allow me to borrow a line from noted cultural philosopher Young MC: “You got no money and you got no car, then you got no woman, and there you are.”