Fundraising problems have plagued UW-Milwaukee athletics for some time when compared to other universities in the area.
Concordia University received a one million dollar donation from Kapco Inc. to help build their new 2.7 million dollar baseball field. Milwaukee School of Engineering has broken ground and started to build a new 30 million dollar soccer and lacrosse field atop a parking structure, thanks to fundraising efforts made by MSOE and a major donation by Robert and Patricia Kerns. UWM’s basketball program is stuck between choosing whether to stay at the woefully inadequate Klotsche Center or moving back off campus to U.S. Cellular Arena. UW-Milwaukee’s baseball stadium, Hank Aaron Field, would rank as abelow average high school stadium much less as a Division I ballpark.
During its largest fundraising campaign MSOE reportedly received 77 million dollars in gifts. It was during this period that Drs. Robert and Patricia Kerns donated over 75 percent of the $31 million that was used to build the Kern Center.
Dr. Robert Kern has been a member of MSOE’s Board of Regents since 1992 and holds an Honorary Doctor of Engineering, whereas Patricia Kerns has an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters. MSOE has fostered and grown relationships with donors that do not necessarily have an initial connection with the school.
Athletic Director Andy Geiger, currently in his last month in the position, created some public relations problems for himself and the school when the decision was made to move the basketball team back to the Klotsche Center for the 2012-2013 season. Geiger’s expected plan to turn the Klotsche Center into a practice facility and build an on-campus multi-purpose arena has not been talked about in recent months. Future Athletic Director Amanda Braun, who officially takes over in May, has stated that looking at the arena issue is a part of an overall plan that she is looking to create when she arrives.
It is unrealistic to expect that UWM Basketball will return to U.S. Cellular Arena any time soon. They were not able to turn a profit for the 2011-2012 basketball season as attendance continued to fall off and are operating at a reported 10 million dollar deficit. The Klotsche Center provides an arena in which the university does not have to pay a lease and subsequently the university does not lose money.
Donations to the university spiked at the end of the former Head Basketball Coach Bruce Pearl’s era and into the beginning of Rob Jeter’s tenure as Head Coach. This was when enthusiasm towards the basketball program was at its apex. Obviously success in a major sport is going to raise an awareness towards the school and will help jump start donations just from name recognition.
Currently, UWM is hurting their ability to recruit above average athetes to their sports teams. This is due to the poor state that their athletic buildings are in. These issues are hurting their ability to garner donations to the university.
It is an embarrassment that the baseball team is still playing at Hank Aaron Field, which is not located near the university. Chancellor Mike Lovell has promised that UWM will launch a capital campaign that should help in creating new funding for the sports programs along with the university as a whole. If the university does not start to take steps to improve the status of their athletic facilities the universities standing as a Division I program will be in jeopardy.