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WVU's Big 12 schedule leads to big bump in donations

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- The excitement over West Virginia University's Big 12 Conference football schedule has given the Mountaineer Athletic Department more than a million-dollar bump so far this year.

Matt Borman, a WVU assistant athletic director and executive director of the Mountaineer Athletic Club, said Wednesday that annual donations to the athletic club are running about $1.4 million ahead of last year.

"As of April 1 last year, we were just over $3.5 million; this year we're over $4.9 million," Borman said. "We have seen a significant number of new donors come on board and current donors increase their donation."

Borman said the university's move to the Big 12 on top of WVU's record-breaking performance in the Orange Bowl in January has had a significant impact on the fan base.

"There's a lot of excitement about the football season coming up and the move to the Big 12, and I think they're excited about the quality of football that will be played," he said.

Donations to the athletic club raised over $12.1 million for the WVU Athletic Department last year. That money helps fund scholarships and day-to-day operations in the department.

Donations include annual contributions and gifts people make to secure priority consideration for football season tickets.

Last spring, WVU athletic officials decided to raise the minimum required donation levels for priority seating to increase funding for the department.

Bigger donation checks are combining with increased football season ticket sales to generate more revenue. 

Matt Wells, assistant athletic director for marketing and sales, said football season ticket sales are running at a record pace this year.

The department is in the middle of the priority ticket sales period. Season ticket holders from last year and new Mountaineer Athletic Club donors have until May 15 to renew or purchase new season ticket packages.

As of Wednesday afternoon, the ticket sales had topped 5,500. Wells said that was well ahead of the 4,989 tickets sold through April 18 last year.

"At 5,500, we're up about 10 percent compared to the same date last year," Wells said.

However, the rate could change between now and the end of the priority sales period, which ends May 15. The ticket office can book a maximum of 38,200 season tickets. Last year, it sold 34,750.

Season ticket sales are expected to increase over the next month.

"This time of year it's pretty steady," Wells said. "The majority of orders will come in right around the May 15 priority deadline, but it's just a positive, healthy sign that the numbers are remaining ahead of pace with that deadline."

The increase in the number of tickets sold so far, combined with a $30 price increase for season tickets this year translates to a funding increase of about $350,000 for the Athletic Department when compared to the same point last year.

"That's a positive thing for the department," Wells said. "The earlier the orders come in obviously impacts our cash flow."

While sales are 10 percent ahead of last year, the increase over previous years in the last decade is even bigger. 

Wells compared total sales through April 15 to prior years. This year, the ticket office had sold 4,823 through April 15.

"Other years it's been as low as about 1,200," Wells said, "So there's been a range of numbers between 1,200 and 4,823."

That range makes more than a million-dollar difference to the athletic department.

The 4,823 tickets sold translate to about $1.9 million in revenue. Even at today's prices, selling just 1,200 tickets would bring in just $474,000.

"That is an encouraging sign for us that our numbers are trending ahead of pace," Wells said. "We're certainly pleased with that, and certainly hopefully we expect it will continue."

Wells said this was the first year the university allowed people to both buy tickets and make their athletic club donations on the ticket office's WVUgame.com website.

He said that has helped streamline the process for fans.

Wells said the goal for next year is to have the website updated so fans can make their donation, buy their season tickets and also purchase their parking passes for WVU games all from the same website.

Contact writer Jared Hunt at jared.hunt@dailymail.com or 304-348-5148.


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