2003: $7 million
2004: $7.13 million
2005: $6.46 million
2006: $9.34 million
2007: $10.79 million
2008: $11.29 million
2009: $14.22 million
2010: $7.42 million
2011: $7.59 million
2012: $11.79 million
Days after forcing Athletic Director Mike Bohn out largely over fundraising concerns, University of Colorado officials said they want athletics to at least double the amount of money the department raises within the next five years, pushing it past the $20 million-a-year mark.
CU President Bruce Benson said that while the university is restructuring its fundraising operations, the decision to replace Bohn "fits more into the fact that we need to raise more money."
Benson said it was Chancellor Phil DiStefano's decision to change leadership in athletics, but he acknowledged he works closely with campus chancellors and "was most certainly involved" with the decision.
"If we're going to be in the big leagues now, we've got to be doing more fundraising," Benson said.
CU-Boulder's athletic department -- which switched to the Pac-12 in 2011 -- pulled in $11.79 million in donations last year. The entire university system raised $228 million last year -- a figure that Benson wants to push up to at least $400 million annually.
While Benson said athletics provides just a portion of total fundraising, it's the "front porch" of university giving. Donors may make initial donations and stay connected with the university through athletics before expanding their gifts to other CU programs.
But Bohn said he had several measures in place to steadily grow athletics donations and was stopped short.
"You don't just jump to that level; you have to grow donations," he said.
His "sustainable excellence" fundraising plan had significant donations in the queue, he said. He also implemented a donor seat tax in basketball that brought $400,000 in annual revenue. CU has a "fragile, but loyal, fan base," said Bohn, adding that 50 percent of donors are non-alumni.
Bohn has defended his fundraising and business record, saying he's never received a poor performance review, he secured a half-dozen gifts of $1 million or more during his eight-year tenure, and the athletic department has been the top fundraising unit on the campus.
In addition to doubling fundraising in athletics, the university and its athletic department will be relying on boosters to help drum up $50 million for a $170 million athletics upgrade announced in February.
"I think the next athletic director would play a very central role in reaching that goal," said Bronson Hilliard, spokesman for the Boulder campus.
As CU begins its search for a new athletic director, it will be doing so in an era of an athletics arms race, where fundraising is becoming a larger part of a director's job description and universities are planning multi-million-dollar state-of-the-art facilities for athletes and fans.
CU donations below peers
Early in his tenure, when Bohn discussed his idea to create "The Buff Club Cabinet" -- an upper echelon of donors who give athletics at least $25,000 a year -- he was met with naysayers who said getting people to give $10,000 a year was hard enough.
The cabinet, Bohn said, has had up to 68 members.
When CU athletics last year pulled in $11.79 million in donations, it was an increase from $7.59 million the previous year. Prior to Bohn's arrival, fundraising in 2005 -- a turbulent period following the fallout from a football recruiting scandal -- was just $6.46 million.
"I am extremely proud as a Boulderite of what we've accomplished," said Bohn, the most successful fundraising athletic director in the school's history.
But CU officials don't want the athletic department to be measuring its success against past years. When stacked up against peer universities across the country, CU's athletic department falls woefully behind.
The department raises only one-third of the money that other athletics fundraisers bring in at peer universities, according to CU leaders.
The Pac-12, especially, has some fundraising powerhouses, including the University of Oregon's athletic department, which is well funded by Nike co-founder Phil Knight and his wife, who, in 2007-08, gave $100 million to the program.
The biggest year for CU athletics fundraising was in fiscal year 2009, when the department raised $14.22 million. That year, CU realized a major gift: Louise Bennett Reed, who died at age 103, left the university with more than $4.75 million for athletic scholarships, making her the largest individual donor to the department.
CU's ambitious plans
CU officials -- as they explore ways to bring in additional revenue -- are on the brink of restructuring the way the university's foundation is run, and Chancellor DiStefano has outlined ambitious fundraising goals for the entire campus.
Under the new structure, campus fundraisers will report to university leadership instead of the CU Foundation to allow for clearer and more direct reporting lines from fundraisers to administrators, including deans, the athletic director, chancellors and Benson.
"The whole goal here is to get a total chain of command from me all the way down to the person doing the fundraising on the campus," Benson said.
Additionally, Benson, his chief of staff and campus chancellors will carry out a search for an "executive vice president for advancement" who will be in charge of coordinating fundraising efforts across the CU system.
DiStefano last fall announced fundraising goals for the Boulder campus. Only 8 percent of CU-Boulder alumni are donors to the school. On average at Pac-12 schools, 15 percent of alumni give back to their school. DiStefano has said by 2016, he wants to at least double the alumni giving figure rate to 16 percent.
The campus also has a plan to increase campus fundraising to $100 million a year within the next five years. The fundraising goals for the athletic department mirror the broader goal for the campus.
"If support for athletics increases in tandem, that would lead to more than $20 million a year in giving," said Jeremy Simon, spokesman for the CU Foundation.
Meanwhile, CU will be leading a fundraising push for its major athletics facilities upgrade that includes renovations and new construction plans for a student-athlete academic center, a permanent indoor practice gym and, eventually, a new soccer and lacrosse field.
"As President Benson has recently indicated, inspiring private support is, and will become, more and more critical to what we do at CU, in athletics and in all areas," Simon said.
Fundraising challenges in Colorado
Chuck Neinas, a Boulder-based sports consultant and former league commissioner, said CU faces unique fundraising challenges, partly because of an influx of people who move to Colorado from other states and have ties to their alma maters.
Also, CU has to compete for the entertainment dollar against so many professional sports, he said.
"(University of) Nebraska football may be the state's most important natural resource, and there's no professional sports in Nebraska," Neinas said. "The Cornhusker football team is the state's team."
Athletic directors, he said, need to do more than just raise money, and they can't leave personnel management responsibilities to coaches.
"To be an effective athletic director, you have to spread your tentacles further than being a fundraiser," he said. "You become the face of the athletic department."
Increasingly, schools are picking athletic directors with definitive business backgrounds. The University of Michigan, for example, appointed David Brandon as its director of intercollegiate athletics in 2010. Brandon had played briefly for Michigan but was better known for his role as chief executive officer of Domino's Pizza.
DiStefano last week said the athletic department -- with a budget of $50 million to $60 million -- will be run more like a business and be headed by someone with experience in running a large operation.
Hilliard said the university is going to cast a wide net for candidates.
"No one should take away from this that we have our eyes set on a single type of person," he said. "We're looking for a talented individual who can connect at a deep level with fans, supporters and donors and raise money at a high level."
Changing roles of athletic directors
R.C. Johnson, former athletic director for the University of Memphis who retired a year ago, has witnessed the evolution of the top athletic administrative job over the past few decades.
He began his job in Memphis in 1995 after previously holding athletic director positions at Temple University, Miami University and Eastern Illinois University.
"It used to be that when you got tired of coaching, or tired of recruiting, or too old, you'd go into athletic administration and schedule football games," said Johnson, 71. "Over the decades, it's evolved and changed."
These days, he describes the job as being about selling more tickets, raising more money and being more visible to the public, all while graduating student-athletes, winning games and not cheating the rules.
Athletic directors were wary of fundraising in the beginning, he said. There was an old adage about boosters, he said: "We want you as donors, not owners."
Johnson also acknowledged today's arms race in athletics.
"There's never enough," he said. "It doesn't matter if you're at the University of Texas or a small Division 1 school. I've never heard anyone say, 'We have enough.' There's always facilities upgrades."
Contact Camera Staff Writer Brittany Anas at 303-473-1132 or firstname.lastname@example.org.