Basketball program sees impact of completed 500 for 50K challenge

Oct. 5, 2015

Audrey Jensen
[email protected]

The UCCS men’s and women’s basketball teams gained funding for scholarships after a donor agreed to donate $50,000 if 500 people donated to basketball scholarships by May 8.

Because the 500 for 50K challenge was completed a night before May 8, $14,430 (in addition to the $50,000 donation) was raised for athletic scholarships for the basketball teams.

A total of 563 donations came in and ranged from $1 to $3,000, according to Beau Kelly, program manager for University Development.

“Right now it will be used for when either coach (Jeff) Culver or coach (Shawn) Nelson wants to sign an athlete and they don’t have it in the budget,” Kelly said.

The donations will be added to student fees that currently pay for the men’s and women’s basketball teams, which will be used long-term.

“It’s if we need funds we have them. It gives (coaches) a lot more freedom, knowing they can recruit who they want to get, that’s a right fit for the program.”

Senior associate athletic director Nathan Gibson said a lot of students supported the campaign along with faculty and community members.

“A lot of the 563 gifts were folks that didn’t just support basketball but that wanted to help us raise money from an athletics perspective.”

Gibson expressed that it was great timing because of the success of the basketball teams.

“Basketball is our most visible sport, it’s a sport that takes the most funding to be successful,” Gibson said.

“From our standpoint, we wanted to use this as an opportunity to find people who support what we do and translate that across the board, specifically scholarships.”

Gibson added that most UCCS athletes are on more academic scholarships than athletic scholarships.

“It’s a misconception that all of your athletes are on full rides, it’s not Division I,” he said. “Our student athletes are great students first and foremost and to get more athletic aid and have that available to them is going to help.”

Kelly said this money will give the coaches a chance to sign elite recruits and compete with smaller Division I schools.

“If we’re up against a Division I school, they have to give a full ride,” he said. “We have to have the scholarship support to continue to recruit those elite athletes.”

Since UCCS is a Division II school, they are required to fund $250,000 in athletic scholarships every school year. Over the last ten years, UCCS athletics funding has reached almost $1,000,000.

“This has allowed us to grow our sports programs and allows us to compete with other schools. From a national perspective, the amount of aid we give out is still not extraordinary,” Gibson said.

As far as who gets the partial athletic scholarships, the coaches make the main decision when they recruit student athletes.

“At the end of the day, 100 percent of what we do for a campaign like this goes to scholarships – its helping men and women that plays sports get a degree from UCCS, that will always be our priority in fundraising,” Gibson said.

“I think it will continue to develop a good basketball team, our program is in a good place now,” Kelly said.