Despite small endowment, athletics dept. successful

The University currently ranks third in the Director’s Cup.

Despite having the lowest athletics endowment in the Big Ten, the University of Minnesota continues to gain national recognition for its athletics program. In the April 9 Learfield Sports DirectorsâÄô Cup Division I standings, the University ranks third in the nation behind only Stanford University and the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. The DirectorsâÄô Cup, run by the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics, is a system that compares schoolsâÄô athletics programs by awarding points for performance evenly among sports. But success in every sport does not necessarily result in money for the athletics endowment, which totaled $25.4 million in 2008, according to a Chronicle of Higher Education study. Athletics Director Joel Maturi said stronger performances in football and menâÄôs basketball would result in higher donations. âÄúI think obviously when you win in your highly visible sports, itâÄôs easier to get people engaged,âÄù Maturi said. Third is the highest the Gophers have ranked in the DirectorsâÄô Cup this late into a school year since the cupâÄôs inception in 1993. Maturi said many people do not even realize how high the school ranks in athletics and said even though they are successful in certain sports, it may not be what the fans want to see. âÄúUnfortunately, most people donâÄôt know that weâÄôre third in the DirectorsâÄô Cup,âÄù he said. âÄúMy guess is many âĦ would rather that we go to the Rose Bowl than finish No.1 in the DirectorsâÄô Cup.âÄù The Gophers received many DirectorsâÄô Cup points for less visible sports, including menâÄôs and womenâÄôs swimming, and track and field. The University also scored points for births in the menâÄôs and womenâÄôs NCAA basketball tournaments, womenâÄôs hockey and wrestling. Maturi said he is excited about the current ranking but is somewhat surprised because the University received zero points for menâÄôs hockey and fewer points in wrestling than in past years. While lack of national recognition in more popular sports might hinder the athletics departmentâÄôs fundraising efforts, Maturi said he doesnâÄôt think the size of the endowment relates to success of the programs. âÄúI donâÄôt think it impacts your success,âÄù he said. âÄúI think it impacts your stability financially, and to this point weâÄôve been able to continue to maintain a very vibrant and viable 25-sport athletics program.âÄù Schools have different uses for their endowments, but the University uses money from its athletics endowment to pay for scholarships, director of athletics communication Garry Bowman said. âÄúThe main thing the athletics endowment does is it helps relieve the pressure of constantly raising cash to pay for scholarships every year,âÄù he said. If the endowment does not yield enough money to cover the nearly $10 million in athletics scholarships, the money would come out of the athletics departmentâÄôs budget, Bowman said. This could take money away from programs and eventually force the University to cut sports, but Maturi said the Gophers have not had to deal with those issues yet. The DirectorsâÄô Cup has no bias against the size of a schoolâÄôs endowment, NACDA spokesman Brian Horning said. He said the school that wins the cup receives a 24-inch crystal trophy and national recognition âÄî the standings are published weekly in USA Today. In some cases, endowment size could have some bearing on performance as Bowman said Stanford has one of the largest endowments in the nation and UNC has an endowment of $212 million, however that is not true for all schools. Indiana University has an athletics endowment of nearly $44.4 million , according to a Chronicle of Higher Education survey, good enough for third in the Big Ten. However, Indiana ranks 38th among Division I programs in the DirectorsâÄô Cup âÄî 10th in the Big Ten. Chris Minderman, Indiana assistant director of annual giving and stewardship , said program success is not the biggest factor in how much people give a university. Even with the coaching scandal involving the menâÄôs basketball program and the Hoosiers missing a football bowl game, the donations continue to flow into the athletics department, Minderman said. âÄúA lot of people just give to IU because they love IU,âÄù he said.