Former players donating to stadium

TCF Bank Stadium is still $4.5 million short of fundraising goal.

Bob McNamara spends his time in retirement raising money for Gopher Sports, McNamara played gopher football in 1953 and 1954.

Chris Roberts

Bob McNamara spends his time in retirement raising money for Gopher Sports, McNamara played gopher football in 1953 and 1954.

As the countdown to football season continues, money is still streaming into TCF Bank Stadium. So far, more than 2,000 people have donated to the new stadium, including some former Gophers football stars. Bob McNamara, who played running back and defensive back from 1951-1954 , donated $15,000 but has done more than simply write a check. The former All-American and professional football player has been working as a University of Minnesota private consultant, and McNamara said he has raised nearly $1 million for the stadium. âÄúI just feel as if thereâÄôs a way we can do this and do that and some of our other guys can give back that weâÄôll be close to our goal,âÄù he said. McNamara said he has helped raise money for the athletics department for the past 35 years and tried to raise money for the tennis and golf programs in addition to football. Following his seven-year professional football career, which included stints with the Denver Broncos and the Minnesota Vikings, McNamara opened a restaurant with his brother Richard âÄúPinkyâÄù McNamara âÄî the McNamara for which the McNamara Alumni Center is named âÄî which he said has helped him meet the community and make it easier to find donors. The University is approaching its fundraising goal for the stadium, and with $4.5 million left to raise, Associate Athletics Director David Crum said he is confident the Gophers will raise the rest by the inaugural Sept. 12 game. The athletics department is aiming to raise more than the needed $86 million in order to have more money in the budget for all 25 sports to benefit. Although the economy is making donating difficult for some, Krum said the stadium opening will not be delayed. âÄúThe economy hasnâÄôt helped us,âÄù he said. âÄúIt is what it is, and weâÄôre still going to open the stadium up one way or another.âÄù If the athletics department canâÄôt raise the rest of the money, Crum said the department would look into possible financing options and continue fundraising efforts through the season. Some of those options could result in the stadium taking funds from other University athletic programs. First-time donors have been a key source, helping the stadium nearly reach its goal, and Crum said more than 500 of the donations have come from new donors. Although many of the donors are new, some of the current famous NFL players, such as Marion Barber of the Dallas Cowboys and Laurence Maroney of the New England Patriots, are not among them, Garry Bowman, director of athletics communication , said. âÄúThose guys generally do not get into philanthropy until their careers are over and they know how much money they have,âÄù Bowman said. âÄúIt usually happens more toward the end of their careers.âÄù Bowman said the donations generally come from older players because current stars do not know how long their careers will last. Among the new donors is former Gophers punter Brent Herbel, who played from 1986-1989 and was an academic all-American. Herbel said he donated $25,000 for the outdoor stadium, which he believes will benefit the program. âÄúAs a punter, the dome was perfect, not having to worry about weather conditions, but thatâÄôs still no substitute for the on-campus stadium and the student support,âÄù Herbel said. âÄúIf you go to any other Big Ten stadiums where they have that situation, I think thatâÄôs something that the University could certainly use.âÄù Today, Herbel is a physician in Bismarck, N.D., and said the scholarship from the University allowed him to pursue a medical career. Herbel and McNamara are among a number of former letter-winners who donated to the stadium, and Crum said these donations are related to their experiences with the University. âÄúI think, with their positive experience here, just like alumni from the general student body, thatâÄôs what happens: Good experience turns into support later down the road,âÄù Crum said.