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September 4, 2013On the top floor of the Stephen M. Ross School Of Business, with an incredible view overlooking The Big House in the distance, the building's namesake announced a charitable gift to the university that will pay dividends for decades to come.
Ross, the owner of the Miami Dolphins and a graduate from the Michigan Business School, donated a record-breaking $200 million to the university, with $100 million allocated for the business school and $100 million allocated for the athletic department.
Ross views his time as a student in Ann Arbor as a pivotal period of his life. He has always wanted to give back to the university - and, now, he wanted to do the same for the athletic department, which he views as an integral part of the overall Michigan experience, for students and student-athletes alike.
"The level of school spirit at Michigan probably does not exist on any other campus in the country," Ross said during a Q&A session with Michigan president Mary Sue Coleman. "When you meet people from Michigan, they are thrilled to have gone there, probably more than any other school in the country.
"What the athletics department does for the school itself, it spills over. It doesn't exists in other schools. Living in the east and seeing eastern schools, I tried to convince my daughters to come here. In my mind, anyone who has an opportunity to come to Michigan should grab it."
For Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon, the gift is of a magnitude never seen before.
"This is a historic day," Brandon said. "Certainly, the business school has experienced a $100 million donation before, thanks to the generosity of Steve. Michigan athletics has never received anything close to this. This is truly a transformational gift that will have a dramatic impact on our athletic program for decades to come, and we can't thank him enough for his generosity.
"It affords us to give them facilities to study in, prepare academically in, all the way to strength and conditioning, health and wellness. Practice facilities and competition facilities. Every one of our 31 teams will be in a position to say, 'We can compete for the best talent in the country.' Young people coming to campus on a recruiting trip want to see commitment in their sport. They was to believe that they will have every opportunity to succeed, and facilities become a very important part of that."
As a thanks for the generosity, Brandon asked the Michigan Board Of Regents to name Michigan's athletic campus after Ross.
The two first began discussing Brandon's future plans for the Wolverines' athletic campus two years ago.
"I have spent a lot of time with him, working through out vision of what the campus could look like, walking him through the 16 projects and getting his input and involvement. This is a man who understands real estate, understands how to build beautiful, functional buildings."
The Wolverines are currently refurbishing Schembechler Hall, which is on schedule to be completed for an unveiling during Michigan's spring football game in 2014.
They also have construction on team office building for softball and a renovation of the field hockey stadium.
After that, Brandon has "identified 16 projects that will fundamentally change our athletic campus to the betterment of every one of our 900-plus student-athletes and our 31 coaches and team."
"This investment will really go to the betterment of our Olympic sports, our women's sports, a number of sports programs that, quite frankly, haven't had significant donations in the last 10 or 15 years," Brandon said. "It's going to make a lot of student-athletes, this jumpstart on our capital campaign.
"Our lacrosse men's and women's teams, don't have a facility to compete in. Right now, we're kind of making due. One of our highest priorities is to give lacrosse practice and game facilities and a home for them to operate out of. Our track and field programs, our men's and women's programs, have really been in subpar facilities for quite some time. We need to fix that. We have a lot of work to do with strength and conditioning. Our academic success center probably needs to be three times larger than it is right now, to accommodate all the student-athletes and all the needs they have.
"Our soccer team needs a home. Our rowing teams needs rowing tanks and a home. Our aquatics program, we need to expand our deck space and our pool capacity. Our volleyball, wrestling and gymnastics program need a competition facility that allows us to get all the fans in that want to see us perform. We have a lot of things in store. A new clubhouse for our golf course, which is old and dilapidated. We generate an incredible amount of laundry, and we need new spaces to do that, as well."
Ross' $100 million contribution, "takes the whole project and makes it very achievable," Brandon said.
He hopes to accomplish one-three of the facilities a year, meaning the transformation of the athletic department could be fully complete within six-eight years.
But Ross' donation is just the beginning. Brandon's rough estimate of the total cost of future development into the project: $350 million.
"This is a huge down payment in a project that is going to be ongoing," Brandon said. "I sent email messages to many of our large donors last night and said, 'This isn't going to let you off the hook. This is a huge down payment, but we need a significant increase in the balance of our fundraising to get where we want to go ultimately with those 16 projects.
"We have, thankfully, many other people who care a lot about what we do. They are willing to invest in the importance of our work in Michigan athletics, and those gifts will be equally important for us to get where we ultimately want to go."