Falcon Club finds ways to aid and finance athletics

Despite tough economic times, University alumni still find the time and money to support the athletics department through the Falcon Club. Alumnus Brock Bierman graduated from the University in 1986 and has supported Falcon athletics ever since. ‘Athletics touches almost every aspect of university life whether it’s through students attending games or teaching athletes life lessons that will go beyond their time at the University or even the sport they are playing,’ Bierman said. ‘[Athletics] also helps bring recognition to the University and bring alumni together.’ The Falcon Club serves as a financial support group for Falcon athletics and all 18 sports at the University. The club’s motto is the ‘team behind the teams,’ to put emphasis on the importance of members. Falcon Club Director Jane Myers, who has been with the club for 13 years, said that now, more than ever, is when members will need to continue to support Falcon athletics. ‘We’re up in membership 38 percent from last year,’ Myers said. ‘We’ll need to be more attentive to keeping people tuned in to how crucial they are to our future and what our needs are.’ ‘ Falcon Club members can contribute on a variety of levels. There are nine levels of contribution, with the top four – coaches’ corner, silver, gold and champion’s circle – offering the most membership benefits. The difference in levels is the amount a member donates. The top four levels, titled the ‘Victor’s Society,’ include levels of donation exceeding $1,000. The highest level, the champion’s circle, is new to the Falcon Club and is equivalent to one year of one student’s tuition and fees. There are 15 members in the champion’s circle. ‘Those in the champion’s circle get to choose their level of involvement with the student athlete,’ Myers said. ‘They receive the most benefits from our program.’ Money Falcon Club members choose to donate can go to various places in the athletics department. Members can pick whether their money will help support the athletic department and scholarship funds, student-athlete support services, a specific sport or another area of their choice. The Falcon Club is not only about fundraisers, but ‘friend raisers,’ Myers said. ‘Friend raisers’ are to keep members engaged and make friends while raising money. Certain ways the Falcon Club tries to engage members is with the Falcon Club pavilion on football game days and hospitality areas at other sporting events so members can congregate and socialize while watching University athletics. Although there has been a lot of speculation surrounding the construction of the Stroh Center, the new $36 million basketball and volleyball arena, it has little to do with the Falcon Club. The Stroh Center is a project funded through capital planning, and the Falcon Club raises funds through annual means. All the Stroh Center talk hasn’t impacted membership significantly, either. Although membership is up, there are 1,600 members, athletic needs are escalating. ‘Members are the base of our support,’ Myers said. ‘Falcon Club members sustain us year after year. We raise around $550,000 annually.’ A way for students, and young alumni who have graduated within the past five years, to get involved with supporting athletics is through the Young Alumni Challenge. Alumnus Burke Badenhop, now a major league pitcher for the Florida Marlins, started the program to recruit new members for the Falcon Club. According to the Falcon Club Web site, young alumni meeting the requirements can join the Falcon Club for $25, as opposed to the old fee of $50. Badenhop will match the money amount of young alumni who become members until the program ends on June 31. ‘Those who are involved more in the campus while they are here are more supportive alums in the future,’ Myers said. ‘A strong athletic department is key to the university and drawing our alums back.’