Utah athletics hopes to raise $150 million

When the Utes joined the Pac-12, they became part of one of the most accomplished conferences in the nation. That meant the Utes had to not only step up their athletic performance, but their financial footprint as well. In order to do so, athletic director Chris Hill said he hopes a fundraising campaign, which officially kicks off Saturday, reaches Ute fans across the globe.

Although the Utes’ success in the Pac-12 largely depends on the talent of the athletes and coaches, financial support is just as important in order to compete with USC, Stanford and Oregon. In what the U is calling the “most ambitious fundraising campaign in the history of Utah athletics,” the department is aiming to raise $150 million during the next five years, Hill said.

“In the past, we’ve never had as big of a challenge in terms of making the leap from the Mountain West to the Pac-12, in many ways,” Hill said. “I’ve teased people that we’ve jumped the Grand Canyon. It’s that huge. We’ve got a lot of catching up to do in terms of infrastructure and support for our programs so that we can be successful.”

One recent example of catching up is the demolition of the Smith Athletic Center. In its place will be a $20 million football facility that is scheduled to be finished before the start of the 2013 season.

As the success of the Utes’ football program, which has won two BCS bowl games in the past decade, continues to grow, Hill said people are more willing to make donations toward a team they know is capable of winning on a consistent basis.

“People are excited to be in the Pac-12, but we just don’t want to be in Pac-12, we want to be successful,” Hill said. “So it’s going to take support from both our new Pac-12 money as well as from our contributors and people that love the Utes.”

Although the overall goal of $150 million in the next five years might seem a bit overwhelming at first, Hill said the Athletics Department is working to make it as easy as possible for people to make contributions, however big or small they are. A quiet phase was started about a year and a half ago, and Hill hopes the department will reach its goal by 2017. Hill said people could make commitments of $10,000 a year over five years for a total of $50,000.

“One of the big goals, now that we’re in such a visible situation, is that we need to branch out besides the boundaries of the University of Utah, to wherever we have folks that are supportive of what we want to get accomplished.”

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