Longhorn Foundation: A going and growing concern
"...it was a very good year." - Frank Sinatra, circa 1966
So maybe Doug Messer can’t croon like “Old Blue Eyes,” but that refrain is one Messer could use talking about The Longhorn Foundation’s 2005-06 ledger.
Messer, the senior associate athletics director for fund raising whose name sits atop The Longhorn Foundation staff list, smiles as he talks about the organization.
You actually can hear the smile in his voice.
“From day one, things have been good,” Messer said of The Longhorn Foundation. “DeLoss (Dodds, UT’s Men’s Athletics Director) started it in 1985 and in that 21-year period, there has been continuous growth. And, not all of those years were great years (in athletics).”
Certainly, none of those years was like this past year when the Longhorns captured the National Championship in football.
Messer and Haila Kauffman, the director of annual giving, each noted the impact of Texas’ victory against USC in the national title game in the Rose Bowl.
“The excitement of the National Championship in football was evident,” Messer began. “The amount of growth (in the Foundation) indicated it.”
Kauffman provided figures that gave further proof.
“It was a great year, as you can imagine,” said Kauffman, who noted that the time frame she is referencing is Dec. 1, 2005 through Nov. 30, 2006.
“We had six percent growth in total donors to The Longhorn Foundation,” she continued. “Since it is not November 30 yet, there is some projection.”
Kauffman reported that the renewal rate for football season tickets was at 99.5 percent for the 2006 season. All suites in DKR-Texas Memorial Stadium were sold out for 2006.
“The annual giving rose to more than $24 million from $20.5 million a year ago,” she said.
The Longhorn Foundation, which is the principal fund-raising arm for Men’s and Women’s Athletics, is made up of loyal UT boosters. Today, it boasts a membership of more than 12,000. That’s almost double what the membership was in 1993.
Those figures are even more impressive when you consider that UT got into this game later than some other schools.
“It’s a credit to Darrell Royal and all those affiliated with the athletic department the success they had in paying the bills without something like The Foundation,” Messer said. “It’s a compliment to Darrell, the national name Texas became under him.”
Messer noted that certain schools in the Southeastern Conference and Atlantic Coast Conference already had fund-raising arms of their athletics department in place 20 years ago.
“What we did,” he said, “was pick and choose some of the things those schools did. We had that luxury to learn from them and see just what would benefit us.
“We’ve been very successful at it.”
Members of The Longhorn Foundation receive season ticket and seat location priorities for all season-ticketed sports. They also have access to hospitality areas and parking privileges at home games.
The Longhorn Clubs around the state are an extension of The Longhorn Foundation.
The Foundation’s funds assist the operating budget of the 20 sports that comprise the UT Athletics programs. The Foundation’s contributions go to fund scholarships, sports medicine operations, academic services and student-athlete facilities that are used for study, nutrition, strength and conditioning.
“What The Foundation is about is helping the student-athlete,” Messer said. “For instance, what can we do to help the tennis program? Building an indoor facility is something that would help. We want to make Texas the environment that would attract every top student-athlete.
“The expansion of DKR-Texas Memorial Stadium, UFCU Disch-Falk Field, the swimming center -- those all are things that will improve the environment. They also all are very expensive and require fund-raising efforts.”
The Longhorn Legacy staff, headed by Craig Helwig, is involved in major gifts and capital campaigns.
“The Longhorn Foundation is a positive thing for Texas,” said Messer, who also served as business manager during his stint at UT that began in 1983. He has been in his current position with The Longhorn Foundation for six years.
“Really, we’re in the friend-raising business,” Messer added. “We want to be able to help the members of The Foundation, because they certainly have been helping us.”