CSU’s athletic department has been told it will no longer be receiving donations from at least a dozen boosters following last week’s firing of Sonny Lubick.
According to Mike LaPlante, associate athletic director of development, a small group of donors have notified the department of this decision via e-mail.
Head coach of CSU football since 1993, Lubick was officially fired early last week by athletic director Paul Kowalczyk, a decision that elicited strong responses from those involved with the program.
“These decisions happen all over the country,” said LaPlante of the coaching change. “This one is different because of how much of a legend Sonny is, and he’s certainly earned that. He and his family are so beloved in this community; it makes for a more emotional response.”
Apparently, for some donors, emotions translate into dollars and cents.
LaPlante said he has personally seen “around a dozen” e-mails from donors saying they will no longer give to the program.
He was unable to confirm who those donors were and said the financial impact will not be known until the true donating “season” begins in the spring.
The size of that impact “kind of depends on who (the donor) is, obviously,” LaPlante said. “But we have the lowest budget in the conference, so every penny counts.”
CSU’s athletic budget was around $19 million this year, the smallest in the Mountain West Conference. LaPlante said that around $2 million of that budget was provided by donations.
Of those donations, $1.5 million come from Ram Club, an organization of CSU boosters and alums. The remaining money comes from university fundraising events and endowments for player scholarships.
Joel Cantalamessa, a member of the Ram Club board of directors, said he has heard of donors who are upset with Lubick’s firing, but he doesn’t personally know anyone who has decided to stop giving to the program.
He did say, however, that many of the upset boosters are ones who were here before the Lubick hiring.
“I think it was the donors who were here when the program was basically horrible,” Cantalamessa said. “They have more of a perspective on it, and they have been the more vocal ones, threatening to pull their donations.”
“For the people I hang with, I think they look at it as a matter of: it can be done again with a new coach,” said Cantalamessa, who graduated from CSU in 1995.
One key question relating to CSU donors is in regard to a possible negative reaction from the program’s largest donor, Pat Stryker, who has always been supportive of Lubick.
In 2003, Stryker’s Bohemian Foundation donated a record $15 million to help renovate and expand Hughes Stadium. Included in the donation was the renaming of the field at the stadium in Lubick’s honor.
Stryker could not be reached for comment.
LaPlante said the department is working to offset any financial losses by “getting people who want to invest in the future of this program.”
“Sonny built a great foundation,” LaPlante said. “Hopefully we can take that and grow.”
The athletic department released a statement Wednesday stating that Lubick’s replacement will not be named before Dec. 10, the deadline for candidates to express interest in the job.
According to the release, there has been “a great deal of interest from across the nation” in the position, but the department is not releasing the names of any candidates.
Football Beat Reporter Jeff Dillon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.