SALT LAKE CITY — Utah kicked off its "Campaign for Utah Athletics" program with a dinner Saturday night at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Athletic director Chris Hill unveiled a goal to raise $150 million over the next five years to his department's top 150 donors. He explained that $50 million would come from Pac-12 Network revenues, while the remaining $100 million would come from donations.
Hill said the money is needed because of a combination of things.
"Most of which is we need to build an infrastructure that gets us more competitive with the other opportunities that are on other campuses," Hill said. "We're at another level and the cost of doing our programs is just more and facilities are more needed than they have been. We can't really wait. Everybody is excited that we're in the Pac-12, but we all want us to do well right away."
Efforts in regard to facilities, staffing, scholarships, student-support services, medical, strength and conditioning, etc., Hill explained, need to be backed by an infrastructure.
Although Utah has full membership in the Pac-12, the school won't receive a complete revenue share until a staggered arrangement is complete — 50 percent in 2012-13 and 75 percent in 2013-14.
Utah, meanwhile, still has some fundraising to do for its new football center and softball facility. Outdoor tennis courts, men's and women's basketball practice facilities, renovation of various training and locker rooms, as well as a modern swimming complex are among the most pressing needs.
"You can almost go down the list of every operation and there's some things that need to be done," Hill said, while noting that the reality is giving the coaches and athetes the tools they need to be successful.
"That's the bottom line. We've got a ways to go," Hill said. "We can't wait around and people know that we've got to make some steps to catch up with some of our infrastructure. We've got great people in place and we don't want to waste time."
At the end of the day, he added, everybody wants the same thing. As such, the university is enlisting everyone they can to help them get where they want to be and not rely on sources like ticket revenue to get it done.
University President David Pershing and Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott were among the dignitaries at the announcement dinner. Utah coaches and former athletes like Eric Weddle and Jordan Gross were also on hand.
"Obviously with the move and everything, there's things we need to get better at facility-wise and keeping our coaches and everything that goes into it," said Weddle, who reportedly made a "generous" donation of his own at the event. "... I'm in support of it — raising money and knowing that we need everyone. It's not players and coaches and the university alone. We need everyone's support and hopefully everyone understands that. Every little bit helps in the long run."
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @DirkFacer