BELLINGHAM - While substantial effort is under way by fans and alumni to save the Western Washington University football program, it's unlikely to reach the level of funding needed to keep the team, administrators have said.
More than $250,000 in pledge money has already been raised by an alumni group hoping to save the team since the school made the announcement on Thursday, Jan. 8. That figure, however, is far from the $10 to $12 million WWU president Bruce Shepard has said it will need to save the program.
"The only way to do it, now, would be to have some guaranteed or endowed income," Shepard wrote in an email to alumni Greg Root that was obtained by The Bellingham Herald. "Otherwise, we could not ethically bring in players on the hope of funds being there next year and they would not come anyway."
Around 400 people have already signed up to support the program through the Web site www.savewwufootball.com. The site raised $230,000 in combined operating cost and endowment pledges in the first 12 hours it was up. The group has not started to collect money at this point because there is no indication it would help save the football program.
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"Right now we just want to show that there is a will behind our way," site administrator and former WWU football player Kirk Kriskovich said. "We want the administration to know that there has been an untapped group of supporters out here for years."
The group originally set a goal of raising $500,000 in pledges and 500 registered supporters, but it looks like those numbers could be surpassed within 10 days at the site's current pace.
Still, it's unlikely to change the decision WWU made to drop the program. WWU athletic director Lynda Goodrich echoed Shepard's remarks in a phone interview on Thursday, Jan., 8.
"The decision has been made," Goodrich said. "If there's one thing I've learned, it's that you can never say never, but I don't think football will be coming back anytime in the foreseeable future."
The university also issued a similar statement on its athletic Web site in regards to the potential of fundraising efforts to save the football team.
"We cannot ethically commit to maintaining a program based on the hope that additional significant funding might be found in the future," it said on the Web site. "The amount of money required to not only sustain the program today, but also in the years to come, is not a realistic possibility given the tough economic times we're currently facing."
Reach Joe Sunnen at firstname.lastname@example.org or 756-2862.