Ross' $100M to transform U-M athletics

Those who can’t do end up buying.

At least that’s apparently what Michigan alumnus Stephen M. Ross has done with not only the Miami Dolphins, but also with his most recent $100 million donation to the University of Michigan athletic department.

“I’ve always loved athletics,” Ross said at a press conference Wednesday. “I just wasn’t that good at one.”

Ross’ $100 million donation to the athletic department is part of a $200 million total gift, which is the largest single donation in the university’s history. Half of the total donation will be given to the Stephen M. Ross Business School and the other half will go toward 16 projects on Michigan’s athletic campus, which will now be renamed the Stephen M. Ross Athletic Campus.

Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon referred to Ross’ donation as a “huge down payment” on a transformational project which will happen over the next many years. Upon completion, it will run a bill around $350 million. However, Ross’ gift is the launch pad for the fundraising campaign, which will be launched on Nov. 8.

Two of the 16 projects have started. Those include the renovations to Schembechler Hall on South State Street (which Brandon hopes to dedicate at the Wolverines’ 2014 spring game) and the softball complex. Renovations to the field hockey complex will begin soon and will be the third project on Brandon’s check list.

“We’ve identified 16 projects that will fundamentally change our athletic campus to the betterment of every one of our 900-plus student athletes, our 31 coaches and our 41 teams,” Brandon said. “It affords us the ability to give them facilities to study in and prepare academically all the way to strength and conditioning to health and wellness, practice facilities and competition facilities.”

Both the football, hockey and men’s and women’s basketball programs have undergone significant renovations over the past few years, and Brandon said that a number of these projects will be focused on several of the non-revenue athletic teams.

“This investment will really be geared to our Olympic sports, our women’s sports, a number of the sports programs that frankly haven’t had significant investments in the last 10-15 years,” Brandon said. “It’s going to make a lot of student athletes happy.”

The discussions for this gift began about two years ago, according to Brandon.

Brandon said he hopes to complete a few projects every year so that the full vision of this transformation could be seen well within the next decade. It seems as though next on the docket will be building practice and competition facilities for the men’s and women’s lacrosse team, as well as renovations and upgrades to the men’s and women’s track building. Brandon also mentioned creating “homes” for the men’s and women’s soccer program and upgrades to volleyball, wrestling, swimming and diving and rowing.

But it won’t just be straight sports development. Brandon said the strength and conditioning program will be improved, as will the $12 million academic center (which was led off with by a $5 million donation from Ross in 2006).