The FSU President was one of a number of FSU officials that talked about the Seminoles’ new fundraising effort.
Curt Weiler, Tallahassee Democrat
Florida State is in the early stages of transition planning with an end goal of better integrating Seminole Boosters, Inc., and the athletics department.
The status of FSU athletics and the well-being of student-athletes is a collaborative commitment between the independent Boosters organization and the university’s athletics department. The shared vision over the years has been on strategic planning, communication and, of course, winning.
The formula has helped make FSU one of the most visible and successful programs nationally.
FSU President John Thrasher told the FSU Board of Trustees during the board’s general meeting Friday at the Tucker Civic Center that discussions have started between the groups.
“Basically, we are in the early stages of talking about how we can better integrate the Boosters and our athletic department,” Thrasher told the Democrat following the meeting. “My idea is to see how we can bring those two organizations closer together, both from the standpoint of the overall mission of athletics, the prioritization of facilities, the synergy of staff, to make it a more effective organization.”
The discussions come at a time when FSU athletics is dealing with operating budget issues tied to a struggling football program and declining season-ticket renewals. Thrasher also pointed to impending changes in leadership as a catalyst for the discussions.
Thrasher’s five-year contract expires in January 2021. Chief of Staff David Coburn was named by Thrasher as the Seminoles’ interim director of athletics last August, and Coburn told the Democrat last week he has been asked to serve while FSU overcomes “a short-term financial challenge.” The Seminole Booster Board is also preparing a transition plan for the retirement of CEO and President of Seminole Boosters Andy Miller, who has served as President since 1975 when he was hired at age 24.
With all three leadership positions likely to change within a year or two of each other, now is the time to prepare for the transition.
“All of us have kind of a shelf life of a few more years probably here,” Thrasher said.
Seminole Boosters, Inc., raises funds for an athletic department that features over 500 student-athletes participating in 20 sports programs.
Every year, Seminole Boosters raises $53 million in total cash and pledges on behalf of the athletics department.
The Boosters exceeded their $250 million goal by more than $100 million over a seven-year period in the University’s $1.1 billion Raise the Torch Campaign which ended June 30.
Last September, Seminole Boosters also launched a five-year $100 million campaign for athletics and already has raised more than $60 million towards a variety of men’s and women’s sports projects. The organization has raised more than $1 billion since 1975, and, together with athletics, has built and reshaped Seminole facilities. The organization’s land acquisitions have also helped expand the university’s campus footprint.
The organization’s three annual initiatives are to fund scholarships, raise private funding for facilities and increase the athletic department’s annual operating revenue.
While Seminole Boosters is a separate 501(c)(3) direct-support organization of FSU, its operations remain tethered to the university. All booster projects, as well as its annual operating budget, must be approved by both the Boosters’ board of directors and the FSU administration. The organization is also audited annually and those audited financial statements are on file with the State of Florida.
In some schools, the fundraising organization reports directly to the athletic director. While Seminole Boosters does not report directly to the athletic director, the athletic director, the President of FSU, chairman of the Board of Trustees and Chairman of the University’s Athletic Committee – an NCAA requirement – serves on the Boosters’ board of directors and executive committee.
Miller, who has served six FSU presidents, agrees with Thrasher’s intention to encourage dialogue between athletics and Seminole Boosters, Inc. Doug Russell, the current Chairman of the Seminole Booster Board, said the organization supports Thrasher.
“We are here to serve the university and are open to any ideas that will enable us to provide the highest quality resources to our teams, our donors and our fans,” Russell said.
More from NoleSports:
Thrasher said discussions will focus on how athletics and Seminole Boosters, Inc., are aligned – and can be better aligned – for student-athletes.
“We need to make sure we are doing everything we can do to assure we are on the right track on all that and we are doing all we can with our resources,” Thrasher said. “We don’t have the most resources of some of these major universities in the country but what we have we’ve used efficiently.
“We want to see if we can continue to do that.”
Byron Dobson contributed to this report. Reach Jim Henry at [email protected]