Broncos Athletics

Support From the Bench

Winter, 2004

Much of the University's athletic success on the field and the courts over the years can be attributed to generous donors and a dedicated group of volunteers that works year-round to help provide scholarships for student-athletes.

Since 1962, the Bronco Bench Foundation has given the University more than $25 million, most of which has gone to help fund scholarships for more than 1,000 athletes. The Bench, as it is often referred to, is larger than any other fundraising group in the West Coast Conference, according to President Rick Giorgetti '70.

Vice President Charlie Dougherty Jr. '81 calls the foundation "a big advantage" for the University, which competes in 19 Division I sports.

All-American Leslie Osborne's scholarship comes from the Santa Clara Soccer Endowment.

The Bench was founded by Sal Sanfilippo '30, J.D. '32, and others to raise money for and build Buck Shaw Stadium, which the group then donated to the University. Subsequently, it was decided to keep the fundraising efforts going to benefit scholarships at SCU.

Focus on scholarships
Today, the Bronco Bench Foundation has a $16 million endowment, more than 1,200 individual and business members, and this year will provide $1.3 million to the University to help fund approximately 40 scholarships. The Bench has periodically helped offset the cost of operations and facilities, but the primary focus is on scholarships.

"Plain and simple, our goal is to do the best we can," says Giorgetti, who played football at SCU. "The University currently allows 95 athletic scholarships [some partial] benefiting some 300 athletes. Our long-term goal is to fund 100 percent of the student-athlete scholarships allowed at SCU."

In addition to the 5 percent payout the Bench receives from its endowment each year, it counts on the annual fund drive, golf tournaments, and other fund-raising events to provide scholarship funds. The Bronco Bench accepts donations in any amount, with benefits offered for certain levels of giving.

Benefits of the Bench
For example, someone who contributes up to $299 will receive a Bronco Bench donor decal, a subscription to the Bench Talk newsletter, and invitations to special events. Benefits of larger donations include donor plaques, pre-game receptions and "chalk-talks" at men's basketball games. Bench members who donate $600 or more can get reserved seat ticket discounts or free tickets to men's basketball games, guaranteed parking at Leavey Center for basketball games, and all-sports passes. Donors who fund living or endowed scholarships even have the opportunity to travel to an away game to watch an SCU team compete.

Donors who provide living and endowed scholarships are recognized at the annual endowment dinner, where student-athletes sit with the donors and get to thank and talk to the person or people who helped make their Santa Clara experience possible. Some of these relationships carry on beyond a student-athlete's time at the University.

"When the coaches go up to introduce the scholarship players to the donors, it's a terrific moment," says Giorgetti, whose daughter, Tracy '96, started for SCU's soccer team and whose wife, Terry (Tarantino) '71, graduated from Santa Clara. "It makes everything we do worthwhile to see how the money raised benefits the athletes."

Supporting student-athletes
Dougherty, who played baseball at Santa Clara, said a number of students find it "eye-opening and enlightening" that they have a named scholarship, which can provide full tuition, room, and board. SCU has nearly 50 named scholarships.

"Every one of us on the Bench had a positive experience at SCU," he says. "We want to see these kids get a sound education like we all received."

Living scholarships are four-year commitments covering the cost of tuition, books, room, and board for a student- athlete's entire career at SCU.

Men's basketball star Kyle Bailey's scholarship is funded by the Jack and Lukra Mariani Memorial Endowment Fund, which was established in 1977.

Endowed scholarships provide permanent resources to fund the cost of a student-athlete's education because the gifts are placed in a fund in which only a portion of the earnings is used to cover the costs of the scholarship. Both living and endowed scholarships bear the name of the donor or designee.

In addition to cash gifts, the Bench accepts certain gifts and services with University approval--and subject to IRS regulations. Donors can also provide support through bequests, trusts, life insurance, personal gift annuities, pooled income funds, charitable remainder trusts, donation of real estate, and more.

Scholarships help the University attract top student-athletes to campus. SCU's student-athletes graduate at the highest rate in the WCC and at a rate nearly 20 percent higher than the NCAA Division I average.

Giorgetti represented the Bench in the search process for new athletic director Dan Coonan. "Before his introductory press conference, [Coonan] handed me a check for his contribution to BBF," Giorgetti says, adding that the Bench is "upbeat" about the direction of SCU's sports program. "We're really excited about the incoming recruits and we are committed to keep plugging away to do our best to support the athletic department. And things will only get better."

Coonan said the Bench, with its long-standing history of support, "is absolutely invaluable to Santa Clara athletics. The membership's passion, energy, enthusiasm, and funding are our life blood," he says. "With the costs of tuition and housing for student-athletes rapidly escalating, continued support from the Bronco Bench is essential to our long-term success."

For more information about giving to the Bronco Bench Foundation, contact Fred Smith at 408-554-4050 or [email protected] or Heather Kauer at 408-554-5577 or [email protected] Or go and click on Bronco Bench Foundation.