The University of Connecticut Athletes launched the Fight On Fund Oct. 29 to help offset rising costs due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Michael Oblinger, UConn senior associate director of athletics for development, said.
According to the Fight On Fund website, UConn Athletics has experienced new expenses and unprecedented revenue losses within the past few months. By creating a fund, all donations will go towards academic support, sports medicine, scholarship support, nutrition, COVID-19 testing, mental health services and anything affiliated with keeping student-athletes safe.
Oblinger said one of the highest new expenses is COVID-19 testing. The costs for COVID-19 testing alone are estimated to be over $1 million dollars, he said.
“There are more precautionary things going around: [personal protective equipment], hand sanitizer,” Oblinger said. “Everything we are doing nowadays to keep student-athletes safe is more expensive.”
UConn announced Nov. 2 that only family members and coaches will be permitted as spectators to basketball games in Gampel Pavilion this winter, according to The Hartford Courant. Oblinger said the Fight On Fund should help with the expected financial losses from no longer having ticket sales.
“Our ability to generate revenue is drastically reduced,” he said. “You can’t come to games or buy tickets, [but] you can support the place and be a fan. You can still participate this way and help us during a hard time.”
According to the Fight On Fund website, the cost of a “champion” or UConn student-athlete is $88,516. The highest percentage of the cost, 58%, goes towards out-of-state tuition and books.
The Fight On Fund is an unrestricted current-use fund, according to the website. This allows funds to be used when and where they are most needed.
Oblinger said anyone can donate. The best way to donate is to visit the Fight On Fund website and scroll down to the “Give Now” button, he said.
For fans, they will receive double the amount of priority points when they donate from now until the end of March, Oblinger said. He said this priority system ranks donors and influences their selection time for seats, parking pass and other amenities related to games.
Oblinger said some university athletic programs are not choosing to create a specific fund. However, he said the Fight On Fund highlights specific needs and how the donations will be helpful.
“With something special like this, it helps with awareness and drives home the need for folks,” Oblinger said. “It’s time to rally behind us this time more than over.”
UConn Athletics will continue to keep its student-athletes as one of their top priorities, Oblinger said.
“Whether you have donated to Athletics or not before, now we really need you,” Oblinger said. “Just because the fans can’t come, it doesn’t mean we stop our core mission of supporting student athletes [with] nutrition needs, mental health, coaching. We are still functioning as normal as possible, not getting as much revenue [we need] to survive.”