After COVID-19 derailed the University of Northern Iowa’s athletics budget — shaving $1.1 million from its 2020 revenue expectations and creating an annual deficit just as big — the program is leaning harder on philanthropy, recently unveiling gifts enabling facility upgrades to proceed.
UNI Athletics on Monday announced a $2 million donation from a Florida couple with UNI ties will support a new outdoor artificial turf facility for a football program needing its own practice space.
Doug Goschke — who with his wife, Ann, made the donation — in a statement said he asked UNI football coach Mark Farley this summer what he needed to make “his strong football program better.”
“Without hesitating he said, ‘An artificial turf outdoor practice field,’” Goschke said in the release. “As a former collegiate football player, I know that you play like you practice. Having a practice field with turf similar to your competition is a plus.”
UNI hasn’t submitted to the Board of Regents plans for a new outdoor turf field, which are being finalized in hopes of beginning construction in the spring and could come in under a $2 million threshold requiring board approval.
Although officials haven’t determined a final project cost, they reported the Goschke donation means “funding will be in place to ensure there is a safe and quality surface and amenities for years to come.”
Right now, UNI’s football squad shares practice space in the heavily-used UNI-Dome with the track and softball programs — not to mention “revenue-generating events like high school football championships, sports shows, and concerts,” according to UNI officials.
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The new outdoor turf facility — to be named after the Goschkes — “creates more opportunities for other teams to share the UNI-Dome field” and relieves the strain of scheduling conflicts.
“The key to the development of a team is through the ability to practice and prepare in a safe and competitive environment,” Farley said in the release. “This new field will allow future Panthers to prepare through all weather conditions on a surface that is safe and usable late into the fall as well as in early spring.”
The Goschkes, while not UNI alumni themselves, made the gift in memory of Doug’s late sister Junean Goschke, who graduated from UNI in 1966 and served on several UNI athletics advisory boards. Doug’s sisters Pam and Sue Goschke also graduated from UNI in 1973 and 1977, respectively.
Additionally, UNI earlier this month announced two spaces within its soon-to-be-constructed $2 million football team meeting room will be named in recognition of donors “who have greatly impacted UNI Athletics.”
Within the Van G. Miller Family Charitable Foundation Meeting Room, “The TrueNorth Companies Offensive Meeting Room and the Donna and Eldred Harman Defensive Meeting Room will complete the football team meeting room suite.”
Although regent approval of that project for the northeast corner of the UNI-Dome — along with athletics projects on the University of Iowa and Iowa State University campuses — was delayed in the spring as COVID-19 ripped across the state, the board since has given the go-ahead for construction to begin this winter and wrap next fall.
“The donor-funded space will be utilized by the UNI football team as a central meeting location, as well as suites for game days as a revenue generator for the athletic department,” according to UNI athletics officials. “The multifunctional room also will serve as a classroom, study space and departmental meeting space.”
TrueNorth, a Cedar Rapids-based insurance and risk management services provider, with locations across the Midwest — including in Cedar Falls — employs “numerous UNI alumni.”
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Eldred and Donna Harman established scholarships and provided support specifically to the UNI-Dome, Gallagher Bluedorn Performing Arts Center, and the McLeod Center, “in addition to their support of the football team meeting room.”
“Eldred passed away in September of 2011, and Donna passed away in May of 2020,” according to UNI. “The gift to the football team meeting room came through a planned gift the couple established to support UNI.”
The team meeting room is part of a first phase of the campus’ UNI-Dome renovation plan.
“The remaining plans for the UNI-Dome renovation will be released at a later date.”
UNI — like UI and ISU athletics — this year took significant budget hits from COVID-compelled losses. Where the Panthers had budgeted for $1.83 million in alumni and foundation support in the 2020 budget year that ended June 30, it generated $1.38 million — contributing to its overall losses.
For the current budget year that began July 1, UNI is projecting alumni and foundation support topping $2.5 million — just shy double what it generated in fiscal 2020.
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