The University of North Carolina at Pembroke’s athletics department has a vision, most of which starts with contributions from its own.
Premier Division II success encapsulated by national titles and conference championships across all 16 varsity sports are founded by community and alumni support says Newy Scruggs, an Emmy-winning sports anchor and this year’s distinguished speaker at the Braves Club Cash Bash on April 17.
“To recruit, be a consistent winner and compete for championships, we have to raise funds,” said the UNCP alumnus and national radio host based in Texas. “Want a top football team? Give. Want a strong tennis program? You have to support it with funds, facilities and paying coaches.”
The Braves were at the NAIA level during Scruggs’ tenure as a student before making the transition to DII athletics in 1992. The university’s return to football 14 years later re-energized an alumni base across the southeast and has channeled momentum into several dormant sports including men’s basketball, baseball and wrestling.
“If we want to sustain this success and go next level we need to have our donors help,” Scruggs said. “I have worked across the country as a sportscaster and the best teams are those that have a strong base of contributors.”
The proceeds generated from the Southeastern Health Cash Bash ticket sales and auctions increase the available scholarship funds with the general scholarship fund and athletic program funds according to Brian Russo, UNCP’s assistant director of development.
The Cash Bash accounts for nearly 20 percent of the annual fundraising for the Braves Club General Scholarship Fund.
“It provides an important pipeline of funding to multiple areas,” Russo said.
The continued growth of the Braves Club, now at just over 500 members, is paramount to the Braves’ success on and off the field and is a vital piece of athletic director Dick Christy’s four-year strategic plan that kicked off last fall.
“The Cash Bash has become a signature event for our programs and is something we hope to springboard our fundraising efforts into the future,” Christy said. “It’s a great chance for current and prospective donors to get involved, have fun and meet some of our coaches, staff and student-athletes.”
UNCP athletics is building on one of the most successful eras in the department’s 73-year history with an aggressive approach to fundraising in hopes of enhancing the gameday experience for current and prospective student-athletes with renovated dressing areas and facility improvements.
Nationally-ranked with a shot at regional play this season, UNCP’s baseball team set foot this week into its new digs recently revealed inside the Jones Center. Individual wooden lockers with a personal safe, a flat screen television and a couch decorate a lounge fit for one of the Peach Belt Conference’s most consistent programs.
The upgraded locker room is a far cry from forest green metal lockers the team has used previously. The softball squad’s dressing room also received a facelift.
“We’re taking the steps necessary to ensure UNC Pembroke has facilities that rival any of Division II’s top programs,” Christy said. “We think we can become more attractive to future players and student-athletes. That starts with giving from our donors. (Cash Bash) is a perfect opportunity to introduce the extraordinary young men and women who represent the Braves to our donors, alumni and fans.”
The $150 base ticket includes admission, dinner for two and entry into prize drawings. The premium $600 ticket features dinner for eight, four entries into drawings and interaction with a student-athlete for the evening.
The event features drawings for three $1,000 winners and an auction for the fourth finalist position for a 25 percent chance to win the grand prize drawing of $5,000. Tickets are limited to 200 and can be purchased through the Braves Club at 910-775-4339 or by contacting Russo at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reach Brad Crawford at 910-272-6111 or on Twitter @MrPalmettoSDS.