Athletics News

Buff and Blue Fund Challenge Nets Record Number of Alumni Donors

In her 31st year as head coach, Margie Foster-Cunningham saw her alumnae win a new challenge.
Feb. 29, 2016 The second annual Buff & Blue Fund Challenge featured a twist. The 2016 challenge called for alumni of all GW Athletics’ 27 varsity teams to give back to their programs, with the three teams that saw the highest percentage of participation earning a bonus from Michelle Rubin, ESIA BA ’91, the chair of the GW Athletics Advisory Council.

After claiming their first ever East Atlantic Gymnastics League Championship last season, GW Gymnastics landed the Buff & Blue Fund Challenge title this season with nearly 50% of all gymnastics alumnae contributing.

“I am so proud of our gymnastics alumnae family for winning the Buff & Blue Fund Challenge. It feels great!” said Margie Foster-Cunningham, in her 31st year as head coach of the program. “I would like to thank all of our alumnae for their support. The university has been extremely generous to the athletics department, but it is the partnership between the university and our alumni that can really make a difference for our athletic programs. The women’s gymnastics alumnae really came through for us!”

Along with the financial boost from their former student-athletes, the gymnastics team also took home the first place prize from Ms. Rubin: $7,500. In total, Rubin contributed $15,000 with $5,000 going to GW Lacrosse who came in second with a 44% participation rate, and $2,500 to women’s soccer whose 39% rate was good for third.

“It was my privilege to be part of the Buff & Blue Fund Challenge, and I am thrilled with the results,” said Rubin. “The enthusiasm and competition among all 27 varsity sports was great to see. To engage athletics alumni, many for the first time, is so important. This challenge was just the beginning and I am already looking forward to next year.”

Including Rubin’s $15,000 gift, the Challenge raised more than $155,000 for GW Athletics. More than 600 former student-athletes participated, a record for GW Athletics, with the overall 15% giving rate from alumni topping the national average.

The support of GW Gymnastics alumnae and the $7,500 first place prize will serve as a fundraising springboard for a locker room renovation. “Locker rooms are used on a daily basis by GW student-athletes and can provide a ‘wow factor’ in recruiting,” explained Foster-Cunningham. “This project will provide an improved and renovated home for our program and will cover daily facility needs for our young women and coaches, resulting in the place where championship teams come together.”

Tracy Coyne, head coach of the lacrosse team, was excited with her team’s second place finish in the Buff & Blue Fund Challenge. “We can’t thank Michelle and our alumnae enough for this wonderful financial boost to the program,” said Coyne. “I am proud to be a part of such a supportive alumnae group. They really embraced the opportunity to support the team and did so in a big way. We are thrilled to be one of the teams that is benefiting directly from Michelle’s gift.”

The $5,000 second place prize will go toward new home and away uniforms for the lacrosse team and enhance their spring training trip by adding a special cultural activity to the itinerary.

“While we never like to lose, the Buff & Blue Fund Challenge has been one of the few athletics opportunities to create a win-win situation,” said women’s soccer head coach Sarah Barnes, whose team came in third. “We are excited to have placed and thankful to the alumnae and Michelle Rubin for their generosity and commitment to our program. There are so many alumnae who I’ve only met once – or never – who stepped up to support the program in this year’s Challenge. It’s a great reminder of what an honor it is to represent the women who built this program.”

Barnes will use the $2,500 prize to kick off fundraising for new wooden lockers for her team. “Programs that consistently compete in the NCAA tournament recruit elite players every year, and in today’s environment, facilities matter,” she said.

While the top three teams earned prize bonuses in this year’s Challenge, GW Athletics was the real winner.

“Philanthropic giving is the lifeblood of most successful collegiate athletics departments and it is crucial to our ability to continue to climb in the national rankings across all of our sports,” said Director of Athletics and Recreation Patrick Nero. “Because of people like Michelle Rubin, our future is strong and bright. We are most grateful for Michelle’s generosity, as she was the spark plug for us to achieve unprecedented heights in terms of our alumni giving. Backed by her commitment, our former student-athletes have already established new record numbers for giving this fiscal year, at a rate that exceeds the national average. We had an overwhelming response to the Buff & Blue Fund Challenge and we’re excited for what else is to come.”