The biggest Big Blue donors: Find out who donates the most to Kentucky sports

lblackford@herald-leader.comFebruary 23, 2013 

An elite group of University of Kentucky sports fans known as the Wildcat Reserve gives nearly one out of every six dollars donated to UK Athletics. Find out who they are, what they give and what they get in return.

See an interactive of the biggest donors and where they sit in Rupp Arena

On an iPad? View the Wildcat Reserve seating in Rupp Arena here

See who the Wildcat Reserve members are and how much they gave

Photo gallery: Wildcat Reserve members' seats

Price of admission

Joining the Wildcat Reserve requires a $100,000 annual donation to the K Fund, the fundraising arm of UK Athletics. In the past 3½ years, contributions from Wildcat Reserve members have made up 16 percent of total K Fund donations.

Membership benefits

■ A private dinner with the university president, the athletics director, and head coaches for football and men's and women's basketball.

■ A reserved parking space, with a personalized name plate, at Commonwealth Stadium and Rupp Arena.

■ Credentials to attend post-game news conferences for football, men's basketball and women's basketball.

■ The opportunity to stand in the tunnel (near the home locker rooms) at Commonwealth Stadium and Rupp Arena as Wildcat teams take the field or the court for one game.

■ Specialized UK Nike gear featuring a unique "members only" Wildcat Reserve logo.

■ Two premium seats at Big Blue Madness.

■ The opportunity to buy premium season tickets and an increased ticket allotment for football bowl games and the men's SEC and NCAA basketball tournaments.

■ The opportunity to attend private practices for football, men's basketball and women's basketball.

■ Sideline access to the annual Blue-White spring football game.

Background

UK officials said they started Wildcat Reserve in 2009 to differentiate a "premium level of giving" within the K Fund structure. DeWayne Peevy, executive associate athletics director, said men's basketball coach John Calipari — known as a maven of sports marketing — was not involved.

Money raised

Over the past 3½ years, Wildcat Reserve donors have given $12.3 million, which is 16 percent of the $76.6 million collected by the K Fund during that time, according to records obtained by the Lexington Herald-Leader under the state Open Records Act.

Money spent

Donations to the K Fund contribute to athletic scholarships, athletics facilities and coaches' salaries, according to the K Fund website. "I cannot say enough about the support of our Wildcat Reserve members," UK Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart said in a statement. "Without them, it would be impossible for the University of Kentucky to provide the opportunity for our student-athletes in 22 sports to pursue a first-rate education while competing at the highest level. Our donors play a critical role in funding more than 340 scholarships, making the department self-sufficient and allowing us to contribute millions annually to the main campus."

Legal agreements

Some donors to the Wildcat Reserve sign legal agreements with UK Athletics regarding their contributions. The documents, obtained through the state Open Records Act, outline exactly how tickets or other benefits will be managed. For example, Wendell and Vickie Bell's agreement gives them naming rights for a potential recruiting room and practice courts at Joe Craft Center; the right to buy six basketball tickets with a one-time right to transfer ownership of them within the family; the right to buy six SEC and NCAA posts-eason tickets for men's and women's basketball, including the Final Four; the right to buy six post-season football bowl tickets; and the right to travel with the team for one away game in men's and women's basketball, football and volleyball.

Why they give

Wendell Bell, the CEO of Enerfab, a fabricated-steel company in Northern Kentucky, said he and his wife, Vickie, "were looking for a venue to get closer to the program and help out." Bell is a native of London who went to the University of Arkansas but remained a Big Blue fan. "Growing up in Southern Kentucky was all about UK basketball," he said. "We were always listening to the radio, and even when I got away would follow the UK Athletics." In 2011, they pledged $3 million to UK Athletics.

Mason Miller, a lawyer and a principal of Armstrong Technology Services in Lexington, said the perks of being in the Wildcat Reserve are unimportant. "We gave the money to UK because we're fans and because they have a lot of good folks over there, not just basketball, but all their sports," he said. "I think athletics is an important part of college. I think an important part of growing up is being able to succeed and fail in any competitive endeavour."

Arthur Logan, the retired CEO of Logan Uniform in Shelbyville and a UK alumnus, said he loves the university and its total athletic program. "I want them to excel in everything they do," he said. "My wife and I are in a position where we could give something back. I felt like they gave me a lot and I'm returning the favor."


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