MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – In the glory days of the Big East, WVU athletics was one of the biggest spenders in the conference, according to current athletics director Wren Baker.
Now in 2023, Baker says that’s not the case.
“In about every metric that you would look at, we’re probably below our peers in terms of spending,” Baker said.
Baker’s first year in his tenure at WVU has been full of action, and as a result, some of the fundraising initiatives that were at the top of the athletic department were put on hold. Per Baker, the department is a “couple months behind” from its goals for developing fundraising initiatives.
With football season right around the corner, the department is looking to actively engage the fanbase and potential corporate partnerships.
“We’ve got to find a way to bring in more revenue,” Baker said. “We do not have a spending problem. If you compare us across a variety of spending categories. We’re very efficient with the dollars that we have, but we’ve got to eat, breathe, sleep [and] think 24/7-365 how can we bring in more revenue?”
In addition to engaging donors and acquiring valuations for potential corporate naming-rights deals, Baker is looking to add more premium fan experiences similar to Club 35 at the Coliseum. The most practical application would be to expand Milan Puskar Stadium and/or the WVU Coliseum to include suite seating.
“I do think there is an appetite to sell suites,” he said. “I don’t buy into that we don’t have enough people who can afford them to build more suites. The demographics of our alumni base and fanbase is not any different than a lot of other Big 12 schools.”
Baker and deputy athletics director Steve Uryasz are teaming up to lead the Strategic Visioning and Initiatives Platform that will search and execute fundraising activities and networking initiatives in efforts to boost the school’s donor base. For example, the initiative could engage former WVU letter winners to plan reunions, according to Baker.
While still very unclear, the hope is that the new-look Big 12 in 2024 could provide some relief for Olympic sports in the event that the conference uses geographical pods for scheduling.
“There’s a possibility – depending on how we schedule in certain sports – we could reduce costs. If we could lock-in and play in divisions, you can potentially cut some costs. But there’s also a lot of miles out there [and] it could go up.”
Why does the department need to scale-up its budget? The goal is to provide a top-of-the-class experience for each WVU student-athlete in order to optimize performance and build on the school’s already attractive recruiting selling points.
Baker believes that the nutrition, sports medicine, and strength teams for each program could use a boost, and that each sport’s digital and creative content departments could reach new heights with proper funding in today’s ever-growing digital age.
“My job is to find a way for our coaches to have the tools in their toolbelt that they need to be successful,” he said.