Even a small gesture can get some attention it seems. While Villanova has largely seemed to operate within a cone of silence and disinterest when it comes to alumni concerns about the direction of athletics, there are apparently still methods that will get someone's attention. 2010 Villanova alumnus Greg Karambelas learned that lesson recently when he looked into donating as part of Villanova's drive to "Beat St. Joe's" in fundraising leading up to the game.
Karambelas is a recent graduate, who didn't have a huge budget to set aside for donation, but instead of withholding the money he could spare or donating it to a general fund, he earmarked his donation of just ten dollars, "To be spent on the Villanova Football Program when they are a part of the FBS division only."
"I don't have much in the budget for donations, but at least it's a way to get my voice heard," he explained via email, hoping that the university would listen if he backed his statements with greenbacks. "They can always choose not to log on to blog sites and message boards, but there's one thing they can't ignore, and that's donations, no matter what size."
Even so, he didn't expect a response after he sent in his donation on Friday.
On Monday, however, a Villanova representative would get in touch.
We received your contribution to the Football Program - thank you. I
noticed that you would like your gift to the Football Program "when
they are a part of the FBS division only". As we are not currently a
part of the FBS division, what is another option to designate your
Please let me know and again, thank you for your contribution.
Karambelas was encouraged by the note, it was an opening to speak his mind to University officials. "I won't be backing down that easy," he said.
A day later, another Villanova Athletics staff member (whose identity was disclosed to VUhoops) reached out to Karambelas to talk. He had seen the donation stipulation being dealt with on the administrative side and was intrigued by it. While that staff member is regularly involved in relations with major donors to the program, the pursuit of the $10 variety was normally not part of the job description. Nonetheless, the means of applying that donation was apparently eye-catching.
Did $10 make a difference?
You could argue that it did, it pushed Villanova to reach out and ask questions, to build a bridge, and open up to Karambelas, even if his contact was primarily with fundraisers. At a private university, the development office is a vital part of the operation, providing funding for a myriad of projects that tuition and fees don't cover, and if development uncovers an issue, someone should listen.
Through his $10 stipulation, Karambelas was able to get questions answered. He was told that a move to FBS was still a possibility, "if the money is right," and that conference affiliation was one of the top items of discussion as the Board of Trustees met this week (on Monday), The 'Nova staffer also shared his opinion that if the school were to opt to seek membership in Conference USA or the MAC, they could "pick up the phone and be in by next week," due to the Villanova brand and the size of the Philadelphia market.
Furthermore, it was shared with Karambelas that Villanova plans to wait for more information on the ultimate value of the upcoming Big East TV deal before taking certain actions -- like potentially breaking away from the conference to form a new league with the other Catholic Universities. Ultimately, the money available in the "New" Big East will be the major factor in determining the next move for the university.
None of these items were things that couldn't have been divined by reading the reports coming from various outlets, and some of them may have been a little over-sold (such as the talk of an FBS move), but at least they were talking. He didn't need to be an insider or a major donor to hear from the University, he just needed to back his words up with actions that hit on a soft spot -- the pocketbook.
So while $10 hasn't moved Fr. Peter Donohue to actively pursue an FBS upgrade, it is one active way to register your voice. The university will always be concerned about it's piggy bank, and as Karambelas has shown, that concern is perhaps a weakness in the administration's cone of silence and disinterest. As much as we'd like to hope that an internet petition will move the needle for Villanova administrators, the only real way to be heard is to speak through the most important constituency in University operations — the fundraisers.