Donors to specific University of Tennessee academic programs no longer will qualify for season tickets to athletic events under a policy that takes effect in the 2010-11 season.
In order to be considered for season tickets and parking passes, all donors - to academics and athletics alike - will need to contribute to the new Tennessee Fund, which will be overseen by the athletic department.
Gifts may be made to academics through the Tennessee Fund, but donors won't be able to designate those donations toward specific academic programs, UT said. Instead, campus leadership will allocate academic donations.
The athletic department is pledging an additional $2.875 million per year, on average, in "direct cash support" to UT - in addition to the $1.375 million for nonathletic scholarships and $1.125 million for parking garage debt service already given - to assure academic funding doesn't suffer. That's a total of more than $50 million over the next decade.
"The (additional) contribution is intended to replace potentially lost gifts from donors who had contributed to academics to receive ticket and parking benefits," according to a letter that will be sent to donors.
If donors want to designate gifts to specific academic programs, they will need to donate directly to academic departments and won't be eligible for athletic tickets.
Starting with the 2010-11 sports seasons, the athletic department "will begin assigning all athletic benefits (season tickets, away-game tickets and parking)," UT stated.
About 2,500 nonathletic donors receive athletic benefits. That's about 5 percent of the 45,000 donors who give to the university, according to a UT fact sheet.
The new Tennessee Fund will include the Volunteer Athletics & Scholarship Fund and Lady Vol Boost-Her Club. UT said it created the new fund to "consolidate and streamline the athletic benefit program, ensure equity in the program, and eliminate any confusion for donors regarding tax deductibility of their gifts."
The merger will add an additional 3,000 parking passes and 35 percent more football tickets for away games, UT said.
Contribution levels entitling donors to purchase tickets will not change, and all existing ticket priorities will be maintained, although parking priorities for donors will be reassigned annually, based on the points they've accumulated, UT said.
The university says about 16,000 tickets and about 35 percent of parking and away-game tickets go to donors who give at least $500 in a given year to nonathletic programs.
"Over the past few years, it has become more and more apparent that maintaining two separate football and men's basketball priority programs was not only inefficient in terms of resources and staff allocation, but has also created benefit differences and confusion to donors," UT Interim President Jan Simek said in a statement.
"Tennessee has historically had a unique partnership between academics and athletics - especially as it relates to our donors' ability to have athletic benefits for academic donations," Simek stated. "We feel this will improve service and fairness for all donors while allowing the university to continue its unique tradition of using athletic benefits to reward general university support."
Chloe White may be reached at 865-342-6341.