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Coach Ayers honored for 20 successful seasons


2008-03-24

College announces commitments, challenges of $13.2 million in support of Athletics

AyersSPARTANBURG, S.C. – Wofford College honored Mike Ayers for his 20 seasons as head coach of the football team with a celebration dinner and roast on Saturday, March 15. The nearly 600 attendees from across the country included retired Air Force Academy football coach Fisher DeBerry (Wofford class of 1960), Appalachian State University head football coach Jerry Moore, Spartanburg High School head football coach Fred Brown (Wofford class of 1991) and numerous former players and friends.

In anticipation of Ayers’ 20th anniversary, a specific athletics endowment campaign was begun 18 months ago. During that time, $6.7 million has been committed to the athletics endowment. Wofford President Benjamin B. Dunlap’s special announcement of a $1.5 million leadership challenge highlighted the evening. The challenge calls on friends and supporters to raise an additional $3 million in endowment, which if successful, could raise the total to $11.2 million.

Two gifts for athletics facilities, $1 million from Joe Taylor of Columbia, S.C., and $1 million from Jerry Richardson from Charlotte, N.C., were also announced at the celebration. The total amount of committed and potential funds announced for the support of Wofford Athletics is at least $13.2 million.

“The celebration honoring the career of this remarkable man was a very special evening,” said director of athletics Richard Johnson. “For those of us who know Mike, the best way to honor him is to provide him with endowed scholarships and facilities to take the program to the next level.”

“What's most remarkable and altogether typical of Mike Ayers is that he's not looking to negotiate a multimillion-dollar contract for himself, replete with year-end bonuses and buyout clauses,” said Dunlap. “The reward he’s hoping for is more scholarships and better facilities for his players. In that regard, he’s a throwback to the days of great selfless coaches like Knute Rocke, who also prepared their players for the game of life. He’s one of the finest teachers we’ve got.”

A $1.5 million challenge from Wofford College trustees Harold Chandler of Briarcliff Manor, N.Y.; Ed Wile of Atlanta, Ga.; and local philanthropists Jimmy and Marsha Gibbs was announced. Wofford has been challenged to raise $3 million for endowed athletics scholarships, which will be matched by the $1.5 million. A focal point of the challenge will be contributions to the Mike Ayers Endowed Scholarship Fund.

The leadership challenge is the first step toward the long-term goal of endowing all athletics scholarships at Wofford. Football will be the area of initial emphasis but all sports are to be included.

This approach is patterned after the Reeves Challenge issued by trustee Ed Reeves of Summit, N.J., to endow professorships for distinguished faculty at Wofford.

Wofford alumnus and South Carolina Secretary of Commerce Joe Taylor has donated $1 million for the Joe E. Taylor Athletics Center. The Taylor Center will feature a 7,000-square-foot strength and conditioning facility and offices for athletics department staff. It will be located next to Gibbs Stadium with its renovations to begin this summer. The strength and conditioning facility will provide all student-athletes at Wofford the opportunity to develop physically and competitively in athletics and in their careers beyond.

Carolina Panthers owner and Wofford alumnus Jerry Richardson has made a $1 million donation that will be used for enhancing the Richardson Physical Activities Building. Numerous improvements will be made to the complex to ensure that it is one of the most advanced athletic facilities in the nation. The project will begin in April and will be completed this summer prior to the start of the Carolina Panthers training camp held on Wofford’s campus.

For information about Wofford Athletics, contact Brent Williamson, assistant athletics director for media relations, at williamsondb@wofford.edu or visit Wofford Athletics.

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