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54-year-old Booster club to disband

As Ohio University student athletes begin buckling down for exams, the Green & White Club, an independent booster organization, will prepare for finals of its own.

After 54 years of service to Ohio Athletics, the nonprofit group will dissolve on June 30 because of a drop in membership and participation.

Club president Lou Horvath formally announced the dissolution at Tuesday’s annual gathering, but the movement has been in the works for more than a month.

Ohio Senior Associate Athletic Director for Development Jim Harris said he was first approached about the organization’s disbandment in early April.

The proposition was voiced later that month and was voted upon at a special meeting near the end of April.

Harris said the decision to terminate the group was unanimous.

“It’s kind of bittersweet,” he said. “The bitter side is that they were the fundraising arm of the department, even though they were in a booster role, and that was the main way that Ohio Athletics did donations (before the Bobcat Club).”

But as fundraising methods evolved, the athletic department made the decision to consolidate its efforts in the form of the Bobcat Club, which was formed in 2006 and formally provided Ohio Athletics with an in-house fundraising department.

In 2012 alone, the Bobcat Club has sought funds to construct the planned multipurpose center and men’s basketball and football locker rooms — projects that combined total $12 million — while the Green & White Club has donated about $750,000 since its inception in 1958.

Harris said the Green & White Club’s efforts were more haphazard and targeted donors on a less formulaic, fairly local basis.

“It’s led to what we have today, which is a branded name under the athletic department that is a true philanthropic piece of fundraising,” he said. “There is a bit of gratitude that is owed to the (Green & White Club) by the athletic department to making things the way they are now.”

The Bobcat Club has more of a reach than its counterpart ever did. Ohio Athletics has access to the university database, which allows it to connect with more than 200,000 alumni.

“I think that’s probably one of the main reasons it’s happening,” said B. David Ridpath, an assistant professor of sport management. “You have so many responsibilities to oversee in college athletics now and you have to reign them all in. (The Green & White Club) really is not able to survive. Even if they were able to hang in there, it’s very difficult when the university is putting all their resources into the Bobcat Club.”

With tighter NCAA restrictions on third-party booster organizations, athletic departments have looked to internalize fundraising efforts. The Green & White Club was one of the last — and cheapest — booster organizations in the country, Horvath said.

“The athletic department is going to put everything they need in its own organization,” Ridpath said. “There’s a huge importance of having control of all booster organizations. Having them all under one roof makes sense.”

Horvath said he has seen the club’s membership drop from about 1,000 members to only 162 this year. That, and a lack of interest in board positions, led to the organization’s eventual demise.

“We had trouble filling board members and as a volunteer organization, it’s hard to do what we do without those people,” he said.

The group’s website lists four vacant board positions.

The club will allocate its remaining funds to providing monetary assistance to student managers and trainers that have been a part of Ohio programs for at least two years and are entering their senior year or graduate school.

Horvath said less than $50,000 will be left to start the “Green & White Legacy Scholarship” program.

“Those are the people who need the money the most because they put a lot of time in and are not compensated,” he said.

He also noted that it was anything but easy to deliver the news.

“It was very, very sad,” he said. “It was a difficult decision for us. Something that has lasted this long … it’s sad, it’s depressing.”

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