Professional Athlete Alums Offer ADs Unique Opportunities

November 20th, 2017 | by Francis Giknis
Professional Athlete Alums Offer ADs Unique Opportunities


Most colleges aren’t lucky enough to have their student-athletes go pro in the sport of their choosing. After all, as the NCAA is constantly reminding us, there are thousands of student-athletes, but only a handful will make the leap to the professional ranks. In fact, the numbers for men’s and women’s basketball are 19.1% and 4.9%, respectively. Football is even worse, with 1.9% of student-athletes playing professionally.

This is unfortunate for the vast majority of athletic departments, as professional athlete alums offer several unique opportunities for ADs. For example, the recent stories about Blake Griffin and Draymond Green participating in building dedications on campus at Oklahoma and Michigan State, respectively, illustrate one of the primary ways alums can have an impact. Griffin, who made the second-largest donation by an athlete to Oklahoma, has opted to name the school’s new addition The Griffin Family Performance Center. At Michigan State, The Draymond Green Strength and Conditioning Center was officially opened this past week.

Naming buildings after your school’s elite athletes makes sense for a variety of reasons. First, it connects the university to a figure in pop culture. Recruits could be enticed by following in a player’s footsteps, while boosters feel pride at commemorating excellence affiliated with their school. There’s also the obvious financial windfall associated with putting a pro athlete’s name on a piece of campus; those privileges usually don’t come for free.

However, many of the schools that have pro alums are not taking advantage of the affiliation. According to, only six active NBA players have their names on a college court or building thanks to donations. While this is not to say athletes aren’t giving to their schools, it is surprising more universities aren’t reaping the secondary benefits of putting famous names on their facilities.

While there is pushback currently against the increasing presence of sports on campuses, if athletic departments are savvy with their selection of which facilities to dedicate, they can avoid such complaints about scenarios like this; the Griffin and Green dedications are good examples of this practice as the locations remain firmly planted in the athletics sector.

For the few student-athletes who have the privilege of playing at the next level, tremendous opportunities arise as a result of their talent and hard work. What should not be ignored is how these same athletes should be embraced by their alma maters, and yet, it would appear there are many schools that are not taking full advantage of their most well-known alums.

About Francis Giknis
Francis Giknis joins College AD as a contributor after seven years of teaching and coaching throughout the east coast. Prior to writing for College AD, Francis earned an English degree from the College of William and Mary and his masters at Columbia University. Raised in a cable television-free household, he remembers binge-watching ESPN while on vacations away from home, much to the chagrin of his parents.

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