The Daily Gopher is hearing that Minnesota received a $15M donation from the estate of late University of Minnesota Regent and former Cargill executive David Larson, information first circulated in an article from the Pioneer Press' Tom Powers and corroborated by a story intimated by the Star Tribune's Sid Hartman last night. A team source has indicated the sizable donation is for the purpose of constructing a new football practice facility, part of a larger campaign launched by the athletic department earlier this fall and spearheaded by $25M donation from the Land O'Lakes corporation for a Student Athlete Excellence Center.
More from the Hartman column:
The word is that David Larson, a former Cargill executive who passed away Oct. 25, left $15 million to the Gophers football program with the money set to go toward the building of a football practice facility. That facility is something coach Jerry Kill believes is very necessary for the program to be competitive.
Larson, a University of Minnesota Regent since 2005, was very close to Kill. The word around campus is that Larson made other contributions to the athletic department during his lifetime as well.
Larson was a fantastic Gophers football fan. He attended practice on a regular basis and hardly ever missed a game or even a scrimmage, and he was one of the biggest boosters of Kill.
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David Larson made several donations to the Gopher football program in recent years, including a $500,000 donation during Jerry Kill's first season at Minnesota to improve the academic condition of the program. From an article by David Shama on the passing of Regent Larson:
What Kill told Larson after he inherited the Gophers program in late 2010 was that academics among his players were a mess. The collective GPA performance was so poor the Gophers were in danger of losing scholarships, per an NCAA policy that monitors grades. "We had seven kids who were in bad shape," Kill said.
Larson told Kill he wanted to help and asked what was needed to improve the schoolwork of the football players. Larson, who had been one of Cargill's top executives until retiring in 2010, was devoted to philanthropy and he gave $500,000 to the football program to pay for tutors, laptops and also enhancements to the weight room.
The collective academic performance of the football program has jumped from a GPA of about 2.1 to 3.0 and better in recent semesters. Kill doesn't hold back his gratitude for what Larson did.
"He set the standard," Kill said. "He never wanted credit. He's the reason period (for improvement). He saved some lives."
Shama has additional details on the progress of the master facilities capital campaign, including new information regarding the funding mix necessary to raise the $190M total:
Kill wants ground broken next year on a new facility that could cost about $25 million. Such action will signal a commitment to football resources at Minnesota and that is important for Kill to see.
An athletic department spokesman said the new practice facility will be built "as fast as humanly possible." That's not a commitment to next spring, although someone in authority may have told Kill awhile ago spring was a circle-it-time on the calendar.
The practice facility is part of a master plan to improve athletic facilities at Minnesota and is tied to a $190 million fundraising campaign. Sources report progress continues to be made on the fundraising. Major help from at least one local corporation and also a private source (reportedly $15 million) is said to be in place.
Earlier this year Land O' Lakes made a $25 million commitment to support a wide range of University of Minnesota activities, but the centerpiece will be building the Intercollegiate Athletics Center for Excellence that will benefit over 700 student-athletes through academics and nutrition.
Sources indicate, though, that to reach $190 million the University will have to borrow money as part of the funding mix.
Facilities fundraising chairmen Lou Nanne indicated on the Dan Barreiro radio show this week that Minnesota has raised approximately $70-$75M of the $190M total. Whether the donation from the Larson estate is included in the reported $70M figure is unknown at this time.
Regarding when the Gophers can break ground on new facilities - which Kill wants done this spring - rumors suggest a total of $90-$95M plus bond offerings is the level needed for action, though the timetable and necessary seed amounts are unofficial and unconfirmed at this time.