Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
Ben Broussard could have remained in his comfort zone.
Prior to accepting a job at Colorado last fall, Broussard spent more than a decade working at his alma mater, Louisiana State University, raising funds for the athletic department.
Not only was LSU home; it was a relatively easy place to work, in terms of generating revenue. A USAToday.com database for the 2015-16 academic year had LSU seventh nationally with $141.65 million in department revenue, with more than $33.5 million of that coming through contributions.
Colorado’s numbers pale in comparison ($77.27 million in revenue, $11 million in contributions for the same year), but making the move to Boulder was a challenge the Louisiana native was eager to tackle.
“For me, it’s opportunity,” said Broussard, 40, who was hired as associate athletic director overseeing the Buff Club. “There’s a bunch of opportunities for a guy like me. I’ve got 14 years experience fundraising in the Southeastern Conference and I’ve got that down pretty well.”
Eventually, Broussard would like to become an athletic director, and he believes working with current CU athletic director Rick George can prepare him for that move.
“Rick George is a great person to work for,” Broussard said. “As you’re looking to transition to another spot, you’re hoping for career growth and that was one of the things that attracted me about this place. He said, ‘Hey, I’ll get your hands in some other things that will ultimately help you get to where you want to be.’ He’s got all the experience in the world taking a program and getting it to another spot. He’s a great person to learn from.”
While Broussard has career goals in mind, his primary concern at this time is in taking CU to another level with its fundraising.
Under George – and Broussard’s predecessor, Kurt Gulbrand, who took a similar position at Tennessee last year – CU’s athletic department has seen unprecedented numbers in fund raising over the past five years.
Broussard, however, sees room for even more growth.
“It’s absolutely a challenge, but I’ll say this: It’s a challenge and an opportunity in the same way,” he said.
“We have a very mature donor base that has done a really good job of supporting this place for a while but something we need to a better job of is finding those new people.”
At LSU and many other schools in the SEC, that wasn’t too difficult, because most of the alumni base is within a short drive of campus.
CU alums are often leaving school and moving around the country – or the world – for careers or to raise their families.
“The biggest difference is that the geography is a little bit different than what I’m used to,” Broussard said. “They leave (CU) with engineering degrees in aerospace, they leave here with super high-tech degrees, they leave here with an entrepreneurial spirit. Some of them stay, but the majority of them go back to the west coast and they end up in California and they end up in Portland or Seattle.”
Another major difference is the sports landscape. In SEC country, college football is king. In Boulder, the NFL’s Denver Broncos are still at the top, and if the weather is nice, the mountains aren’t far behind.
“In Baton Rouge or Athens or College Station or even Austin, Texas, on Saturday afternoon if the home team is playing, 99 percent of the people are doing something surrounded with that,” Broussard said. “Here, you’ve got so many other great options and it pulls you in different directions.”
With CU fans and alumni going in different directions, it’s a challenge to find donors, but Broussard is working to do that, especially with the always difficult under-35 demographic.
Those efforts will include CU hosting watch parties in places like San Francisco and Newport Beach, Calif., when the Buffs visit Nebraska on Sept. 8.
“The only purpose of that is that all those people we’re talking about, 25-35 years old, that are showing up at that bar to watch the Buffs, we see if we can get them involved in the Buff Club so we can have them and grow them so that when they can afford it, they can start coming back and sitting at Folsom,” Broussard said.
Of course, fielding a winning football team would help, and Broussard admits that’s a big factor, but he also believes CU isn’t too far away from seeing significant growth in fundraising and on-field success.
“This place, soon than later, athletically, especially as it relates to football, it’s going to get to a point where it’s going to tip,” he said. “They’re not going to go 10-1 and then have 3 down years. It’s going to be consistent. You’ve got the facilities, you’ve got the school to draw to. You can do it.
“There’s a lot to recruit to here. If we get a little bit of momentum and success, that job gets a little bit easier.”