Scholarships can be the deciding factor when it comes to an athlete continuing his or her education after high school.
Some college athletes wouldn’t be able enroll if it wasn not for scholarships and few would be able to afford tuition if scholarship money wasn’t available to them.
SIU athletes, as well as athletes at other schools, are able to receive different types of scholarships; some partial and some full. Some compete as a walk-on, but they will receive little or no financial support from the university.
Donors of the Saluki Athletics Scholarship Fund pay an annual amount to secure priority seating and parking for basketball and football games. All contributed money goes into a fund for scholarships.
Within the last few years, the athletic department has collected more than a million dollars in scholarship money through the fund. In 2009 and 2010, it peaked at $1.2 million.
In the last fiscal year, the athletic department didn’t receive as much, but did garner a hefty total of $850,000.
Donors who contribute to the scholarship fund have many perks. They can receive priority points distinguishing them from others when allocating postseason tickets as well as their own reserved parking space.
John Cherry, an alumnus and donor for more than 30 years, has earned the title of a “Saluki Champion,” a donor who has contributed $10,000 or more.
Not only has Cherry contributed to athletic scholarships, he has also donated to Saluki Way, a 10-year project which included the new football stadium, indoor practice facility and renovation of SIU arena.
Cherry said as an alumnus and former athlete, it is very important to donate to the athletic department.
“Athletes need support from the people who love and care about the university,” he said. “In my opinion, we alums should all give our part.”
Although Cherry enjoys watching SIU basketball the most, he said each of his contributions counts for every athlete on campus.
“When I give to SASF, I’m giving to all sports,” he said. “I don’t give money just to basketball even though it’s my preferred sport. I’m supporting the whole athletic program.”
Gabe Tippy, SASF director, said athletes are always grateful for what they receive, and the donors are usually happy to give.
“We try to let donors know how important the scholarship fund is,” he said. “Not just for our numbers, but for the student athlete and the athlete’s experience because this is important in any student athlete’s life.”
Senior women’s basketball guard Jordyn Courier has been on a full scholarship her entire career as a Saluki.
“I get to see what it’s like for other people who have to work to pay for school and I know it can be a constant struggle,” she said. “My roommate isn’t on a scholarship and when I see some of the things she goes through I just feel blessed.”
Courier has younger siblings and said her scholarship has helped her family tremendously.
Various athletes from each sport participate in the annual Thank-A-Thon where each of them call donors and thank them for their contributions.
“I would like to think that most donors, if not all of our donors, understand that their support fulfills an opportunity that a student athlete may not otherwise have,” Tippy said. “And I would hope to think it’s a fulfilling thing to give that student athlete to do something they may have dreamt of all of their life.”
Former outside linebacker Juan Avila said his scholarship helped his family. Avila started off as a walk-on, but worked his way up into earning nearly a full scholarship after two years.
Avila was offered a number of scholarships before committing to SIU. He said he is glad he committed to SIU and had the chance to redshirt because it made him a stronger athlete.
“Coming here and having the opportunity to work out with good athletes was great,” he said. “Instead of having everything given to me I had to work for it.”
It was a very emotional day for Avila when he found out his hard work paid off.
“After I left coach Lennon’s office, I sat in the locker room for nearly an hour,” he said. “I was very emotional and at that time I knew I could help my family out and, most importantly, continue with my education.”
Symone Woolridge can be reached at email@example.com, on Twitter @swoolridge_DE, or at 536-3311 ext. 269