Stony Brook Athletics launched its latest fundraising campaign asking people to “Believe in the Seawolves” as the university sports program faces an uncertain future.
On Thursday, Oct. 8, the university’s Giving Day, Director of Athletics Shawn Heilbron held a virtual town hall through Facebook Live to answer questions surrounding the status of Stony Brook Athletics for this school year and for the future.
“Let’s have the Stony Brook Athletics story of 2020-2021 be the greatest story in our history,” Heilbron said during the town hall. “I think we’re going to do that.”
One of the major concerns, he said, was the financial standing of the university since revenue dropped throughout the COVID-19 crisis, calling it a “dramatic financial impact.”
He mentioned that the program lost nearly $700,000 from basketball, alone, and when the school closed in March, students were reimbursed their student fees which neared a $2 million loss.
“Ticket sales, donations, corporate partnerships … you could imagine the impact there,” he said. “The trickle down comes from the state to the school to us, and many universities across the country are dealing with it.”
He said it was close to $5 million in revenues lost.
“We’ve made some tough decisions, many staff positions are being left unfilled,” he said. “We’re very concerned about our future … schools across the country are cutting sports, these are difficult decisions that are hard to come back.”
The new fundraising campaign coined “Believe In the Seawolves” comes from asking people to do just that. “Believe in our value and commitment to this university,” Heilbron said. “If we can get people to get behind that we can come out of this stronger … It’s more than a campaign, I want it to be a movement.”
But just because COVID-19 guidelines aren’t allowing sports to be played as of right now, Heilbron they are not cancelled, just postponed. He added that fall sports were moved to the spring, which will make for a very active season.
“It’s going to be quite an active period for us,” he said. “We’re just starting to look at what those schedules will look like and will be announced very soon.”
He said that utilizing this time now will be a springboard for next fall, and are keeping safe in doing so.
The athletes who are participating in practices now, like basketball, have a regimented screening process before hitting the court.
“Student athletes come through one entrance, have their temperature checked and then they get a wrist band,” Heilbron said. “They can’t come in if they don’t have the wristband.”
Although it is an uncertain time for the student athletes who worked to play at Stony Brook University, Heilbron said the first day of fall semester was a good one.
“It literally was an energetic lift in our department that they needed,” he said. “It was good to have the family back together.”
The university announced after Thursday’s Giving Day campaign, more than 240 donors combined to contribute gifts exceeding $200,000 to go towards athletics. The campaign will continue to fundraise throughout the remainder of the year.