Ragin’ Cajun Athletic Fund donations on path to set record _lowres

Advocate staff photo by BRYAN TUCK -- University of Louisiana at Lafayette Athletic Director Scott Farmer speaks about the school's sports program and its future Thursday at a luncheon in Lafayette.

The Ragin’ Cajuns Athletic Fund has raised $1.4 million in donations so far this year to supplement the school’s athletics budget and with seven months left in the year is well on its way to surpassing the $1.6 million raised last year, University of Louisiana at Lafayette Athletic Director Scott Farmer said Thursday.

Farmer spoke to a room of roughly 260 people, including most of the university’s coaching staff, at an event at the Lafayette Hilton sponsored by the IND Monthly.

“You are our foundation,” he told the crowd. “Because of you, I always say it’s a great day to be a Ragin’ Cajun. You give us momentum, and we’re not stopping. Together, we’re going to fight on.”

Farmer said the school’s athletic department does “so much with so little,” citing as one example last week’s softball victories against Arizona and Texas. The two schools dwarf UL-Lafayette’s $18 million athletics budget with $90 million and $170 million, respectively, he noted.

“In order to continue to compete, we’re going to need to grow that budget,” Farmer said. “And we’re going to ask you for help.”

Farmer outlined plans to continue to grow Cajun Field with the contributions it gets from the athletic fund, possibly renting out the stadium’s eight-story tower to businesses or as venues for private parties.

“We want them to be used to their fullest,” he said. “We hope that companies will think about using our facilities to help them grow their businesses, grow client relations and attract more industries.”

He said successful and well-funded athletic programs can help attract more businesses to the Lafayette area.

“An athletic department with its related activities and its facilities can help seal those deals,” Farmer said. “It’s just another way we can give back.”

The successes of the school’s athletic programs include securing five Sun Belt Conference championships, a third R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl football title in three years, an NCAA March Madness basketball tournament appearance and a No. 1 nationally ranked baseball team.

Head football coach Mark Hudspeth closed out the Thursday program, encouraging the audience to keep supporting the school’s athletic programs.

“I want to speak for every coach here and tell you we can’t do it without you,” Hudspeth said. “This is a team. This university, this community, everybody involved is one big team. We’re only as strong as our weakest link.”

Editor’s note: This article was changed on May 30, 2014, to note that the $1.4 million in donations to the Ragin’ Cajuns Athletic Fund so far this puts it on a course to exceed last year’s $1.6 million in donations.