Michigan State basketball coach Tom Izzo talks about MSU benefactor Dan Gilbert, MSU alum, businessman and Cleveland Cavs owner, who, along with his wife Jennifer, donated $15 million for upgrades to Breslin Center and non-athletic programs at MSU. John T. Greilick, The Detroit News
Detroit — It’s been an eventful two days for billionaire Dan Gilbert.
Less than 24 hours after Gilbert’s Cavaliers received their NBA championship rings at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Gilbert returned to Detroit on Wednesday to announce that he and his wife, Jennifer, pledged $15 million to their alma mater Michigan State University.
The donation will aid the basketball programs and Breslin Center renovations. It will also support two Michigan State programs: the Detroit Scholars Program (DSP) and the Resource Center for Persons with Disabilities (RCPD). How the money will be divided among the programs is still to be determined.
“On behalf of my wife and myself, I’d like to say it’s an honor to be in a position to be able to contribute and help Michigan State University in any way that we can,” Gilbert said. “It’s been a long time since we’ve been talking. (Athletic director) Mark (Hollis) was wondering what was going to happen here but when he comes calling, you’re never going to not agree to eventually do the right thing.
“Between Mark and everyone else here representing the university, these three areas are real important to us, important to the university and important to Detroit.”
The DSP provides academic support and scholarships for Detroit-based students attending MSU and the RCPD works with roughly 2,000 students each year with varying disabilities to find solutions to the challenges they face in higher education.
The Breslin Center addition — in all a $20 million project — involves construction of a new box office, the Tom Izzo Hall of History and, for the student-athletes and coaches of the men’s and women’s basketball teams, the addition of the Draymond Green strength and conditioning center, a hydration station, lounges for players and recruits, and an alumni locker room.
“I use this line a lot. I’ve gotten a chance to live my dream, but I really haven’t yet,” men’s basketball coach Tom Izzo said. “(Gilbert) makes me realize I haven’t because when you get done with one big dream, there should be another dream to try and accomplish.
“I just want to thank both of you for helping another one of my dreams — the future of Michigan State University. What you’re doing for it, what you’re doing for people who aren’t as privileged, aren’t as lucky that they, too, will get a chance to live their dreams.”
Izzo added the gift will allow MSU to have one of the top facilities in the country, which will play a vital role in recruiting.
“The 16-, 17- and 18-year-olds are a little different than the adults and I always compared it to a girl going on a blind date,” Izzo said. “If two guys drove up, one in a Corvette and one in a Chevette, I know which way my wife is going.
“In all honesty, we’re going to be able to tell a recruit that a guy that’s been successful and these are the kind of people when they leave, they still give back. I think that helps us leaps and bounds not just with the facility, but with the statement it sends.”
In addition to Izzo, Michigan State president Lou Anna K. Simon, women’s basketball coach Suzy Merchant and Hollis were on hand for the event at the Gilbert-owned One Woodward Avenue building.
Gilbert, the founder and chairman of Quicken Loans and chairman of Rock Ventures LLC, moved his family of companies to downtown Detroit in 2010, creating thousands of new jobs.
He has also invested more than $2.2 billion to purchase and renovate more than 95 properties in Detroit. His companies employ nearly 30,000 team members, 17,000 of them located in downtown Detroit.
“Thank you for the opportunities you’re creating across our state, the city of Detroit and Michigan State University,” Hollis said to Gilbert. “It’s incredible what you do for other people. That’s the gift we try to keep giving at Michigan State — constant ways to create opportunities for individuals to have incredible lives, and your gift has gone a long way to helping the future of that.”