Grand Rapids — Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel said the football team’s trip to Rome in late April will wind up costing between $750,000 and $800,000, all of which was covered by an unrestricted financial gift by a donor who wishes to remain anonymous.
Football coach Jim Harbaugh took the Wolverines to Rome after finals for a week of sightseeing and team bonding, in addition to three spring practices. The trip was optional for the players and about three dozen went on to participate in three-week study-abroad programs, and internships internationally and in the U.S.
“It’s going to come in around $750,000, $800,000,” Manuel said Tuesday at Egypt Valley Country Club, where he participated in the Meijer LPGA Classic celebrity Pro-Am. “Waiting on a few numbers, so we don’t have it final, final, but it will be around 750, 800.
“It will be about $5,000 to $6,000 a person, so it was a great investment. It was just terrific. We pay them through an educational experience like Michigan does all the time. I don’t think about it in terms of paying our athletes but if people want to say we should give something to our students of value, I can’t think of a better way to invest in them for their lifetime and their experience.”
Manuel said the donor still does not want to be identified. Donors often make large contributions to athletics, and the donor can specify where the money should go or it’s used at the discretion of the department.
“We utilized the money he gave us,” Manuel said. “It was an unrestricted donation.”
The Michigan men’s tennis team went to France for a week and played in tournaments and dropped by the French Open. The women’s basketball team is going to Italy in August.
“In the day and age where we get so much criticism about what we don’t do for our students, I just think this is an unbelievable way to show an investment in our Michigan student-athletes,” Manuel said.
Harbaugh said recently after a satellite camp that he was thrilled with the entire trip and the way the players behaved during the month of May.
“Still got a glow about it,” Harbaugh said.
Harbaugh said he plans to have the players vote on several trip destination options for next year.
“I feel like this is something that should be done by others.” Harbaugh said in Rome at the conclusion of the trip. “I think people should see we’ve done this and just how good it’s been for everybody concerned. And it should be experienced by others. Once people see somebody do something then they know it’s possible and that there’s a path to do it.
“This is a good way to spend our resources. Investing in the players, investing in the youngsters in this educational type of way because all learning’s not done in the classroom. Not all of it’s done on the football field. It’s done in connecting. Can’t close ourselves off. To connect with the rest of the world, from this experience it’s been amazing. We’re all similar, we’re all part of the same team, the human race. When you throw out a ball, a soccer ball, a football, a pelota (Spanish for ball), there is no language barrier anymore. Everybody is speaking the same language. We do feel like innovators, we feel like pioneers, and for the good. Innovators for the good. I encourage as many people to do this.”