Purdue Gets $10M Pledge for Basketball Program

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Evansville Courier & Press (Indiana)


WEST LAFAYETTE - The Purdue Board of Trustees on Friday approved the largest one-time gift in Boilermaker athletics history and the creation of the L. Dick Buell Head Men's Basketball Coaching position.

If the Clay City native and 1972 Purdue engineering grad had his way, that's the last time his name would appear in this article. The retired marketing CEO behind the $10 million pledge said he isn't motivated by ego or headlines.

Buell instead wants people to know why he decided to support his alma mater's basketball program so generously. It's not his first gift to the university or the athletic department, but he said "it's probably the most meaningful."

"I'm a very blessed guy, I am a very faithful guy, and I'm going to give back to the place that got me where I am," Buell said.

Buell's donation begins at $1 million and grows over the course of his lifetime, with the resolution potentially coming from his estate. It does not directly pay any portion of Matt Painter's currently budgeted salary.

If Painter is awarded a raise in the future as part of a contract extension, or if a market correction is needed to keep his salary in line with the rest of the Big Ten Conference's top coaches, the interest accrued on the endowment can go to that.

The sum - which Buell expects will eventually exceed the baseline $10 million pledge - for now draws interest that compounds over time. Every university endowment establishes at set spending percentage, which multiple Purdue sources confirmed has traditionally been 5 percent.

Purdue athletic director Mike Bobinski said if the endowment at a given time is not needed for salary purposes, it can be applied to other emergent costs. He said the agreement with Bell does not itemize or limit those potential needs, which would be decided by joint agreement of the athletic director and head men's basketball coach.

"The symbolism and the commitment he's made is exceptional, and we're unbelievably grateful," Bobinski said. "Down the road it will be a tremendous help to the financing of our men's basketball program."

Buell said he's giving back to "help kids who couldn't do it on their own."

He wouldn't be doing it at all without the relationships he's built at Purdue over the past 50 years.

Buell considers senior associate athletic director Nancy Cross "incredible in building the Purdue equity in sports." Buell said Cross and former athletic director Morgan Burke and Burke's wife, Kate, were important influences on his philanthropic generosity towards Boilermaker athletics.

Buell was one year ahead of Burke at Purdue. While they didn't know each other as undergrads, they developed a relationship during Burke's 23-year-tenure as athletic director.

Burke said Buell put considerable thought into the best way to share a portion of his wealth with the athletic program.

"If you put someone who's trying to be a champion with a world-class degree, I think it gives them a competitive advantage later in life," said Burke, who now serves as a vice president for special projects under Purdue President Mitch Daniels.

"It gives them a competitive advantage later in life. That really resonated with Dick."

Ultimately, Buell's respect for Painter meant more than any other factor. The two got to know each other shortly after the former Boilermaker player succeeded Gene Keady as head coach in 2005.

Buell appreciated Painter's commitment to academics and ethics. He admired teams such as the most recent graduating class, in which four seniors stayed to earn a degree and won a Big Ten Conference championship and school-record 30 games along the way.

"Matt's first statement was come to Purdue and get a great, quality education and play basketball and go on from there," Buell said.

"Matt has great values - honesty and talent and caring for the family and caring about getting an education."

Painter signed a contract extension in the summer of 2016 that calls for guaranteed compensation of $3 million in 2019-20, $3.1 million in 2020-21 and $3.2 million in 2021-22.

During Friday's trustees meeting, Daniels called Buell's gift a generous one that would take pressure off the athletic department - "until coaches' salaries go up again."

"That's just an observation of reality," Daniels said, as trustees noted the zinger.

Men's basketball becomes the second endowed head coaching position at Purdue. Dave Shondell is the Art and Connie Euler Head Volleyball Coach after that family's gift in 2017.

Bobinski told the Journal & Courier in June that an endowment for a specific "high-profile" sport was in the works. He also said "we're actively trying to make that happen in other sports."

Michigan ($7.5 million) and Northwestern ($3 million) are the only other Big Ten Conference schools with endowed men's basketball head coaching positions.

Who is Dick Buell?

Buell's attachment to Purdue basketball predates his time there as a student. Growing up 20 miles outside of Terre Haute, he drove to West Lafayette as a high schooler to watch games at Lambert Fieldhouse.

He cheered inside Mackey Arena when the Boilermakers opened the venue with a loss to alum John Wooden's UCLA powerhouse. He said he lived as a fraternity brother of Billy Keller, Jerry Johnson and Frank Kaufman. They helped Rick Mount take Purdue to the NCAA Tournament championship game in 1969.

Buell splits his time between Chicago and Florida, but returns several times per season for games. He attended Purdue's Sweet 16 game against Texas Tech in Boston last March.

"Dick Buell is in a class by himself with a gift of this magnitude," Painter said in the news release. "We are humbled that he has elected to share his many resources to help ensure that all our student-athletes who come to Purdue to earn degrees from this world-class university will have the opportunity to play basketball and be supported at the absolute highest level.

"As the current leader of Purdue's basketball program, we are grateful for Dick's tremendous generosity and commitment."

After graduation came a bachelor's degree in industrial engineering from Purdue and a Master of Business Administration from the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business.

Buell's career included chief executive, chairman of the board or other leadership positions at Foodbrands America, WS Brands, Kraft and Griffith Laboratories.

He was named Purdue's outstanding industrial engineering alum in 2009 while serving as chairman and CEO of Catalina Marketing. That's one of the few times he shows up prominently in a Google search.

(The most abundant headlines came in 2014, when he bought a 3,102-square-foot condo on the 79th floor of Chicago's Trump Tower for $3.36 million. In cash.)

Buell will probably cringe when he reads that detail in this article. He considers himself "lucky" to be in such a comfortable position.

But he insists the $10 million isn't about permanently affixing his name to Purdue basketball.

It's about serving as an example.

Buell wants to show people that just because you come from a town of 900 people with 52 kids in your graduating class doesn't mean you can't make a significant impact.

He also wants other Purdue alums with deep pockets to follow his lead and step up their support.

"I think Purdue basketball and Indiana are synonymous and I would encourage anyone that can make a donation should make a donation and help build the Matt Painter era," Buell said.

"I've talked to Matt and his ethics and his values and his standard for college basketball are unequaled. I think that investing money from me or from anybody else is a great investment for the brand of Purdue University basketball."

Contributing: Dave Bangert/[email protected]

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August 4, 2018


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