Former Hilltopper donates $1 million to athletics

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Tyler Eaton

WKU athletics got its largest-ever outright contribution from a former Hilltopper Monday. 

Former WKU football player Joe Micatrotto and his wife, Sunshine Micatrotto, have donated $1 million to WKU athletics. The $1 million will go towards capital projects, the football and volleyball programs and the WKU Opportunity Fund.

“Joe and Sunny Micatrotto are impacting WKU Athletics in a multitude of ways,” athletics director Todd Stewart said in a press release. “This remarkable commitment, the largest from a former student-athlete in our history, will help to usher in a new era of philanthropy and support.”

After beginning his athletic career at Kent State, Joe Micatrotto transferred to WKU and played for the WKU football team from 1993-1997. While at WKU, he received his Bachelor of Science in hotel, restaurant and tourism.

“WKU really set me up for the hospitality field,” Micatrotto said in a release. “I’m one of the few people I know who does professionally what I studied in college.”

Micatrotto currently serves as the President and CEO of MRG Marketing and Management, Inc. His wife is a first-generation college graduate that also wanted to help students succeed.

“Not everyone has parents that can afford to send them to college,” Sunny Micatrotto said. “When we heard about the WKU Opportunity Fund, we wanted to help give kids a ‘yes.’”

As part of the gift, Joe and Sunshine established the Micatrotto Family Opportunity Fund for Athletics. This is in line with the WKU Opportunity Fund campaign to raise $50 million to help WKU students.

The donation will also serve towards technology and facilities renovations for six athletics teams, including improvements to Diddle Arena, Smith Stadium, and the WKU soccer and softball complexes.

WKU football and volleyball specifically will receive support through their respective team excellence funds. These funds provide unrestricted funding for each program.

“Our attraction to football and volleyball is simple: Mike (Sanford) and Travis (Hudson),” Joe Micatrotto said in a release. “My family has had a relationship with the Sanford family dating back to 2005. Travis and Cindy Hudson are plain and simple what WKU is all about.”

The Micatrottos have also developed a relationship with WKU President Timothy Caboni and his family, giving them even more incentive for the donation.

“We’ve come to know the Cabonis over the past year, and we love their passion,” Micatrotto said. “We want to support what Kacy and President Caboni are creating for WKU students.”

As previously reported, Caboni has recently stressed the need for athletics to receive private funding with the budget crisis that WKU has faced.

“Private giving in athletics makes a difference,” Caboni said. “We want to make sure we have the total college experience here.”

The WKU athletics program suffered a $1 million loss from a year ago in the 2018-19 budget. Last spring, the department took on a $2.4 million renovation to the scoreboards in Houchens-Smith Stadium, Diddle Arena and the WKU Soccer Complex, as well as the sound system in Diddle Arena. 

“We are extremely thankful to the Micatrottos for this substantial gift that will affect so many of our student-athletes,” Caboni said in a statement. “Private support is critical to ensuring we can provide our students with the best educational opportunities available.”

Each of the Micatrottos are lifetime members of the WKU Alumni Association, with Joe currently serving on the WKU Alumni Association National Board of Directors.

Reporter Tyler Eaton can be reached at 270-745-2691 and [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @at_eaton.