Donation rewards Harbaugh’s rebuilding efforts

We still don’t know the identity of the family whose $1.55 million donation to Western athletics was announced last week.

But we salute the donors anyway. Their generosity benefits not only Western’s student-athletes, but it also serves as a fitting reward for football coach Jack Harbaugh, who spent the last decade engineering the Hilltopper football program’s memorable turnaround.

The donation will jump start financing of a 40,000-square foot Academic and Athletic Performance Center. The building will likely house new football offices, as well as a weight room, locker room, training room, study area and computer labs.

When the center is finished, it will be named for a member of the donor family, which also presented Western football with an anonymous, $3 million gift in 1998.

When the Board of Regents came within one vote of eliminating Western’s struggling football program in 1992, such a facility seemed an impossible dream.

But Harbaugh has spent the past ten years doing the impossible: taking a program that had hit rock bottom and guiding it to the top of the NCAA Division I-AA mountain.

Now, after seven consecutive winning seasons and the 2002 national championship, Harbaugh will see Western and its supporters make a brick-and-mortar commitment to the program he salvaged.

Without the sacrifices Harbaugh made in rebuilding Western football, such a building would probably remain an impossible dream.

But before construction can begin, Western has work to do. Institutional Advancement is seeking donors to contribute the rest of the funding for the center, and feasibility studies will determine its location.

It’s important that the necessary money is secured as soon as possible. Once that is in place, building plans should be on the fast track.

Let’s not forget that Western is working on a deadline.

Harbaugh has two years remaining on his contract, and he hasn’t yet said if he’ll sign a new one. It would be a shame if he retired before the center is opened, leaving a successor to break in the Hilltoppers’ new digs.

After all, the facility will justifiably be named for the donor family. But it might as well be called “The House that Jack Built.”

This editorial represents the majority opinion of the Herald’s 10-member board of student editors.