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Board approves shutdown of Mendota Gridiron Club football booster group

January 10, 2019

The booster club for University of Wisconsin football will disband at the end of the month.

Acting on a recommendation from its executive board, the Mendota Gridiron Club board of directors voted Tuesday night to approve a dissolution plan for the 69-year-old group.

The executive board last month concluded it was “no longer financially nor logistically feasible” to continue operations, according to a letter to board members.

Executive director Eric Mott said Tuesday’s vote of the full 48-member board was unanimous.

In the December letter to board of directors members announcing Tuesday’s meeting, the executive board and Mott noted the group has raised millions of dollars for UW football as a result of the work of a small staff and dedicated volunteers and donors.

“We should all be very proud that MGC has accomplished its mission,” the letter read.

“The changing dynamics and intricacies involved in raising significant money for college athletics has made it too difficult for MGC to continue to achieve its purpose through any reasonable efforts,” it continued.

According to the club’s dissolution plan, the shutdown is effective Jan. 31 but office manager Karen Heidel will be employed through May 31 to finish the process of liquidating assets.

The club had about $50,000 in assets and $42,000 in liabilities in December, according to a summary sent to board members. Any leftover cash after the shutdown will be donated to the UW football program.

Tuesday’s meeting at Rex’s Innkeeper in Waunakee was for the purpose of voting on the shutdown, but Mott said it also served as an opportunity for longtime members to speak and vent about the club going away.

“Especially with a number of the longer-term members, there’s an emotional attachment to it,” Mott said. “They’ve been part of it a long time.”

The football booster club was formally organized in 1949 as the Mendota Association. It provided some funding for the construction of the McClain Center in the late 1980s and toward multiple football office renovations. It also at one point paid parts of coaching compensation agreements.

A 2016 tax filing showed the Mendota Gridiron Club has two employees. Mott and Heidel operate out of offices inside UW Athletics’ Kellner Hall at Camp Randall Stadium.

According to its tax filing, the group donated more than $780,000 in 2016 to the UW Foundation, which maintains donation accounts for UW Athletics. Tax records show a drawing down of the club’s net assets from more than $92,000 at the end of 2013 to $1,014 at the end of 2016.

Club members have noted a recent decrease in attendance for mid-week events during the football season since they were shifted to coincide with coach Paul Chryst’s radio show.

The club, which Mott said has around 1,500 members, has hosted golf outings and other events around the state in addition to weekly meetings. In 2016, those gatherings produced more than $98,000 in net income, according to the club’s tax filing.

Members also said the connections between the club and the coaching staff weren’t as tight under Chryst and predecessor Gary Andersen as they were under previous coaches.

With the Mendota Gridiron Club fading away, the list of Badgers booster clubs, which numbered 13 in 2001, will be down to one: the Badger Basketball Boosters.

UW has brought most of its fundraising inside the athletic department, run by its Athletic Development Office. In the 2017-18 school year, it had 14,248 donors combine to contribute more than $37 million.

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