When people think of donations to college athletic programs, they think of big-time money — an individual or business that can afford to give enough to have a building or stadium or practice facility named after them.
Boise State’s Blue Collar Club is trying to change that.
The Blue Collar Club is a grass-roots approach to fundraising, with many donors giving as little as $10 a month, and Boise State Athletic Director Jeramiah Dickey said it has the potential to be the foundation of his long-term vision for the athletic department.
“I would rather have 10,000 people give me a dollar than have one person give me $10,000,” Dickey told the Statesman. “It doesn’t take much to make a difference, but it’s going to take a team. Whether it’s a dollar or a $100 million, it’s going to take everyone.”
The Blue Collar Club is the brainchild of Boise State alum Joel York. He said he felt helpless while watching his alma mater struggle to generate revenue during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic last year, so he decided to do something about it.
York wanted to find a way that people without trust funds or huge bank accounts could give back to Boise State without risking their savings. So he reached out to the Bronco Athletic Association last August and got the ball rolling.
“If you put a bunch of folks together, you can make quite a force if you push them all in one direction,” York said. “It’s a great feeling to know you’re giving directly to the school, helping all sports and making a difference in student-athletes’ lives with 10 bucks a month.”
Donations from Blue Collar Club members average between $15 and $20 a month, York said. Members are asked to give at least $10 a month, but some donate more than $100. All the money goes toward scholarships that pay for an athlete’s tuition, room and board, books and more.
York — who grew up in Boise, graduated from Boise State in 2001 and now lives in Boston — said the Blue Collar Club’s initial goal was to raise $41,000 to cover an athlete for a year. The average annual cost per athlete has gone up to $44,692, according to the BAA website.
The Blue Collar Club has raised about $16,000 so far this year. It had 18 members and raised about $4,700 by the end of August, but 63 new members joined and the group raised more than $10,000 in November alone. The club currently has about 90 members.
“It’s a rewarding experience to see so many people want to get involved,” York said. “That $10,000 basically covered tuition for an athlete for a year, and we knocked that out in one month.”
The Blue Collar Club got a big boost in November from a creative campaign centered around Boise State’s senior night football game against New Mexico. Members pledged donations for everything from touchdowns to tackles by safety JL Skinner to appearances by Blitz the tee dog. The club raised $3,431 from that game alone.
“People want to find creative ways to give, and it’s fun,” York said. “That is what was missing from previous models where you give $100 a year and get a card and that’s it.”
Blue Collar Club members can stay engaged throughout the year by submitting questions for Q&A’s with former Boise State athletes, the most recent of which featured former offensive linemen Austin Dixon and Nick Crabtree. The club also sponsored a tailgate party before Boise State’s home win over New Mexico and recently held a meet-and-greet party at Paddles Up Poke in downtown Boise.
“We’re growing a nice little community of people who are giving of their funds and their time,” York said. “It’s been a labor of love. We’re trying to make an impact and a difference, and every dollar counts.”
Attention members! We are proud to announce our next Q&A featuring @Dix6n and @Nicktree4 ! Have a question about playing for Coach Harsin or what it’s like in the trenches? They will be answering YOUR inquiries! DM your questions by December 4! pic.twitter.com/b0nQbVjElM
— The Blue Collar Club (@BlueCollarClub) November 23, 2021
To join the Blue Collar Club, go to bluecollarclub.org and fill out the donation form. After an annual donation of $25, members are also eligible to join the Bronco Athletic Association, which comes with perks like reserved parking spots for football and basketball games, and top priority for tickets to regular and postseason games, depending on the amount donated.
The BAA recently announced its Horsepower Membership Drive, with a goal of reaching 10,000 members by 2025. It’s an ambitious goal, given that the BAA has just a little more than 4,200 members now, but Dickey said Boise State isn’t known for shying away from lofty expectations.
“I expect us to go higher than that,” Dickey said. “But we have to start somewhere, and the Blue Collar Club is really going to help fill our pipeline and create those opportunities to positively impact the community and student-athletes.”
BOISE STATE VS. CENTRAL MICHIGAN
What: Barstool Sports Arizona Bowl
When: Noon Mountain time, Dec. 31
Where: Arizona Stadium, Tuscon, Arizona
TV: The game will be streamed for free on all Barstool Sports platforms.
Records: Boise State 7-5, 5-3 MW; Central Michigan 8-4, 6-2 MAC
Series: Boise State is 2-3 against Central Michigan, but the teams haven’t played since 2001. The Broncos won games in 2000 and 2001.
Vegas line: Boise State by 9