SUU Launches Thunderbird Athletic Foundation

Published: July 22, 2016 | Read Time: 3 minutes

Southern Utah University Launches Thunderbird Athletic FoundationThe Southern Utah University Department of Athletics has announced the launch of the Thunderbird Athletic Foundation, which will replace the previous Thunderbird Club as the official fundraising and external relations arm of Southern Utah Athletics.

In an effort to continue to find new opportunities to enhance the student-athlete experience and strengthen the national profile of Southern Utah University, members of the athletics administrative staff worked with various alumni, campus and community leaders over the last year to elevate the development efforts of the athletic department.

With the help of a newly formed executive committee, strategies were identified to generate the revenue streams necessary to position SUU coaches and student-athletes for success.

The Thunderbird Athletic Foundation will now serve as an overarching umbrella over all Thunderbird Athletics development operations, Varsity Club initiatives and community relations activities.

"Over the years, our student-athletes and coaches have demonstrated incredible pride and perseverance in accomplishing what they have accomplished despite considerable resource limitations,” Director of Athletics Jason Butikofer said. “Our focus moving forward is to help further provide the resources our young people need in order to be successful, holistically throughout their college experience."

With that goal in mind, the objectives of the Thunderbird Athletic Foundation are to create a sustainable culture of philanthropy among athletics constituents, strengthen SUU's external relations strategies and initiatives, and to streamline SUU's athletics development operations in order to provide excellent donor relations, customer service, and fan experiences.

“Our campus and the Cedar City community will continue to be our bread and butter, but our vision is to expand the breadth of our outreach efforts with the goal of reconnecting with our alumni and other constituents in St. George, Salt Lake, Las Vegas, Southern California, and beyond,” Butikofer said.   

Currently, SUU ranks last in the Big Sky Conference in respect to both annual operating budgets as well as charitable giving totals. As a result of these shortcomings, Thunderbird Athletics has long adopted a ‘doing more with less’ mantra that has led to success both in competition and in the classroom. However, under the direction of Butikofer, Southern Utah Athletics is focused on closing the resource gap and elevating the stature of the institution by serving as the proverbial ‘front porch’ for many external constituents.

The Thunderbird Athletic Foundation not only provides Southern Utah University with the opportunity to honor the legacy of our former student-athletes, but also to unite our campus and Thunderbird alumni.

Annual charitable contributions to the Thunderbird Athletic Foundation will make a direct impact on the lives of more than 340 student-athletes, now and in the future. Gifts to the Thunderbird Athletic Foundation will help to enhance the student-athlete experience by providing top-notch scholarship support, academic support and life-skills programming. increased athletic training and sports performance opportunities.  

"Having a scholarship has been extremely beneficial,” SUU wide receiver Mike Sharp said. “I can’t imagine trying to balance football, school, a job and being competitive in all three. I think having a scholarship has not only helped me financially, but has allowed me to compete at the highest level."

It is an exciting time for Southern Utah University and Thunderbird Athletics.

“The launch of the Thunderbird Athletic Foundation is a culmination of collaborative efforts by so many passionate individuals,” Frank Pucher, Associate Athletic Director for External Affairs said. “It is exciting to see how supportive our alumni, our community and our institution have been, but now the real fun starts. The time is now to elevate our collective efforts and make our mark in competitive Division 1 athletics. The impact that our alumni and friends can make through the Thunderbird Athletic Foundation is truly transformational.”

For more information, or to make a gift to the Thunderbird Athletic Foundation, please visit or 435-586-7832.

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