Michigan State University men’s basketball coach Tom Izzo can add master fundraiser and stand-up comic to his résumé after Thursday night’s MSU Alumni Club of Jackson dinner at the Country Club of Jackson.
A few unexpected gestures from the longtime coach of the Spartans helped fully endow the Alumni Club’s Jackson County student scholarship fund for years to come.
When a basketball autographed by Izzo was put up for bid, the longtime MSU coach decided to sweeten the pot by throwing in a pair of tickets to any 2011-12 home game, with access to the pre-game shoot-around, the locker room and the postgame news conference.
Bidding was fierce between two tables, with one ultimately putting up $2,700 for the package.
When Izzo took the podium to speak he offered up an identical package for the same price to the losing bidder, who gladly accepted his offer.
“Well, we found an easy way to make money around here,” Izzo joked. “I’m coming back to Jackson, that’s for sure. I’ve got shoes, I’ve got tickets — whatever the hell you want.”
Steve Nason, president of the alumni club’s local branch, said the $5,400 raised in less than five minutes would put the club’s fund at over $30,000 —enough to generate a $1,000 endowment each year to provide a scholarship to a Jackson County high school student.
Valerie Doane of Jackson, a 1989 alumna of Michigan State, was one of the winning bidders.
She said she loves that Izzo is “so down-to-earth, so open to coming to a small community like Jackson and enjoying his time here.” She also knew her husband and 10-year-old old son would be thrilled about the opportunity to spend some intimate moments with green-and-white basketball program.
Izzo said Jackson has a “great alumni club” and interacting with fans and alumni is his way of saying “thank you” to people who have supported Michigan State and attended games for many years.
After giving hugs and handshakes and signing just about everything from photos to coasters, he quipped about “the monster of expectations he’s created” by making six Final Four appearances in 12 years and the lessons he learned in an up-and-down 2010-11 season.
“It was a challenging year, but I’ve said that in a good way, in a masochistic way — I’ve learned three or four big words since I’ve been down below the bridge — I enjoyed it,” Izzo said about Michigan State’s 19-15 campaign that included a trip to the NCAA tournament. “I enjoyed learning about not being quite as successful, and believe it or not we did deal with it pretty well to survive it. I think I will be a better coach and a better father for what I went through.”
He joked that fans have come up to him after the season and started to say, “Great job coach,” because they are so used to it, but they seem stuck on what to say next.
“They would say, ‘Great job coach, well I mean… ’ and I would say, ‘It’s OK,’ because it wasn’t to our standards but we survived,” Izzo said.
As published in the Jackson Citizen Patriot on April 14, 2011