Ragin’ Cajuns athletics and the Ragin’ Cajuns Athletic Foundation (RCAF), which supports fundraising efforts for all sports, recently announced its best fundraising year in department history. The department’s increase from last year saw a 468% growth. 

In the previous year, the department raised $6,286,746. Before this year’s growth, the previous record raised was $12,470,493 in 2018. The department raised a whopping $29,887,782.62 for this fundraising year. 

“This record-setting achievement is a reflection of the continued success of Louisiana Athletics,” Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics Dr. Bryan Maggard said. “We are very grateful for the transformational support shown by our investors and the community. This accomplishment is the culmination of the tremendous work and dedication of numerous individuals, including our RCAF staff, the Board of Directors, and our departmental and campus leadership.”

Now how is this all possible in the height of a pandemic? As Executive Director of the RCAF, Lee De Leon spoke to The Vermilion regarding fundraising efforts last year. 

“I joke all the time, it’s a bad time to be a fundraiser right now, but we’re trying to make lemonade out of lemons and continue to build authentic relationships where people understand what we’re trying to accomplish and they want to support it,” De Leon said. “We haven’t been able to get in front of our donors as much as we’d like and see them face to face, whether that’s at games or at events—you know all those have been canceled.”

That all changed this year in June. Lafayette’s local medical center, Our Lady of Lourdes, committed $15 million to Louisiana in order to secure the naming rights for Cajun Field. The medical center gave the department its most significant philanthropic gift in Ragin’ Cajuns Athletics history with this commitment. 

Cajun field will undergo $15 million in renovations. Renovations will include improvements to the 50-year-old stadium, such as suites, a club level with outdoor seating, loge boxes and a press box. Other program enhancements that have significantly improved the gameday experience for donors and fans include the new videoboard at Lamson Park and facility upgrades in and around Russo Park.

This renovation is not only good for the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, but also for Our Lady of Lourdes. In addition to owning the naming rights, their donation is tax-deductible. “We’re a non-profit organization just like American Red Cross or Boys and Girls Club or Big Brothers Big Sisters. When people join the RCAF, and they make a donation, it’s tax-deductible because it’s supporting a non-profit, and it’s going to a good cause,” De Leon said. 

“We just have to continue to remind people, you don’t just give to the RCAF to get better tickets or better parking, you give to the RCAF, and you become a member, because you want to make an impact on our student-athletes and help them succeed on and off the field of play,” De Leon said.The impact on student-athletes proved evident as increased support has also contributed to the rise of academic and competitive excellence for Ragin’ Cajuns student-athletes. In addition to the record-setting fundraising, the Ragin’ Cajuns had a record-setting academic year.