Athletics News

Rick Darnell
Rick Darnell

Senior Associate Athletics Director / Development


State Farm Center Traditions Club Wait List Created

480 Premium Seating Members Commit $3.5 Million in Campaign Gifts Toward SFC Project


More Than 300 SFC Premium Seating Donors to be Recognized

Commitments Total More Than $2.5 Million


Mannie Jackson's $3 Million Gift Adds Name to UI Basketball Hall of Fame

Former Illini Star and Globetrotter Owner Makes Major Gift to SFC


UI Benefactors Tim and Sharon Ubben Add Name to SFC Donor Recognition Wall with $2 Million Gift

Naming of Donor Recognition Wall Latest in Major Gift Announcements


State Farm Center Project Receiving Strong Support

I Fund Donors Have Pledged Over $30 Million Since January

Rick Darnell joined the University of Illinois Division of Intercollegiate Athletics staff as senior associate athletics director for development in August of 2012. His team had a remarkable first year. The $165 million Assembly Hall renovation project was launched. In April, the University under AD Mike Thomas's leadership signed a landmark 30-year, $60 million naming rights agreement with State Farm for the arena to be known as State Farm Center. This is the largest corporate naming rights deal for a college-only venue in the country. Illinois saw an increase in the I FUND annual fund, the number of Loyalty Circle members, and the overall donor base. The Illini fan base, DIA, I FUND and university staff deserve praise for securing over $30 million in additional commitments for the Illinois Renaissance Campaign/State Farm Center renovation project in the first year. In addition, ticket sales for Illinois Women's Basketball led the nation in percentage increase and new partnerships agreements with Collegiate Consulting began July 2013. Athletics completed "Shared Vision of Excellence" Strategic Plan 2012-2017.

Darnell served Baylor University as executive director of athletics fundraising from 2007-12, serving as a key leader the "Victory with Integrity Campaign" team that raised more than $95 million for athletics (10 Facilities projects, as well as numerous scholarships and endowments); the current $260 million "From Here, We Build" Baylor Football Stadium Campaign" and the University's $100 million "President's Scholarship Initiative." The Baylor Bear Foundation athletic annual fund program saw a 133 percent increase in revenue growth in the five years Rick was part of the team. Darnell was also recently selected to serve on the NAADD Executive Committee. Serving on AD Ian McCaw's senior staff, Baylor set records in ticket sales, licensing (partnerships with CLC and LRG) , apparel sales (partnerships with Nike, Adidas, Under Armour), corporate sales (partnership with IMG) and donations as the University executed the strategic plan "Vision 2012". Key accomplishments included elite results academically (top tier APR, 89% GSR and average 3.12 GPA by student-athletes); with national branding (Baylor is receiving over 40,000 applicants - 2.5 times the 15,485 the admissions office received in 2005); and athletically part of the department when the institution won 2 of 4 National team titles, 26 of institutions 50 Big 12 Conference Championships and highlight 2011-12 "The Year of the Bear". Baylor's Top 25 NACDA Director's Cup finish and 129 combined wins in the four major sports (football/men's basketball/women's basketball/baseball) set an NCAA record for a single season (124-25, .822 winning percentage).

Prior to his stint at Baylor, Darnell was the Associate Athletics Director for development at the University of Idaho (2004-07). While there, the Vandal Scholarship Fund team averaged 22.7% annual revenue growth, completed the $12 million Vandal Victory Campaign and launched the $27 million 3 phase Kibbie Dome Renovation project. During the four fiscal years Rick served Idaho under AD Rob Spear as a senior staff member, Idaho partnered with Learfield Sports, completed NCAA certification, launched university's first priority points program and seating program, transitioned from the Big West and Sun Belt Conferences to the Western Athletic Conference. Idaho also implemented the Athletic Strategic Plan achieving a 45 place improvement in the NACDA Director Cup standings and a record 4 years of investments that resulted in Idaho being ranked #1 in the Pacific Northwest in APR. From 2002-2004, Rick coached men's basketball at McKendree University in Lebanon, IL. under the legendary NAIA hall-of-fame coach Harry Statham (college basketball all times wins leader for Men's Basketball). Both seasons the team made the NAIA national tournament finishing #2 in the nation in 2003 as NAIA National Championship Runner-up, best finish in school history. Darnell coached high school basketball part time in Texas from 1993-2002 for two outstanding programs (Tomball HS with Coach Karen Lemker and Houston Westbury Christian with Coach Greg Glenn). Those teams made 9 post season appearances, 8 Final Fours and won 6 State Championships as well as being nationally regionally ranked and recognized. During this time, Rick also worked for Chevron, Monsanto and Accenture respectively.

After graduating from Salem Community High School in Salem, IL, Darnell received his bachelors of science from the United States Merchant Marine Academy in marine transportation. While at the USMMA Rick was a multi-sport student-athlete and multiple letter winner, serving as a captain of the Men's Swimming and Diving team as well as Battalion Commander of the Regiment of Midshipmen his senior year. Rick served in the Naval reserve as a lieutenant and sailed commercially achieving a 2nd Mate's navigation license and a 1600 tons or less masters license for merchant vessels. He earned an MBA from Washington University St. Louis, in 2000.

Darnell is married to Cindy (Clifton) Darnell, and the couple has two sons, Nate and Alex. Rick also serves in the community on the Kirby Medical Center Foundation Board. Darnell's grandfather, Harlan Hodges, was an Illinois State High School Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame inductee selected for his success at West Frankfort Community High School in West Frankfort, Ill. He also coached nationally ranked Top-20 teams at Murray State University (KY) in Ohio Valley Conference and the University of Idaho in Pacific Coast Conference (Pac 12 Conference).

He can be reached by email at, by phone at 217.333.6595 or at the Office of Athletic Development at: Athletic Development/Bielfeldt Athletic Administration Building / 1700 South Fourth Street / Champaign, IL 61820.