Commitments Total More Than $2.5 Million
Former Illini Star and Globetrotter Owner Makes Major Gift to SFC
Naming of Donor Recognition Wall Latest in Major Gift Announcements
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, I FUND, DIA and university staff deserve praise for securing over $30 million in commitments for the Illinois Renaissance Campaign/State Farm Center renovation project in the first year.
Darnell served Baylor University as executive director of athletics fundraising from 2007-12, leading 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, apparel sales and donations as the University executed the strategic plan "Vision 2012". Key accomplishments included elite results academically (top tier APR, GSR and 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 2011-12 "The Year of the Bear". Baylor's Top 25 NACDA Director's Cup finish and 129 combined wins in the four major revenue sports (Football/Men's Basketball/Women's Basketball/Baseball) set an NCAA record for a single season and every sponsored team advanced to post season.
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, Idaho partnered with Learfield Sports, transitioned from the Big West and Sun Belt Conferences to the Western Athletic Conference. Idaho also implemented the Athletic Strategic Plan achieving record 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. 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). 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. 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) and the University of Idaho.
Updated September 2013