Cavalier Corner

June 2018

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cavalier sports JUNE 2018 7 Marianne and Eddie Skeens live in what Marianne calls "Tech Territory." But that didn't stop the couple from giving their college athletic allegiance to the University of Virginia. Mrs. Skeens, a former high school cheerleader, said she grew up a huge sports fan. "I followed the ACC, and we traveled to the championship tournaments," the 1974 UVA gradu- ate noted. "I loved lacrosse, which I had never seen before arriving in Charlottesville. Being a student there and being able to go to the sporting events really got me into watching the Cavaliers, and I continued to support UVA sports after I graduated." Marianne was a member of Virginia's inaugural class of women in 1970. Her sister Susan Johnson followed her to Charlottesville and was part of the rowing team. Eddie attended the University of Virginia's College at Wise, located in Wise, Va., but also had a connection with Virginia sports. "My best friend in high school [three-year letterman Charlie Hale] went to UVA and was captain of the football team," he said. "I would travel up there to see him and catch the games. He ended up with a great career at Virginia." Though both Marianne and Eddie were Grundy, Va., natives, they were separated by three years and did not know one another in high school. After graduating from college, both moved back home to Grundy and in 1986 discovered not only their love for Virginia sports, but for each other. After a long courtship, the couple married in 1998. "When I met Marianne, I continued the tradition of going to UVA sporting events with her," Eddie said. The couple added a financial commitment and began supporting the Virginia Athletics Foundation in 1992. The Skeens said one of their most memorable moments in almost five decades of watching UVA sports was Virginia deliver- ing the Florida State Seminoles their first Atlantic Coach Conference football defeat. "We were there in 1995 and the goal posts came down," Marianne recalled. "My son Alex Gibson was there at the time, and his roommate, Ryan Chil- dress, was the long snapper on special teams. Our niece and nephew, also UVA graduates, were at the game. It was exciting being there as a family group." Over the years, the Skeens have witnessed many changes in the athletics programs at Virginia. Both noted the improvements to UVA's facilities as criti- cal to the athletics department's success through the years. "I've been impressed with Scott Stadium and the improvements to all of our facilities," Eddie stated. "The changes to Scott Stadium, having the col- onnades run around the building has made it feel more like the University of Virginia," Marianne added. "The whole atmosphere is more like UVA." With their children grown and Marianne retired, the Skeens are plan- ning on spending more time in Charlottesville watching their Wahoos. "We love all the sports," Marianne said, "and when we can't get to a game we follow them when on television and cheer them on." — Greg Waters The Skeens have been avid fans of UVA athletics for more than four decades. Eddie And Marianne Skeens WAHOO NATION According to the most recent data in the U.S. Department of Education's Equity in Athletics report, Virginia ranked 54th nation- ally in overall investment in football operational expenditures. To help address this, the Virginia Athletics Foundation has created a Football Coaches 10 Fundraising Initiative. Coaches 10 initiatives are designed to encourage passionate donors to assist the athletics department in funding key initiatives in certain sports with gifts of $10,000 or more for multiple years. The short-term goal for the Football Coaches 10 is to raise $2.5 million. These funds will provide head coach Bronco Mendenhall's team with $500,000 an- nually over the next five years to be used for resources essential to the overall operation of a competitive Power Five program. Athletics director Carla Williams will work with Mendenhall to determine the most effective way to utilize those funds, which could include but are not limited to: recruiting, strength and con- ditioning, nutrition, student/player development, academic sup- port services, facility maintenance and improvement, talent acqui- sition and retention, and equipment. The additional resources will allow the program to continue the upward trajectory it has been on since Mendenhall took over — going from 2-10 in his first year at the helm to 6-7 and its first bowl game since 2011 last season. "A healthy football program is a win for an entire athletic de- partment. It just is," Williams told "There's so much more potential for increased revenue because of football that helps the entire athletic department. And when the program isn't as healthy as it needs to be or as it should be, then over time you'll start to see that affect the entire department." The VAF has already raised funds to increase the team's strength and conditioning staff, hire three new analysts to assist coaches with recruiting and increase the program's operating budget — but that is just the beginning. Beyond the Coaches 10 Initiative, the athletics department is finalizing plans for a new UVA athletic complex that in- cludes a new operations center for football. Until then, the Coaches 10 funds will be key to helping position the football program to earn consecutive postseason appearances for the first time since 2004-05. "I knew that before any shovel went into the ground for a facil- ity that we had serious deficiencies that we had to address now," Williams said. "There are some very fundamental things, that help football programs begin to build on successes, that we needed. … Having more support staff is huge. It puts us on more of a level playing field with our competitors." Williams is confident she has the right man in place to lead the team to success. However, she also knows that it's more than just coaches that make the difference. "The optics matter," she said. "So we just have some ground to make up. We've got the right people. I would put our coaches up against any coaches in America, but we've got to be able to show prospects … that Virginia intends on having a great football program consistently." "The progress we made from year one to year two in the pro- gram, that's in advance of any of [the staff or facility updates]," Mendenhall said. "… It's a new time, there's a new design, with new emphasis, and my job is, in the short term, to win the right way with the right principles and the right young people. That's why I came. I love to build, and that's exactly what's happening." Coaches 10 will help accelerate that building process. Please call the VAF at 800-626-8723 if you have questions or would like to support our Football Coaches 10 Initiative. Coaches 10 Initiative Will Help Level The Playing Field For UVA Football

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