Historic $15M gift to UNC-Chapel Hill Athletics will support football program
On March 5, 2020, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Athletics and The Rams Club announced a $15 million gift to support a new Carolina football initiative for student-athletes’ life-long success and to name its new practice complex, positioning the team and its players for victory on and off the field.
The gift, from Jim and Jennifer Koman of St. Louis, Missouri, will honor Jim’s father in two ways that are important to the family. The Bill Koman Game Plan for Success is a comprehensive development program that will prepare Carolina football players for life after graduation, and Carolina’s new practice complex will be named the Bill Koman Practice Complex. Jim Koman’s late father, William J. “Bill” Koman Sr., was a 1956 Carolina graduate who played football for the Tar Heels and later in the NFL.
“Jim and Jennifer believe in the ability of athletic competition to prepare young people for productive and meaningful lives and careers,” said director of athletics Bubba Cunningham. “Their commitment to teaching life lessons through athletics will have an enormous impact on our football program and all our student-athletes. We are so appreciative of Jennifer and Jim for their dedication to Carolina.”
The Bill Koman Game Plan for Success will provide training and support for Carolina football student-athletes throughout their time at Carolina and into their post-graduate lives. Programming will center around preparing student-athletes for their college career and beyond through academic assessment, study and learning skills preparation, leadership development, community involvement and career opportunities.
“I’m thrilled that Jim and Jennifer have so generously chosen to recognize Bill by creating a program that will impact our young men for the rest of their lives,” said football head coach Mack Brown. “We often say that coming to Carolina is a 40-year decision, not a 4-year decision, and this gift and program, coming from a Carolina football player and his wife in honor of his Carolina football father, show how true that statement is. Part of our mission as a football program is to ensure that we’re giving our young men the tools to go on and be productive husbands, fathers and citizens when their time in college comes to an end. With this program, we’ll be able to take that commitment to another level, and it will be of great benefit to our current and future student-athletes.”
The Bill Koman Practice Complex features an indoor facility with a 120-yard synthetic turf field, and spaces for strength-and-conditioning training and sports medicine. Additionally, two 120-yard outdoor fields, one synthetic turf and the other natural grass, are adjacent to the indoor facility. While the Bill Koman Practice Complex is the practice home for Carolina football, the facility serves other teams and intramural athletes as well.
“In my opinion, the Bill Koman Practice Complex is the best in the country,” noted Brown. “It has been a huge addition to our program in regard to on-field preparation, offseason training, and recruiting. We have a wonderful indoor area that allows us to do whatever we need to do regardless of weather, and the two outdoor fields give us ample space to maximize our practice sessions. It’s really been a game changer for us.”
Jim Koman, who graduated from Carolina in 1986 with a bachelor’s degree in economics, is CEO and founder of ElmTree Funds LLC, a national private equity real estate company. Like his father, Jim was a Carolina football player. He and Jennifer are active in many projects, especially those that impact children and youth development.
Jim currently serves as President of the Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital in St. Louis and is an advisor to numerous elementary and high school boards in the St. Louis area.
“My father was always a competitor on and off the field,” said Jim Koman. “He believed that hard work, discipline and never being satisfied with second best not only prepared you for competition, but it also prepared you most importantly for life after sports. Carolina gave my father an education second to none, and without that education he would never have been so successful in the business world after pro football ended.”
Bill Koman, who died in November 2019, played linebacker for Carolina in the mid-1950s. His 12-year NFL career with the Baltimore Colts, the Philadelphia Eagles, and nine years with the St. Louis Cardinals included two Pro Bowl selections, and he was twice named first-team All-Pro.
After his football career, he founded The Koman Group, a commercial and residential property development company with projects across the St. Louis metropolitan area and throughout the Midwest. Along with his wife Joan, he gave generously to Carolina during his lifetime, most prominently to sports medicine research and a fund that pays undergraduate students participating in summer internships.
"Jim and Jennifer Koman's generosity will enable our Tar Heel student-athletes to take advantage of every facet of Carolina's uniquely student-centered experience,” said Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz. “This gift will empower us to further integrate Carolina's strengths in academics, athletics, professional development and community involvement to better serve our students, our state, our nation and the world. It is a truly meaningful way to honor the legacy of Bill Koman and we are deeply grateful for it."
The gift comes at a time of great momentum for Carolina football. In 2019, the Tar Heels went 7-6 and captured the program’s first bowl victory since 2013. The 2020 recruiting class is considered among the nation’s top 20 by several recruiting services.
The gift from the Komans is the largest single gift in the history of The Rams Club and Carolina Athletics. As part of the Campaign for Carolina Athletics, the gift counts toward the University’s most ambitious fundraising campaign in history, For All Kind: the Campaign for Carolina. The Campaign for Carolina launched in October 2017 with a goal to raise $4.25 billion by December 2022.
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