Racehorses come to the rescue of athletic scholarship fund

Faced with the daunting task of raising athletic scholarship funds to a minimum of $250,000 by the 2005-06 academic year, the Sonoma State University Department of Intercollegiate Athletics came up with a unique plan. Racehorses. Sonoma State is a medium sized California state college located in Sonoma County, about 40 miles north of San Francisco. In early November Ralph Leef of the Press Democrat, the local Sonoma County newspaper, did a story ...Faced with the daunting task of raising athletic scholarship funds to a minimum of $250,000 by the 2005-06 academic year, the Sonoma State University Department of Intercollegiate Athletics came up with a unique plan. Racehorses. Sonoma State is a medium sized California state college located in Sonoma County, about 40 miles north of San Francisco. In early November Ralph Leef of the Press Democrat, the local Sonoma County newspaper, did a story ...

Story originally posted by: Horsecity.com Contributor

Faced with the daunting task of raising athletic scholarship funds to a minimum of $250,000 by the 2005-06 academic year, the Sonoma State University Department of Intercollegiate Athletics came up with a unique plan. Racehorses.

Sonoma State is a medium sized California state college located in Sonoma County, about 40 miles north of San Francisco. In early November Ralph Leef of the Press Democrat, the local Sonoma County newspaper, did a story on the SSU’s plan to create "Seawolf Stables" (the Seawolf is SSU’s mascot).

The idea was hatched by Russ Gardiner, SSU’s volunteer assistant athletic director for marketing and development. According to the Press Democrat, "SSU supporters came up with the racehorse idea in an attempt to help SSU’s athletic program meet a new NCAA requirement to increase its athletic scholarship fund or lose its Division II affiliation".

"Sonoma State is in the best Division II conference in the country," said Gardner, "If we can’t raise enough money and the NCAA says we have to move down, our good athletes and coaches would leave."


As of August 2005, SSU must give at least $250,000 a year in athletic scholarships to remain in the California Collegiate Athletic Association and in Division II. But SSU raised only enough funds to award $160,000 in scholarships this year. "We’re dramatically below what the NCAA will allow and well below where we need to be," said Gardner, a retired businessman who volunteers at SSU.

The two horses, Seawolf and Sonoma Slew, were selected by Tom Bachman, owner of Pegasus Ranch in Petaluma, California. Bachman will also be responsible for the care and training of the colts. Seawolf, named for the school’s mascot, is the offspring of Swiss Yodeler and My Thellie. Sonoma Slew, is the ‘grandson’ of the great Seattle Slew and is the offspring of Slewledo and Distant Love. According to the Press Democrat, Bachman, volunteered to pick out the two colts at Barrett’s October Preferred Yearling Auction at the Los Angeles County Fairgrounds.

The school plans to sell 100 shares at $1,000 in each colt — a total of $200,000 — with half of each share earmarked as a tax-deductible donation to Sonoma State. The other half to pay for the horses and to cover at least 12 months of upkeep, training and racing expenses. Race winnings would be split between the scholarship fund and shareholders.

According to the Press Democrat, "While there are no sure bets in the racing business, those familiar with the two yearlings are excited about the possibilities. "We won’t know until June when we put the stopwatch on them how much heart and talent they have and what level they will run, but they both look very athletic," Bachman said."

Several days after the Press Democrat article was published, reservations for shares in the two horses were largely sold out, leaving a waiting list of over 100 people. As a result the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics in the process of acquiring a third horse.

The anticipated first race for the horses will be at the Sonoma County Fair in July of 2004. They will race in the future at Bay Meadows, Golden Gate Fields and other California tracks.