Billups gives $100K to Colorado to benefit youth

Updated: January 19, 2006, 8:09 PM ET
Associated Press

BOULDER, Colo. -- Detroit Pistons point guard Chauncey Billups' face will be seen around the University of Colorado campus a lot more in the coming years.

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Not only is the former Buffaloes star planning on completing his degree -- he went pro after his sophomore season in 1997 -- but his larger-than-life image will adorn the Coors Events Center in appreciation of his $100,000 gift to the men's basketball program that will provide free tickets for 40,000 kids over the next four years.

"I'm very, very excited for this opportunity to kind of resurface in the community and the arena that I miss playing in and that I loved so much when I was there," Billups said in a telephone call from New York, where the Pistons were playing the Knicks on Thursday night.

Billups' donation will provide 10,000 tickets each year for kids from his native Denver and other surrounding communities.

"Also, a part of this whole thing will be me getting my degree and working toward that, which I take a lot of pride in -- obviously, I haven't taken enough pride in over these last few years, but it's time for me to buckle down and get that taken care of, too," Billups said.

Billups is halfway to his four-year degree, which he will complete through correspondence courses and summer sessions, providing he can sneak some study time into the months occupied by the NBA playoffs.

"My summers have been so short lately -- hopefully they'll continue to be short," he said.

The 25-foot-by-67-foot painting of Chauncey next to the school's mascot, Ralphie the Buffalo, will adorn the arena's southeast wall with the words: "Chauncey's Kids Roundup." The school hopes to have it up in time for Buffs' game against Texas Tech on Feb. 11.

The program is modeled after "Ralphie's Kids Roundup" where boosters purchased football tickets for underprivileged children in Boulder and the Denver area. The children will also receive T-shirts and food.

Billups said he wanted to help out Buffaloes coach Ricardo Patton and reconnect with the program.

"I remember before I left we had the program really rocking. It was loud when there was a lot of kids in the building," Billups said. "When you've got kids in there it makes it extra loud. Even if it's not filled to capacity, it feels like it because they're just so excited to be there. So, I thought what better way to try to help Coach Patton and the program out than to have lots of kids in the building?"

Athletic director Mike Bohn said the school is trying to boost support for its basketball programs, which have lagged in attendance for years, and Billups' donation "is the cornerstone of support for men's basketball that is much-needed and it will create a huge shot in the arm for us."

In a round-table meeting with reporters before Billups' donation was announced, Bohn said his department's support for the men's and women's basketball program "is lacking in emotion, it's lacking in initiatives, it's lacking in funding, it's behind in a sense of priority that we have."

Ceal Barry, former women's basketball coach at Colorado and now assistant athletic director for academics, said the school needs to better promote both men's and women's hoops so that the Coors Events Center becomes a place opponents are loathe to visit.

"Right now to be honest with you I don't think they fear coming to Boulder," she said.

Bohn added: "I want to make sure that is not misconstrued as a knock on our fans. It's not. It's a knock on ourselves. We haven't built the relationships with major employers, with groups across the Front Range. We've just got to be better at how we package it and how we market it & because I think when they come they'll find that it's fun."

The men's basketball program is projected to operate with a $348,000 deficit this season as part of a possible $1.7 million overall departmental budget deficit.

Bohn said he didn't feel the facilities were a problem although the concourse at the Coors Events Center "could use some energy and emotion. We want to salute our great coaches, we want to salute the history of the institution's athletic programs, not only just basketball."

In other matters, Bohn said:

• He may assess Patton's contract in the summer.
• He expects to announce organizational changes in April as part of his business plan.
• He's in discussions with Air Force to have the schools tip off their men's basketball seasons against each other every year. The schools will play in football in 2008.

The school is close to presenting new football coach Dan Hawkins with his three-year contract. Hawkins has completed his coaching staff with nine assistants, including four he brought with him from Boise State and two holdovers from Gary Barnett's staff: linebackers coach Brian Cabral and running backs coach Darian Hagan.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press