With the first-ever full scholarship for women’s soccer endowed recently by USC alumnus Will Ferrell and his wife Viveca Paulin, USC Athletics is moving closer to its $283 million dollar Heritage Initiative goal.
Established in 2012, the program is part of a greater USC fundraising campaign, and includes recent developments like the renovation of Heritage Hall and the construction of the John McKay Center.
Growing endowments continue to be a large part of the department’s goal. Currently, USC Athletics has raised $197 million from endowments like Ferrell and Paulin’s. These strictly cover tuition, room and board for the 283 full scholarships the University gives to its student athletes.
“The collective cost of tuition, room and board, that we provide every year to the University for our scholarships is anywhere between $19 [million] and $20 million,” associate athletic director Alexandra Bitterlin said. “And that number obviously keeps growing as tuition rises. So what these endowments do is offset that annual money that we have to raise to meet those financial goals.”
People often don’t realize, Bitterlin said, that the athletic department is completely self-sustaining, as it receives no government funds, student fees or payments from the University. Corporate sponsorships, ticket sales and endowments allow the department to provide scholarships to its athletes.
“These donations and these donors are critical to our success,” Bitterlin said. “If we can’t pay those bills, then we’re in trouble, but luckily we’ve had some very generous donors and members of the Trojan Family who have stepped up to help.”
With the establishment of the Viveca Paulin and Will Ferrell Scholarship Fund, one of the 14 scholarships allotted for the women’s soccer team will be consistently funded, year after year. The money will start being used in 2018, although the program hasn’t decided whether the scholarship will recognize a specific recipient or simply be added to the general scholarship fund.
For head women’s soccer coach Keidane McAlpine, Ferrell and Paulin’s endowment marked an important step for women’s athletics. Since the 1970s, donors have named endowments for positions on USC’s football team; currently, all 85 positions and the head coaching spot are endowed. However, that reach doesn’t always stretch over to the women’s side, even with a NCAA championship team like McAlpine’s.
“Let’s be honest. You get 90,000 people for a football game — our biggest crowd is 10,000 — and that’s a huge crowd, but that’s a one-time event,” McAlpine said. “We’ve gotten a great following and people reaching out, especially after last year, but [the scholarship] just gives a few other groups of people that may not be as tempted to the women’s side a window in, and that’s what’s important.”
McAlpine said the most exciting part of the scholarship news was the fact that people like Ferrell and Paulin were willing to offer their support. Although he didn’t expect the story to garner the attention it has, any buzz helps in the midst of recruiting season. For his athletes, the news also provided a morale boost.
“[It’s exciting] that somebody noteworthy and known for supporting the football team, from a USC standpoint, has taken the time to invest in what they’re doing and their work,” McAlpine said.
McAlpine, whose love of soccer stems from his days as a collegiate and professional player, is hopeful that recognition like this will help grow women’s soccer across the nation. He noted that the Ferrell family members are now owners in the Los Angeles Football Club. In addition, Paulin herself was a soccer player at Pomona College.
“The exciting part is, as we try to grow the women’s professional side, you’ve got people that are starting to back it, starting to back the game, and as you’ve seen the growth of the MLS [Major League Soccer] we’re hoping the NWSL [National Women’s Soccer League] will grow,” McAlpine said. “And this [scholarship] is just one of those, for me, a benchmark moment in that we’re finding support, moving in that general direction, and that’s very, very exciting.”