Tucsonans Cole and Jeannie Davis have committed a $2.65 million gift to the University of Arizona men's basketball program for facility upgrades at McKale Center and Richard Jefferson Gymnasium.
The leadership gift, the fourth largest in UA Athletics history, gives the couple naming rights to a new strength training facility planned for the east end of Richard Jefferson Gymnasium. The $2.9 million capital project also includes the first major remodeling of the team's locker room since 1994 and other visual and graphical improvements in McKale Memorial Center.
Coach Sean Miller and his wife, Amy, are donating $250,000 to cover the remaining portion of the project cost.
"As we continue the process of building our basketball program and returning it to national prominence, we have identified several important areas of improvement," Miller said. "At the top of this list is the physical development of our players. In order to compete for championships in today's world of college basketball, we must have a superior conditioned, physically strong, and mentally tough team.
"This gift from Jeannie and Cole Davis allows the future of Arizona basketball to have one of the finest strength and conditioning facilities in the country. Their belief in our program and the student-athlete, coupled with their incredible generosity, significantly impacts our future. This gift is the highlight of my year as the head men's basketball coach. It means the world to me and supports my belief that together we all can accomplish more."
Cole and Jeannie Davis selected the project for their philanthropy because they believed it would both aid Miller in advancing men's basketball and contribute to the overall success of the athletics program.
"In speaking with Sean Miller, we were thoroughly impressed with his vision for UA basketball," Cole Davis said. "He passionately expressed that strength and endurance – combined with players interested in playing four years and graduating from UA – were key ingredients to maintaining a consistently winning program."
Women's basketball and volleyball will share use of the new training facility, helping to balance scheduling of practice and study time for multiple sports.
"On behalf of Arizona Athletics, I would like to thank Cole and Jeannie Davis, as well as Sean and Amy Miller, for their incredible commitments to Arizona Athletics and our student-athletes," said interim athletics director Kathleen "Rocky" LaRose. "Both of these generous gifts will help us move strategically forward in a very competitive environment. The basketball facility upgrades and related projects, like the football North End Zone project, will help us remain nationally competitive, while at the same time enhance the student-athlete experience at Arizona."
Greg Byrne, who officially assumes the UA athletics director post May 1, said the community support at Arizona was an important factor in luring him away from Mississippi State.
"The generosity of the Tucson community is a major reason why the UA is one of the elite athletic programs in the country and one of only a handful not operating a budget deficit," Byrne said. "Private support helps us improve our athletic programs, while keeping ticket prices as affordable as possible for Tucson families. Men's basketball and football are the two sports that must generate the revenue to sustain the entire program and our nearly 500 student-athletes."
The Davises bought a retirement home in Tucson in 1999 and made it their permanent residence in 2003 because, in part, of the many activities the UA offered.
"Having been avid college sports enthusiasts for years, our leap to become Wildcat fans was an easy one," Jeannie Davis said.
The couple was heartbroken with the tragic death of women's basketball star Shawntinice "Polkey" Polk, which inspired their first major gift of $1 million to name the west court of Jefferson Gymnasium in her memory. They also have supported the C.A.T.S. Life Skills program.
The couple is a member of the 1885 Society, a leadership group that provides unrestricted support to UA President Robert N. Shelton to advance academic excellence. 1885 Society-funded initiatives include a faculty chair in the College of Engineering and a graduate fellowship program in humanities. The Davises also have individually supported the College of Fine Arts and the Arizona Cancer Center.
Cole Davis founded Keystone RV Co., an Indiana-based manufacturer of recreational vehicles, which he sold in 2001 to Thor Industries.