Alvarez added that Coyle had “indicated support” for designating the gift to facilities needs. Lucas also said in his emailed statement that athletics staff were in touch with the Coyle family, including in-person visits, phone calls and emails in which they “expressed personal support and enthusiasm” for using the gift toward stadium renovations. Coyle denies that was the case.
The Board of Regents’ business and finance committee granted Alvarez’s request in October 2016, and the UW-Madison athletic department announced the donation as a gift for an existing campaign to raise $2.5 million.
“Perhaps the school was not required to issue a gift agreement, notify the donor, or obtain written consent. But it could have done any of those things,” Coyle wrote in a letter to various media and philanthropic organizations in February. “Their own beliefs, statements, and principles suggest they should have done those things. But they did not.”
Coyle sent correspondence requesting a full refund of the $500,000 to UW Foundation, System and UW-Madison leadership in June 2019 and October 2020, as well as to the Board of Regents in March 2020, according to his letter. None of the organizations or individuals have responded, he said.
Recovering the funds will be difficult without explicit documentation of donor intent, according to “The Intelligent Donor’s Guide to College Giving,” a report from the American Council of Trustees and Alumni. The October 2020 report characterizes the System’s stewardship policies as “lax” andcites the Coyle family gift as a case study on the importance of donor specificity.