Former University of Arizona forward Richard Jefferson has pledged to donate $3.5 million to his alma mater as part of a $14 million fund raising effort for a new basketball and volleyball practice facility. The 27-year old Jefferson is now the largest single donor by a professional athlete back to his school; Alex Rodriguez previously donated $3.9 million to the University of Miami, but he never played for the Hurricanes.
“I had heard a long time ago that they were looking for someone to handle the naming rights and the word was that coach Olson wanted to hold off to get a player to do it,” Jefferson told ESPN.com Friday night. “They started coming up to me and said, ‘you’re from Phoenix, you’re an Arizona guy, and you have always represented the University of Arizona.’ So we started talking about the right amount.”
Previous large donations include Carmelo Anthony’s $3.0 million donation to Syracuse University and Steve Smith’s $2.5 million to Michigan State. Jefferson is currently in the third year of a six-year, $76 million contract with the New Jersey Nets. The donation will be made in installments while the facility is being built.
Other professional athletes from the University of Arizona include Gilbert Arenas, Mike Bibby, Jason Terry, Damon Stoudamire, Channing Frye, Luke Walton, and Andre Iguodala.