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Posted on Thu, Dec 13, 2012 : 5:59 a.m.

Cancellation of Big House Big Heart goes beyond the race itself

By Letters to the Editor

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Runners slap the "Go Blue" banner at the end of the Big House Big Heart Run in 2011.

Joseph Tobianski |

The formal definitions for the word "charity" all involve a fundamental focus upon others, not upon yourself. The definitions (as found when one examines the Merriam-Webster Dictionary) include phrases such as "benevolent goodwill," "generosity and helpfulness," and "a gift for public benevolent purposes."

These days, the clear impression one gets of the U-M athletic colossus is that they consider their fundamental soul to be their own self-interest. The latest maize and blue edict from on high is not an announcement about a $100-million facility fundraising campaign, another "Michigan Man" coaching hire, or yet one more needed upgrade to the football scoreboards.

Rather, it is a decision by the athletic department brain-trust to sever ties with the "Big House Big Heart Run," a six-year charity event run by the plucky local company Champions For Charity. Evidently, U-M Athletics has decided this organization is not worthy of their ongoing attention, citing "assessment of our charitable mission" (sic). Shame on U-M athletics. I'm not going to pretend that I know their business better than they do (an attitude which, by the way, is often practiced by we Ann Arborites). Sometimes, people and organizations are faced with difficult dilemmas, limited resources, and choices the public just cannot see. The decision to close the doors of the Big House to this Litte Event, however, smacks of everything that is starting to smell bad on the southwest corner of town. When one attends a U-M sporting event these days — from the money-grab of a gargantuan football Saturday, to a "discounted" women's basketball game, to a "minor" sporting contest — any longtime U-M fan feels the pinch on the backside. That tension is the result of a pervasive feeling where U-M Athletics is reaching harder for your wallet, through all of the ancillary costs of attending the game in addition to the ticket price. Everything the U-M does these days is an effort to maximize: be it revenue, publicity, celebrity association, reputation, etc. Part of this is the nature of the so-called "game" these days in major-college athletics, and fans and participants alike have had to digest large helpings of this culture. But when Michigan Athletics turns a deaf ear — or better yet, a hard heart — to something like this "Big House Big Heart" event, it poignantly brings into view an organization that has clearly decided that its own mission is the only thing that matters. "Charity begins at home," as the adage goes. Ann Arbor is the U-M's home. This event is not only worth the athletic department's valuable time, but moreover should be the kind of thing they extend themselves to continue to support. It looks pretty obvious that they dismissed Champions For Charity with little thought. I'm guessing that they probably determined that they want these kind of events to "max out" for them in the future. "Charity" for U-M Athletics clearly means that they get something big out of it, too. My effort here is not only to call out U-M's athletic honchos on this deal, but to hopefully contribute to some bad publicity for them. Maybe it'll make a small dent on the maize and blue where they perceive that it matters most. Should the Big House EVER sit idle, on a day that Champions For Charity is holding a future fundraising run or event...well, the stench from the corner of Stadium and Main would then be "maximized." Steve DeDoes

Ann Arbor


Brian Woodcock

Thu, Dec 13, 2012 : 5:32 p.m.

For the past 3 years money has been raised at the Spring Game for Mott Hospital. The University of Michigan Women's Football Academy raises money for the UM Cancer Center each year. The football team visits patients in Mott Children's Hospital frequently and Charles Woodson continues to donate to Mott. Brian Griese / Steve Hutchinson / Charles Woodson Champions for Children's Hearts Weekend has been held for the past 6 years.


Thu, Dec 13, 2012 : 4:25 p.m.

We get it - you dislike the athletic department. But your argument loses all force when you have no ability to explain why UM's decision was actually the wrong decision, and choose instead to insinuate that UM must have done something wrong because you dislike them and some of their decisions unrelated to this one.

Kai Petainen

Thu, Dec 13, 2012 : 3:49 p.m.

I'm not speaking on behalf of the university, but myself. Perhaps the University would care to know the information listed below. Perhaps the University would care about the tax forms? Champions for Charity, EIN # 26-1802790 IRS Link: Also known as "Running Fit Foundation", EIN # 26-1802790 IRS Link: The federal tax exemption for that EIN was revoked. According to the IRS website: "The federal tax exemption of each organization listed below was automatically revoked for its failure to file a Form 990-series return or notice for three consecutive years." Revocation Date: May 15, 2011 Revocation Posting Date: Apr. 14, 2012


Thu, Dec 13, 2012 : 2:21 p.m.

Hmm...enough already. Opinion pieces are what they are, but when they don't include the facts as established, there really is no further need to opine. And that's my opinion.


Thu, Dec 13, 2012 : 1:36 p.m.

I think U of M tried to handle this in a pretty sensitive way. Based upon later reporting, it seems the issue was that not enough of the money raised was really going to charity. U of M chose to give a more neutral reason for the parting of ways. If an university is going to associate itself with a charity it should do the due diligence to ensure funds are going to charity to the greatest extent possible. I commend U of M for doing so and hope it will soon find another vehicle for a similar event.


Thu, Dec 13, 2012 : 12:43 p.m.

Really? REALLY? You are STILL trying to defend these people and ATTACK U of M on this front....because they've decided they would rather go with a "charitable" organization that raises MORE money for their causes? Also they probably want to go with a NOT FOR PROFIT company instead of a FOR PROFIT company.... Just stop it......THEY GOT EXPOSED....there is no "damage control" you can do now.

Cindy Heflin

Thu, Dec 13, 2012 : 4:42 p.m.

This article explains Champions for Charity's for-profit status.


Thu, Dec 13, 2012 : 4:30 p.m.

From Kai's post below, it appears they were more than a charity in title only but had sought tax exemption status (apparently revoked). Seems that would have been an easy story for the AD or to tell, rather than the drama created in the absense of information. If they were for-profit and indicated that then fine. But to be for-profit under the mascarade of a charity, decidedly not fine.


Thu, Dec 13, 2012 : 1:40 p.m.

It is not relevant whether the UM Athletic Department seeks profit. It does and it should. The question is whether it should be associated with a charity event that might not direct significant funds raised to charity. I have never heard of a charity being organized as a for-profit LLC. It, certainly, cannot be tax exempt.


Thu, Dec 13, 2012 : 1:19 p.m.

News flash Billy - The UM Athletic Department is a decidedly a For-Profit organization to the tune of over $100 million dollars a year if I recall some of the many stories in the site on the subject. Those new luxury Skyboxes around the top of the stadium are not there to do anything other than generate $$$$$$ fo the AD. CFC didn't take everything and did they profess to be something else? Their title is Champions for Charity, not Champions Charity.


Thu, Dec 13, 2012 : 11:50 a.m.

"I'm not going to pretend that I know their business better than they do (an attitude which, by the way, is often practiced by we Ann Arborites)." Should've stopped right there.