Former walk-on Mat Ishbia donates $32 million to Michigan State for new football building

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Chris Solari, Detroit Free Press
·4 min read
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Michigan State athletics is about to get a massive facilities overhaul thanks to one of Tom Izzo’s former players.

Former basketball walk-on Mat Ishbia pledged $32 million for a significant expansion of the Spartans’ athletics facilities, including a new football facility and renaming the basketball court at Breslin Center after Tom Izzo.

It also is expected to dramatically alter the look of the middle of campus, just south of Spartan Stadium.

“This donation is not about me, this is to give credit to and thank coach Tom Izzo, the business school and Michigan State University for the incredible impact they have had on my life,” Ishbia said in a release.

Ishbia, a member of Izzo’s 2000 national championship team and a 2003 graduate of MSU’s Eli Broad College of Business, is chairman, president and CEO of United Wholesale Mortgage, which went public last month.

The gift is among one of the single-largest commitments by an individual to MSU.

“From the first day he joined our basketball team and in the years following, I’ve watched Mat continue to make an impact for the betterment of others, taking the lessons he learned at Michigan State and instilling them in his company,” Izzo said in a statement. “Every day, as a member of the team, Mat wanted to improve himself and others around him, knowing that on every successful team, just as in business, everyone has a part to play. He has never relented that attitude.

“This gift speaks volumes to Mat’s character and the way he runs his business today; always focusing on creating a family atmosphere and being there for one another. His generosity will benefit the Spartan family for years to come, enriching the lives of so many Spartans well beyond their time at Michigan State.”

The largest portion, $20 million, is earmarked for an expansion of the Skandalaris Football Center that opened in 2008. The money will go to expanding the weight room, building a new dining and nutrition area and getting new player lockers, among other things, that are meant to give football coach Mel Tucker “resources to compete for championships.”

Tucker in a release he is “honored to be the heaed coach in a building named after Tom Izzo.”

“Facilities show a commitment to excellence,” Tucker said. “Mat’s gift will make a profound impact on our program and is a statement that Michigan State is relentless about excellence, both on and off the field, in our pursuit of championships.”

Ishibia also tabbed $2 million to create a Spartans For Life Fund, which will focus on helping athletes find employment after graduation and “to assist with life-long career opportunities” through leadership and development programs.

Another $2 million is going to MSU’s Men’s Basketball Excellence Fund to be used at the discretion of the head coach to support the program, “honoring the coach/player, mentor/mentee relationship” between Izzo and Ishbia.

The remainder of the donation will create an MSU Athletics Excellence Fund to “provide flexible, unrestricted resources that can address needs and take advantage of new opportunities as they arise.”

“MSU Athletics is extraordinarily grateful for Mat’s transformative gift, which is an example of bringing our mission to life,” MSU athletic director Bill Beekman said in a statement. “Mat’s gift will forever enhance our department’s ability to ‘provide opportunities for our student-athletes to succeed academically, athletically, and in their life’s pursuit.’”

United Wholesale Mortgage is the nation's No. 2-ranked mortgage company by mortgage origination volume. It only trails Detroit-based Quicken Loans, which went public last August as Rocket Companies alongside several other businesses owned by Dan Gilbert, another MSU alum who donated $15 million to a Breslin Center expansion in 2016.

Ishbia grew his company from a 12-person family business when he joined in 2003 to a company of more than 8,000, including a number of former MSU teammates and other athletes.

“I’m extremely excited about the Spartan for Life Fund for current and future alumni,” Ishbia said. “This will create so much opportunity for the MSU family to be connected to companies looking to hire individuals with drive, a strong work-ethic and passion.”

Contact Chris Solari: csolari@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @chrissolari. Read more on the Michigan State Spartans and sign up for our Spartans newsletter.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Mat Ishbia donates $32 million to Michigan State for football building