CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — The largest donation in Illinois Division of Intercollegiate Athletics history means a new name for the Football Performance Center. Dale and Chris Smith, in conjunction with the H.D. Smith Foundation, are donating $20 million to the University of Illinois Foundation, with $15 million going towards the football program’s new construction. As a result, the building will now be called the Henry Dale and Betty Smith Football Center.
“It seemed like a welcome opportunity and an opportunity to go ahead and share some of what we’ve gained over the years so having mom and dad’s name on the building means a lot to us,” Dale Smith said.
“I think it continues to demonstrate that people are supporting the vision of this football program,” Illinois athletic director Josh Whitman said. “They believe in the direction we’re headed and that means a great deal. It adds credibility to the effort.”
The gift will help three different projects. The first $15 million will directly benefit construction costs for the performance center. The other $5 million will be split up, with $3 million heading towards scholarship opportunities for former athletes returning to campus to earn their degrees. The remaining $2 million goes towards the Illinois Carle College of Medicine.
“Dale and I have had the chance to get to know Josh (Whitman) and Coach Lovie Smith and we wouldn’t be making this gift if we didn’t believe strongly in their leadership,” Chris Smith said in a statement. “We see their commitment to making Illinois Football a national championship caliber program and are proud to be the lynchpin in making the performance center a reality.”
The Smith Football Center is scheduled to be completed by August 2019.