The University of Texas-Pan American's Bronc Athletic Foundation honored the first two charter members of its Century Club at a formal presentation during a news conference at UTPA.
Atlanta Hawks Head Coach Lon Kruger, who coached UTPA for four seasons and led the Broncs to a 20-8 record during the 1985-86 season, is the first charter member of the BAF's Century Club.
Coca-Cola is the second charter member of the Century Club, which will include individuals and corporations who contribute $100,000 or more to the foundation. Each donation is believed to be the largest ever made to the UTPA athletic department.
"We are most appreciative of the generous support that our athletic program at The University of Texas-Pan American is receiving from Lon and Barbara Kruger, as well as from the Coca-Cola Corporation," said UTPA Director of Athletics William J. Weidner. "The Coca-Cola Corporation has established an excellent relationship with our university, and we welcome their partnership with UTPA athletics. Lon Kruger is a very important figure in the proud history of Bronc athletics. His record of accomplishment in the coaching profession at UTPA and beyond speaks for itself. His and Barbara's pledge speaks volumes for their love of this university and the special time that they spent here."
"As charter members of the Bronc Athletic Foundation's Century Club, their very significant contributions will assist our efforts in establishing a nationally respected NCAA Division I athletic program," Weidner continued. "Their commitment also serves a solid endorsement of our athletic department, and enhances our credibility as an emerging athletic program that is clearly on the rise. On behalf of our student-athletes and our entire athletic staff, I want to express our sincere appreciation and thanks to Coach Kruger, his wife Barbara and Carlos Ramos of Coca-Cola for their very thoughtful consideration and support. Their generous commitment will indeed insure that UTPA athletics will not only have a proud past, but also a bright future."
Kruger has been successful everywhere he has coached. In 1982, he took over a UTPA team that had won just five games in the previous season. The Broncs won seven games his first year, then were in double digits in victories in each of the next three seasons, highlighted by the 20 wins in his fourth and final season at UTPA. He then coached at his alma mater, Kansas State, Florida, and Illinois before joining the Atlanta Hawks of the National Basketball Association.
During his career, Kruger has continued to follow UTPA athletics and thought the Century Club was a good idea.
"We're excited about the foundation, and the direction in which it is headed," said Kruger. "I hope this will start something that other people will become involved with. I think it will be very positive for the program."
Kruger said that athletics at UTPA is moving in the right direction, and he was pleased with the opportunity to participate.
"I had been talking to (Director of Athletics) Bill Weidner and (men's basketball Head Coach) Bob Hoffman, and when Bill talked about the Century Club that he's developing, I thought it was something that would provide an additional boost to the program," said Kruger. "We appreciate the opportunity that UT-Pan American and (UTPA President) Dr. (Miguel) Nevarez gave us. We enjoyed the valley and the university a great deal, we made a lot of friends, and we enjoy the opportunity to be involved again. I've stayed in touch, and I'm impressed with what Bill Weidner and the coaches are doing with the program. It's obvious that it's not only about wins and losses, but also about academic and social development, and I think that what the student-athletes are doing is impressive."
Carlos Ramos, the Area Vice-President for Coca-Cola, said the donation was an indication of his company's commitment both to The University of Texas-Pan American and the community in the Rio Grande Valley.
"It's very important to us to be involved with the university and the community," said Ramos, "It shows that we have a very good working relationship, and it also demonstrates that we can be responsive to the changing needs of our partners, which include UT Pan American. This is something that came up recently, and we were glad to be able to work together and be supportive."