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Former basketball walk-on, Mat Ishbia, pledges $32 million to the Michigan State athletic department

Ishbia’s commitment is the largest single cash donation in MSU’s history from an individual

NCAA Elite 8: Michigan State Spartans v Louisville Cardinals Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The Michigan State basketball team has had a rough month, but a former walk-on under Coach Tom Izzo delivered some very good news on Thursday in the form a commitment of $32 million to MSU athletics. A press release from Michigan State Athletics on Thursday states that the gift “will benefit MSU Athletics in a variety of meaningful ways, including a significant expansion of athletic facilities and funds to support career services dedicated to student-athletes as well as to enhance the university’s athletic excellence overall.”

The pledge was made by former walk-on point guard, Mat Ishbia. Long time fans of the Green and White will remember Ishbia as a member of the 2000 National Champion team featuring Mateen Cleaves, who ironically now works in Mat’s company. Ishbia played for Coach Izzo from 1998-2002 and during his time he earned three letters and was a three-time Academic All-Big Ten honoree.

He was a member of three-straight Big Ten Championship and Final Four teams from 1999 to 2001. While Ishbia did not see the court much, he did see action in 48 games over three years and amassed a total of 28 points. He even started one game as a part of Senior Day in 2002.

Since Ishbia graduation from Michigan State University’s Eli Broad College of Business in 2003, he has been busy. Straight from MSU, he joined a 12-person family mortgage business run by his father, Jeffery. Mat is now the current chairman, president and CEO of that business, United Wholesale Mortgage, the largest wholesale mortgage company in the United States. Ishbia took the company public in September of 2020 for a sum of well over $10 billion dollars, making the former walk-on the 51st richest person in the country.

Ishbia credits a lot of his success to the education that he received at Michigan State as well as the lessons about teamwork and leadership that he learned under Coach Izzo. “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.

As for the details of how the pledge will be used, the press release from the Michigan State mentions the following:

  • $2 million will go toward the “Men’s Basketball Excellence Fund to be used at the discretion of the head coach to support the program.”
  • $20 million will be allocated to the football program to “construct an expansion of the Skandalaris Football Center to include improving the football auditorium, expand the weight room and creating new player lockers, informal meeting spaces, and recovery modalities consistent with the country’s best programs, as well as a dining and nutrition area to give head football coach Mel Tucker resources to compete for championships.”
  • $2 million will “create the Spartan For Life Fund focused on leadership and career development to serve as a springboard for all student-athletes to find employment after graduation and to assist with life-long career opportunities.”
  • $8 million will be used to “create the MSU Athletics Excellence Fund to provide both flexible and unrestricted resources that can address needs and take advantage of new opportunities as they arise.”
  • In addition, the press released reports that “Ishbia has requested that the expansion of the Skandalaris Football Center and the Jack Breslin Student Events Center’s basketball court be named in honor of Tom Izzo, and the southwest entrance of the Breslin Center and a display case inside be named in honor of Jeffrey and Joanne Ishbia.”

Both men’s basketball head coach Tom Izzo and football head coach Mel Tucker expressed their gratitude to Mat for his generous donation.

Coach Izzo said, “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.

“I am honored and humbled by his gift and thankful for his philanthropy, but I am more proud of the man he is. Mat’s parents always supported Mat throughout his college career, as Mat has done with his own kids, and with his gift he will support the life journey of so many more Spartans. Like me, he’s been lucky enough to live his dreams. Today he’s helping countless Spartans to live theirs.”

Coach Tucker added, “Facilities show a commitment to excellence. 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.

“Recruits and student-athletes are comparing our campus and our facilities to the other top programs in the country. Thanks to Mat’s generosity and vision, we will have a state-of-the-art football facility that will be among the best in the nation. We’re incredibly excited to unveil these enhancements in the near future.

“I’m honored to be the head coach in a building named after Tom Izzo. Having his name permanently associated with our program will be a living testament to his values of grit, toughness and passion, which is what this Spartan program is all about. I couldn’t be more excited for our program right now.”

But, perhaps the magnitude of the gift was best captured by a quote from MSU Trustee Emeritus Brian Mosallam: “Mat will single handily change the trajectory of MSU athletics and will impact thousands of Spartans’ lives forever. No other Spartan can claim this. Mat Ishbia is the greatest Spartan ever.”