Student-Athlete Academic Center Named in Honor of Eric and Blair Sprunk
In a small October ceremony, the 14-month-old student-athlete academic center at the University of Montana was officially christened the Eric and Blair Sprunk Student-Athlete Academic Center.
The Sprunk family donated $1 million to Grizzly Athletics for facility improvements in 2014, but chose to remain anonymous out of respect for one of their five children, Cooper, who was a freshman on the football team at the time. Cooper has since established himself on the team, starting as center for nearly every game this season.
“Blair and I are proud to be able to make this gift to ensure every athlete at the University of Montana has the tools and resources to succeed in their sport and in the classroom,” said Eric, a 1986 graduate of UM’s School of Business Administration and current chief operating officer at NIKE, Inc.
As reflected in the timing the Sprunks chose for announcing their gift, family is a top priority and always has been.
“Hard work is a really important part of success. But so is balance in one’s life,” Eric told a local paper in a 2013 interview. “As an example, I spent most of two decades coaching my kids’ youth teams. I know that made me a better leader.”
Though Eric and Blair live two states away, they still attend nearly all of Cooper’s football games, and Eric stands on the sideline before each game to share a good-luck hug with his favorite Griz.
UM’s previous student-athlete study area could hold only 10 students on a first-come, first-seated basis.
The new 1,500-square foot center accommodates up to 60 student-athletes at a time. Paid for entirely by donors, the center had nearly 14,000 visits during the 2015-16 academic year.
“We specifically talked to [Director of Athletics Kent Haslam] about an academic center, because, while I love Grizzly Athletics, I was never a student-athlete myself. It was important for us to find a way to make a difference for athletes in the classroom and not just on the playing fields.”
Pictured above: Blair and Eric pose before a game with their son, Cooper, a business major who started for the Griz during the 2016 season.