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Saturday, May 08, 2021
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Family that donated $500,000 to UW-Madison tennis program seeks refund after alleged misuse

The Coyle family has claimed that UW-Madison misused the $500,000 donation they gave in 2016 and intend to get their money back. 

Richard Coyle made the donation in June 2016, in accordance with his late mother Marion Lou Coyle’s will. The monetary contribution was intended to honor her late husband and Richard’s father, Douglas Coyle, who attended the UW on a tennis scholarship in the 1930s. 

Coyle said the contribution, which he believed was directed to the UW Foundation, was intended to serve as funding for tennis scholarships. However, the language in his mother’s will did not specify that funds were to be used for scholarships. 

“We didn’t want to pour concrete,” said Coyle to The Capital Times. “We wanted to enrich lives.” 

Years after the donation, Coyle discovered that the funds were not with the UW Foundation but instead managed by the Systems Trust overseen by the Board of Regents, and that the contribution was used for the Nielsen Tennis Stadium renovation project that was completed in 2019. 

The language used in the will requested that the gift be distributed to the “University of Wisconsin, currently located in Madison, WI” and “be used in support of the tennis program” in the manner in which the UW Athletic Department saw fit, according to university spokesperson Meredith McGlone.

“When a bequest is made to the UW itself, per System policy, that means the funds are routed to UW System Trust,” said McGlone. “In all such cases, UW-Madison complies with the documentation in the bequest to ensure that their intended uses match the university’s need and ultimate use.” 

Last year, Coyle learned that the athletic department and Chancellor Blank requested for the Board of Regents to exempt the contribution from board policy that requires non-endowed gifts exceeding $250,000 to become Board-designated endowments. The Board granted the request, and the donation was to be used as a gift for the Nielsen Tennis Stadium renovations. 

Coyle sought a full refund and sent messages to the UW Foundation, UW System and UW-Madison officials, as well as the Board of Regents on multiple occasions over the last three years. He has yet to hear from any of the individuals or organizations involved.

“We regret that the donor’s family has a misperception of the university’s actions in this matter,” said McGlone. “But we continue to be grateful for the gift and the passionate support for UW Madison tennis programs.” 

Ultimately, the Coyle family remains disappointed with the university and its use of the donation. 

“We just want the money back, quite frankly, so we can enrich people’s lives elsewhere,” said Coyle.

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