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Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

Kara Frankhouser, catcher for the softball team, was one of the people entering the Dore Theater for the announcement of CSUB entering the WAC who received a free WAC tee shirt.

Joining the Western Athletic Conference has added prestige to the Cal State Bakersfield athletic program. It has also helped financially.

CSUB raised a school-record $553,000 for its student-athlete scholarship fund for the 2012-13 fiscal year that ended June 30, the school announced last week.

Ziggy Siegfried, CSUB's senior associate athletic director for external relations, said last October's invitation to join the WAC, which became reality July 1, played a huge role in the record-setting fundraising campaign.

"People were waiting for us to get into a conference," he said.

The goal for 2012-13 was $500,000, Siegfried said, then that target was raised to $550,000 as money commitments came in. "We hit it the last day," he said.

The previous record for scholarship monies was $450,000 in 2009-10, Siegfried said. About $348,000 was raised in 2011-12.

Siegfried said CSUB had 225 athletes receive scholarship aid in 2012-13. Many were on partial scholarships.

To fully fund all athletic scholarships, Siegfried said CSUB would need to raise about $1.2 million annually.

Steady growth is the goal moving forward, he said.

"To go from $550,000 to a million -- that's unrealistic," Siegfried said of any one-year growth target. "A healthy, steady growth is our goal."

Siegfried added: "We're a forward-moving train. We have momentum. Now we need to capitalize on it. We need a good season this year."

Siegfried credited the many volunteers on CSUB's athletic scholarship fund committee with the successful drive. Alan Wade, the president of the scholarship fund's board of directors, led the way.

"He was our fundraiser of the year and raised more money than anyone else," Siegfried said. "He didn't talk about what he was going to do. He went out and did it. It's people like him that made it happen."

One of the keys to growing the scholarship fund was attracting previous donors to return.

"We got a lot of lapsed donors who did not give (in 2011-12) but gave in previous years," he said.

"Anyone who has given before is being asked, one way or another. We've sent out a lot of letters and had a lot of visits. We are going after those people to bring them back."

But the top target is getting last year's donors to return, Siegfried said.

"The best supporter to keep is the one you have now," he said. "That's our first focus. After that it's bringing back the ones from the past."

In separate fundraisers, CSUB announced it had raised more than $1 million last year from major gifts designated for specific sports, special projects and endowments within the department.

Included was funding for the permanent seats project for Hardt Field, CSUB's baseball facility, and the creation of the Kegley Center for Student Success, the university's first permanent home for the Athletics Academic Advising program.

There were two gifts of at least $100,000 for the baseball seating project, from the Fritch Family Foundation and from Bill and Holly Lazzerini. W.A. Thompson Inc. also gave $100,000, with part of that going toward the baseball seats and some going to other athletic endeavors.

Longtime CSUB professor Jackie Kegley, a longtime supporter of Roadrunner athletics, gave at least $100,000 for the Kegley Center, Siegfried said.

Fundraising is under way for two new projects: a softball project for new seating and a press box and a sand volleyball facility. Siegfried said he's optimistic those two projects will be completed in time for the start of their respective seasons next spring.

"Those two projects will happen," he said. "My philosophy is I don't like to announce projects until we have 50 percent of the money raised.

"We have other big projects I want done, but we don't have 50 percent of the money raised, so we're not saying anything about those now. But we're over 50 percent (for softball and sand volleyball)."

CSUB's WAC membership will enable women's basketball, soccer and indoor volleyball and men's basketball to finally have conference affiliations. Those four sports have been Division I independents since the program began its move from Division II status in the fall of 2006. CSUB became a full Division I member with postseason eligibility on July 1, 2010.