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Football: Red Wing's Freier goes all-in on uniforms

New Red Wing football coach Nate Freier has started a GoFundMe page to help raise money for new uniforms. To visit the GoFundMe page, go to www.gofundme.com/WingerFootballUniforms. (File photo)

Nate Freier is betting on Red Wing.

As of 11 a.m. Tuesday, a GoFundMe set up by the Wingers' new football coach has raised $2,700 of a stated $16,000 goal. The money, which comes in donations, will be spent on new uniforms for the team. The school does not have the funds, especially after 21 helmets were taken out of the rotation, forcing the district to spring for new ones.

So Freier is turning to the community, and, really, the country, as a $1,000 pledge from Freier's “Army buddy” Dave Seely attests. The Seelys are from Northern Virginia.

“We'll get the job done, we'll get there,” Freier said. “We really could use the community's help in this. And not just them, send it to your aunt, your uncle, your workmates, whoever.”

The coach also has some skin in the game, he donated $200 on Monday. And there's also the matter that Freier has no backup plan.

“There's no turning back,” Freier said. “If you want to put urgency in your report, the uniforms are on the way. And I think they're ordered under my name. So I might be delivered a $13,500 bill.”

Freier, who is in the process of moving, said he will be in the city in three weeks, and will immediately “pound the pavement” to secure more funding from businesses.

When noted that it's a huge gamble for the coach, there is no hesitation from Freier.

“I've taken a lot of 'em,” Freier said. “(But) if you can get some of those $500, $250 ones mixed in with those $5-25 ones, you can get there really quick.”

As crazy as the whole process seems, it has become a way for programs to raise money outside of the traditional selling-candy-at-the-door. Rising costs in athletics, dropping revenue and district budget cuts — including the $12,000 slash that former Activities Director Matt Schultz was handed shortly before he left – are the new normal.

The new AD, John Miller, said that he and the coaches he oversees are always looking for new ways to raise money. Miller said that the outlook for future budgets looks good, but that the $12,000 is unlikely to come back, forcing all involved to figure out a way to pay for things such as replacement uniforms.

“The district didn't say we won't fund uniforms, they just said the budget has been reduced and where do you want the money to come from,” Miller said. “It's not unique to hear. Look at the college level, North Dakota just lost its women's hockey team. We're not making it mandatory that you do these things, but if you're proactive in these things, like starting a GoFundMe page, we're going to support you any way we can.”

Miller said that there are not any conversations about cutting any activities, and that the goal is to make sure there is funding for every part of every activity, whether it's uniforms, transportation or coaches.

“Since I've been here, that's been my major focus,” Miller said, adding that he's looked into everything from old-school fund raising to GoFundMe to corporate advertising.

The issue of financing athletics is not new, and it's only getting tougher to find solutions. Perhaps the next question is what happens in five or six or seven years when the new uniforms need to be replaced?

Freier has tried to answer that before the query becomes pressing. The pants are stock, with no specialized stripes or piping, meaning replacement is cheaper and easier. And then there is the way the coach wants to handle the care of the uniforms. The uniforms the team has used the past few seasons are worn and, in several cases, torn. Blood dots some, and no amount of washing will remove the stains from years of use. And not everyone is capable of stitching a hole closed.

So Freier is hoping to take that process out of the hands of parents and putting in the hands of a professional in yet another way to stretch funds and the life of the uniform.

“It's accountability, knowing where each and every uniform is,” Freier said, noting that there are some missing home jerseys, leaving just an away counterpart. “And that leads to a process where you get them washed centrally and taking the burden off of parents. They have enough to worry about. Maybe we find a local cleaner in town and negotiate a deal, or get a group of parents who do it every Friday night, wash and mend. Those are the issues we need to think about when we get this one hurdle overcome.”

With $13,300 to go, and no bluff to call, Freier's bet on himself and on Red Wing has to pay off.

“We're just trying to get the program back. A values-based program, with a healthy and high-performing path that translates into success,” Freier said. “It's all these little things we need to get done to make it happen. And unfortunately none of it's free.”

To visit the GoFundMe page, go to www.gofundme.com/WingerFootballUniforms.

Kyle Stevens
Kyle Stevens is a sports reporter for the Red Wing Republican Eagle. Previously, Kyle worked at the Owatonna People’s Press, as well as KWLM and KLFN in Willmar. You can contact Kyle by phone at (651) 301-7879, via e-mail at kstevens@republican-eagle.com, and follow him on Twitter @RE_KStevens.
(651) 301-7879
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