DETROIT — Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross is donating $200 million to the University of Michigan, his alma mater announced Wednesday, making it the biggest single gift in the school’s history but raising questions about Ross’ insistence on taxpayer funding to make improvements to his NFL team’s stadium.
Ross’ donation is among the largest ever given to a U.S. college or university. It will be split evenly between the Stephen M. Ross School of Business and the university’s athletics department, which will rename its campus the Stephen M. Ross Athletic Campus, the school said in a statement. It brings the total amount Ross has given the school to more than $313 million.
Although the donation is a huge boon to his alma mater, it will make it more difficult for Ross to seek taxpayer help for the $350 million improvements he wants to make to the Dolphins’ stadium, said Andrew Zimbalist, a sports economist at Smith College in Northampton, Mass.
“It strikes me as peculiar timing that Mr. Ross decided to have this made known as this time,” Zimbalist said. “If I were in Miami, then I would have additional questions about why he needed public funding for his stadium.”
House Speaker Will Weatherford, who killed Ross’ plan by not putting it up for a vote, declined to comment on the Michigan donation. But Miami documentary filmmaker Billy Corben, a critic of Ross’ stadium plan, tweeted: “Props on @MiamiDolphins owner’s generous donation. He can do whatever he wants with his money. He can’t do whatever he wants with ours.”
Ross has said an upgrade of the 26-year-old stadium is needed if Miami is to host future Super Bowls and college championship games. He says the Dolphins are already heavily in debt and one of the NFL’s most leveraged teams, making upgrades impossible without taxpayer help.