Tommy Titan to ‘Wear the Bear’


Nowshin Chowdhury

Since Oakland’s 626 donors beat out UDM’s 470 donors to win the Giving Challenge, Tommy the Titan had to wear the bear at the men’s basketball rivalry game on Friday, Feb. 10 in Calihan Hall.

On a cold winter evening, the Oakland University Golden Grizzlies and the University of Detroit Mercy Titans heated things up both on and off the court. After suffering defeat last year, The Grizz got his revenge on Tommy Titan when it was announced that OU won the second-annual Giving Challenge at the men’s basketball game against UDM on Friday, Feb. 10.

The Giving Challenge between Oakland and UDM took place Feb. 6-10. During the challenge, students, faculty, alumni and anyone who valued the Oakland or Detroit Mercy communities were encouraged to make monetary donations to the schools. The money goes toward departments at the Universities.

Kelly Brault, OU’s director of Annual Giving, and Tara Bergeron, OU’s assistant director of Annual Giving, coordinated the challenge with UDM’s Ann Fisher, executive director of Annual Giving and Advancement Systems. Brault also worked as Detroit Mercy’s director of Annual Giving before coming to Oakland.

“I reached out to the director of Annual Giving [at UDM], and she loved the idea,” Brault said. “We spent the next few months working on it. Last year was the first year, and we decided that February is a time when there’s not a lot going on . . . but we thought that that would be a great time to inspire that [pride] in both of our alums and friends.”

Last year, the Golden Grizzlies lost with 436 donors compared to the Titans’ 513, and The Grizz was forced to wear a Titan T-shirt at the Oakland vs. UDM women’s basketball game on Feb. 27, 2016. However, Oakland crushed Detroit Mercy with sweet revenge this year. The Black and Gold gathered 626 donors, while UDM had 470. Tommy Titan was forced to “Wear the Bear” Friday at the men’s basketball game.

“We had crazy ideas,” Brault said. “Basically, by process of elimination, we thought, ‘What worse insult or mascot shaming [is there] than having them wear the other team’s jersey?’”

There were some adjustments to how Oakland went about promoting and updating the donors on the challenge’s official website.

Bergeron worked closely with University Communications and Marketing. She also used Oakland’s social media in various departments, including athletics, the Oakland University Police Department and the School of Engineering and Computer Science, to name a few.

Bergeron also employed the help of The Grizz to promote the event. On Feb. 9, The Grizz was in the Oakland Center helping to get donors for the Grizz Grooming fund.

The two schools also decided to get on the same schedule for updating their websites to keep things fair and accurate.

“The system automatically updates the numbers on the website, and we each have our own website,” Bergeron said. “We worked with [UDM] to determine the schedule, so that we are each updating around the same time, so you don’t have one school updating and it’s a big jump, and then the other school hasn’t updated. People might get on and look and go ‘Oh wow’ and it’s because somebody hasn’t updated.”

Annual Giving feels good after winning the Giving Challenge.

“I feel huge relief and gratitude,” Brault said. “There was a lot that went into preparing, so that’s where the relief comes from. Gratitude would be for, of course, all the donors, supporters and my department and colleagues who all helped to make it happen.”

Plans for next year’s Giving Challenge are not yet in progress.

An official count of the money raised has not yet been announced.