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Oklahoma’s women’s basketball program has completed a fundraising campaign to endow all 15 of its scholarships, OU athletic director Joe Castiglione said Wednesday.

Castiglione, speaking during a meeting of the OU Board of Regents, said the campaign, which was led by the Sooners’ coach, Sherri Coale, lasted 30 months. Each scholarship is endowed with a $200,000 gift and will be named after former OU players.

Coale said the campaign began “with a goal of creating a perpetual source of funding for our women’s basketball program. The full endowment of all 15 scholarships puts us in a position of self-sufficiency, an accomplishment achieved by very few programs across the country.

“While the financial repercussions are emphatic and will continue to resonate through the years, the relationship piece of this program has already proven priceless. The individuals and families who have generously endowed these positions have invested in the lives of our past, present and future student-athletes.”

OU President David Boren called the scholarship endowments “history-making.” Castiglione said he didn’t know how many other programs have fully endowed scholarships, but noted that women’s basketball is the first OU program to have accomplished the feat.

During Coale’s 11 seasons at the helm, Oklahoma’s program has become nationally prominent. The Sooners reached the 2002 national championship game and advanced to the round of 16 in the past two seasons behind reigning national player of the year Courtney Paris.

Last season, the Sooners finished fourth in NCAA Division I in average attendance at 10,433. Oklahoma trailed only traditional powers Tennessee, Connecticut and Texas Tech.

Coale’s overall record with the Sooners is 232-118. OU regents on Wednesday approved $250,000 raise for Coale, bumping her annual guaranteed compensation to $800,000, and extended her contract by seven years to 2017.

Castiglione praised Coale’s emphasis on the drive to endow scholarships for her team.

“She became very interested in this concept, and her energy was essential in making it a success,” he said. “Sherri’s focus on the goal was infectious.

“I think Sherri’s skill is now transcending the sport of women’s basketball. She has become, really, one of the strongest women leaders in our state, region and now nationally. … We know we have a true gem and a person who is developing into an Oklahoma icon.”

– Associated Press

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