A Mix of Tech and Sports: Behind Mark Cuban's $5 Million Gift to His Alma Mater

Billionaire Mark Cuban has had his hands in a lot of different areas over the years. Of course, there's ABC's Shark Tank, where he and other investors field pitches from budding entrepreneurs. He's also founded tech companies such as MicroSolutions, which he sold to CompuServe for $6 million. Then there's the Dallas Mavericks, the NBA team he acquired in 2000 and has bombastically supported ever since.

Cuban's philanthropy, meanwhile, has also involved a variety of areas, perhaps so much so that it's been difficult to establish a clear through-line. (Although we've tried: See IP's profile of Mark Cuban.) He does have an interest in supporting veterans, and in 2003, founded the Fallen Patriot Fund to help families of U.S. military personnel killed or injured during the Iraq War. Cuban has also supported disaster relief efforts after Superstorm Sandy, and has supported education in the Dallas area.

Now, Indiana University has announced a $5 million gift from Cuban to create the Mark Cuban Center for Sports Media and Technology, a "cutting-edge, student-focused, video, broadcasting, and technology center." According to the school, the gift will make IU Athletics "the national leader in 3-D broadcast and replay, virtual reality, and 3-D virtual studio technologies."

Cuban actually grew up in Pittsburgh and attended the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University, so alumni loyalty is definitely an element of this gift. Still, it doesn't fully explain how Indiana University remained on the radar of a funder who's into so much, both in business and otherwise.

How exactly did Indiana University remain on Cuban's radar?

Well, I should first mention that the forces at work here remind me of another gift I wrote about recently to Georgetown University by J. Patrick Lannan and the Lannan Foundation. In both cases, a funder with a lot of different interests remained on the radar of their school, and vice versa.

Related: Behind a Poetry Gift: Alumni Loyalty Still Matters, Even When a Funder Is Into a Lot

It's worth mentioning that while Cuban was still at Indiana, he started his first entrepreneurial ventures. Then, after selling Microsolutions, his next company, initially called Audionet, produced webcasts of Indiana University Hoosier basketball games. So on some level, Indiana University has been part of Cuban's business story. Cuban is also a member of the IU Foundation Presidents Circle and lifetime member of the IU Alumni Association.

This $5 million gift seems particularly tailor-made for Cuban, not just a lover of tech and sports, but a man who has always wanted to stay ahead of the curve in these industries. The Mark Cuban Center for Sports Media and Technology sounds just like that and involves "virtual reality, gaming, studio production, gameday video production, motion and broadcast graphics, promotional location production, reporting and play-by-play, and game live casting."

The center definitely has a cross-disciplinary focus, and multiple departments have been enlisted for support. It's all very consistent with Cuban's interests, and the seeds of some of these ideas have been kicked around since Audionet in the mid-1990s. 

This is hardly the first gift we've reported on that fits a donor like a glove, and you can see that some great development work went into this package. On the other hand, we can't help wondering why there isn't a zero after the five in this gift amount, or maybe a one in front of it, given that Cuban is worth well over $2 billion and we've been waiting for him to make his big philanthropic move. 

I'll guess we'll keep waiting.