For the first time, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Fort Hays State University’s annual Tiger Auction will be held entirely online. In its 11th year, the auction raises funds for Tiger athletics.


"We hate to do it online," Fort Hays athletic director Curtis Hammeke said. "It’s a fun event when it’s live. Over the years, it’s been a good kickoff event for us.


"We’re still very hopeful it can be successful for us financially in a different way," he added. "Hopefully, we can reach more people this way."


This year’s virtual auction starts Monday at 9 a.m. and lasts through Aug. 28. Go to tigerauction.org to bid on items and also where supporters can sign up to join a zoom meeting on Saturday with Hammeke and coaches, who will provide updates. In years past, a $75 ticket provided dinner and drinks for auction participants, which grew to about 650 last year. The auction was first held at the Fort Hays Ballroom but outgrew it. In recent years, it has been held at Schmidt-Bickle Indoor Training Facility. The auction first started to provide funds for the department to offset budget cutbacks.


Previously, there were about 200 items up for bid for the silent auction and 100 items up for bid for the live auction. This year, there will be about 250 items available for bid.


"We knew a lot of people had been hit hard by COVID-19," said FHSU assistant athletic director of external operations Matt Cook. "We still wanted to reach out to everybody. If they couldn’t (donate an item), we were completely fine with it."


One of the highlights in years past was Item 40. Each year, a special need is designated at the auction. The auction is stopped at the midway point and attendees can give monetary pledges that go towards Item 40, which got its name because in the early years of the auction that was about the midpoint of items available for bid. The name stuck.


Past Item 40 donations have gone toward things such as weight equipment, video board improvements, new buses, new goal posts, new basketball goals, etc. This year’s Item 40 will go toward operational expenses for the department, instead of improvements. One major expense is scholarships. Donations are tax-deductible and can be paid in installments. The department will be minus its normal income streams in the fall due to the suspension of all fall sports due to COVID-19.


Last year, the Tiger Auction raised $377,000. With it online for the first time, and amid a global health crisis, Cook is unsure what to expect this year.


"We’re just going to be grateful for whatever we get," Cook said. "For us, it’s not going to be a one-year impact, a two-year impact, not a three-year impact. The COVID-19 pandemic is going to be a multi-year impact on Tiger athletics."