The University of Louisville has begun raising funds for an $8 million academic center for student athletes.  The project is getting a boost from Maker's Mark. 

The bourbon maker is donating proceeds from a commemorative bottle featuring U of L football coach Charlie Strong.

More than 8,000 of the bottles went on sale at retail outlets last Friday and quickly sold out.

Maker's Mark Chief Operating Officer Rob Samuels says the company will donate up to $500,000 for the center over a three-year period.

U of L Athletic Director Tom Jurich says he has no qualms about accepting donations from a company that makes an alcohol product.

“Not at all,  because they’re an iconic company in the state of Kentucky much like Churchill Downs is.   I don’t look at Churchill Downs as a gambling facility,” he said.

Jurich says another, anonymous donor will make a seven-figure gift.   The academic facility will be located at the south end of Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium.

Jurich says the center will help student athletes build on their academic successes.  They just posted their highest overall grade point average in school history, under Associate Athletic Director for Student Support and Diversity Marvin Mitchell.

“We’ve raised that bar every single year, and that’s a credit to Marvin Mitchell,” Jurich said.   “I don’t want to sit here and take any of it.   He’s come in and really given this department a great vision for academics and we’ve been able to grow and grow and grow, and this is just going to be another piece in his arsenal.”

U of L student athletes posted a GPA of 3.11 for the spring semester. 

Rick Howlett is WFPL's Broadcast Managing Editor and also produces feature and general assignment radio stories.