$10 Million Empty Promise to Fresno State

FRESNO, Calif. The $20 million gift would be used to build new facilities and pay for athletic scholarships. But, the donation from Alphonso Bigelow's company has hit a roadblock.

We've spent months trying to get some answers about the $10 million. From the very beginning many people around town questioned how Alphonso Bigelow's company would deliver this large sum of money.

An historic day less than a year ago has become the day everyone associated with Fresno State Athletics wants to forget ever happened.

Fresno State President, John Welty said, "This is a great day of celebration for Fresno State Athletics and the university and our community."

The handshakes and high fives didn't last long, the deadlines for payment installments have come and gone.

/*Alphonso Bigelow*/ was the big man on campus on June 16th 2009. The school showed an elaborate animated video of the athletic training facility that would be built with the ten-million dollar donation.

Bigelow pointed to his company Nykel Bam International as the source of the donation. He described it as a company that facilitates mainly gold and diamond transactions between private parties.

The business has a current license with the Secretary of State to operate as a limited liability company. But, no website exists. A Clovis address listed on the license has no office showing his company's name.

For months, we've tried to get answers about the status of the pledge, but no one is willing to talk about the gift that's clearly fallen off track.

Fresno State issued a one line response to our request for an interview saying quote: "We do not discuss specifics of pledges or gifts."

University officials did talk specifics last year when they assumed the money was going to materialize. Bulldog Foundation representatives said several installments of a half a million dollars would be made.

Our investigation has revealed $100,000 has been put into that pledge account. That's 1 percent of 10 million.

Action News made numerous attempts to contact Alphonso Bigelow for this story. We reached out to him on the internet and five minutes after sending him a Facebook message he took down his page. Within the last two days, the Facebook page returned.

This was the first and last time the community heard from Bigelow: "It's a privilege that my company has allowed me. My board of directors has allowed me to choose the actual philanthropic option ... and my wife and I decided to choose Fresno State."

One man is willing to talk about the deal that's all but dead. Lorenzo Neal, he is a Valley native who played football at Fresno State and spent 16-years in the NFL. He is a Bulldog supporter and calls Bigelow a friend.

"You gotta understand the intentions from both sides," said Neal.

Despite the circumstances and feelings of embarrassment ... Neal believes Bulldog fans deserve an explanation.

Neal said, "You can't hide forever. Someone has to come up and say this didn't happen, this isn't the way we planned it, neither party. Alphonso or the University and deal with it."

Two men who secured the financial gift left Fresno State and the Central Valley months after getting the large commitment.

Jay Vickers is now at the University of Arizona and Danny White is at the University of Mississippi. The $10 million pledge is listed on the Ole Miss website as one of White's accomplishments. We wanted to ask him why he's using it as an accolade when most of the money has not come in.

He declined our request for a phone interview, but sent an email saying quote: "I will not be commenting on your request either due to the tremendous respect I have for the leadership team in place at Fresno State as well as all of those who have so generously contributed to the athletics department."

Vickers turned down our request to talk about the pledge as well.

Neal believes there is a way to end the questions and curiosity ... If both parties would be willing to show a united front and be willing to take some blame.

"If they came out and did those things, standing side by side and Alphonso said you know what, my intentions were well this company, this is what I thought was gonna happen, these are the things that I was promised, these are the things that I promised the university, so I hold that, maybe I should've done a better job of due diligence checking out this company better. at the same sense the university should say hey this young man who doesn't make $10 million a year, or $30, $40 million a year, wow, where is this money coming from, check the company out saying is this legitimate business or not," said Neal.

Administrators won't say whether they did background checks on Bigelow or the company he founded, Nykel Bam International.

After all the hoopla with a high-tech presentation and Bigelow inscribed football jerseys, Thursday the donation is not even up for discussion. 11 months later, the largest pledge ever made to athletics appears to have become a hush hush historical mistake.

One other note, the check delivered to Fresno State was a cashier's check, so it didn't have any names or account information tied to it.

Lorenzo Neal agreed to talk to us because he truly cares about Fresno State Athletics and really wants everyone to be upfront and honest and then move forward.

The Bulldog Foundation is protected from having to release its pledge and donation records because of its designation as a charitable foundation. But one state legislator is working to make foundations connected to public universities more transparent.

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