College Football has always been a business. It is just becoming harder to not notice now. This Tuesday it was announced Rutgers Stadium will now be called High Point Solutions Stadium, after a naming rights deal with the company was struck.
In reporting the story ESPN’s Andrea Adelson noted in her Big East Blog:
Rutgers becomes the 15th school to play in a stadium with corporate naming rights. Five of those schools play in NFL stadiums. That seems to be more the norm in the Big East — five of the league’s eight teams now play in stadiums with corporate names.
One of those 15 is the Scarlet Knight’s conference rival Syracuse. Syracuse actually closed the first ever college-venue naming-rights deal in 1979. Before opening in 1980 the Syracuse based Carrier Corp. an air-conditioning manufacturer, paid a one-time $2.75 million fee for naming rights to the new Dome.
The Orangemen may want that deal back soon. The Rutgers arrangement is reportedly for 10 years and for $6.5 million dollars. While Syracuse’s 1979 agreement did not lead to any copy-cat deals at that time, it appears thirty plus years later, selling stadium rights will be a trend. All nine of the college football only venues to have sold their naming rights since Syracuse have done so in the last five years. What does each of those universities have in common? Each deal came in conjunction with or soon thereafter a stadium expansion or renovation project. The stadium formerly knows as Rutgers Stadium was expanded in 2008 to add club seats and then completed an expansion to reach a capacity 52,454 in 2009.
What is Next? Carpet Depot Field?
Kristi Dosh of the Business of College Sports compiled a list of all the naming rights deals for both college football stadiums and arenas. She notes that Comcast paid an additional $5 million for naming rights to the court at the Comcast Center – the home of the University of Maryland’s basketball team. The High Point Solutions deal is only for the naming rights of the stadium. Rutgers can still sell the naming rights to the field turf the game is played on. Premium seating and clubs have sponsors in stadiums across the country. So do Press Boxes. How about a quarterback sneak into The AutoZone End Zone for a score?
The Growing Price of Keeping Up With The Joneses and Huskers
For years the University of Nebraska was lauded for its superior training facilities. Nowadays state of the art workout facilities are the norm around most big programs. Recruiting lounges are springing up everywhere. As each school gets one it becomes more of a necessity than a luxury. All of these additions and excesses have to be paid for. Corporate sponsorships and private donations come a long way towards that. Furthermore, the more that state budgets get slashed, publicly-funded state schools like Rutgers, will have to look elsewhere, especially those in politically charged states like New Jersey.
More Coming To The Party
With the current economic conditions and the rising costs of running a football program you would think many colleges and universities would be rethinking their participation. Think again. Eight schools are set to add football programs in 2011, creating a total of 36 schools that will have added or will be adding a football program in a six year period. Not all those are slated to make the jump to division I or FBS status. But the larger universities like Old Dominion University, University of Texas at San Antonio and University of South Alabama are expected or have already agreed to. This is in addition to division 1-A or FCS schools that are mulling the move up as well, such as Villanova University, University of Montana, and UMass.
Sponsorships And College Football Are Not New
Corporate sponsorships of College Football Bowl games have been going on for awhile now. Auburn beat Oregon in the 2010 Tostitos BCS National Championship Game. A scan of the over thirty bowls last year included the GoDaddy.com, Military Bowl Presented By Northrop Grumman, and Beef ‘O’ Brady’s St. Petersburg to go along with the more familiar ones like the Capital One Bowl, Discover Orange Bowl and Progressive Gator Bowl. Of course it wasn’t always like that. In 1986 El Paso’s John Hancock Sun Bowl became the first corporate sponsored bowl. Then the Sugar Bowl became the USF&G Sugar Bowl in 1988 and the dominoes kept falling from there. Now the question becomes where will it end?
Everybody Is Getting Some, But Me!
The recent Ohio State tattoo scandal has brought some back to the table to debate the amateurism status of college football. That is a much larger debate, and frankly, not one worth having. It is not happening anytime soon unless you have a plan to pay all student-athletes and not just football players. If you had a chance to watch ESPN’s documentary on the University of Michigan’s Fab Five in the 1990s, former player Jalen Rose brought up an interesting reflection. After completing their whirlwind freshmen season the reality of the business of the sport hit them. They barnstormed in Europe playing in packed arenas and then when back home walked by stores with countless displays of Michigan merchandise. In fact, sales of University of Michigan merchandise went from $1.5 million per year to over $10 million per year shortly after their first season.
Imagine how amateur the college football player of ten years from now will feel when he comes out of the Athlete’s Foot Locker room for player introduction on the Nathan’s Hot Dog Jumbotron and onto the ABC Carpet Field at the Bank of America Stadium at the University of North Carolina Charlotte on NBC/Comcast’s Wednesday Night Football brought to you by Facebook.
Laugh now. But that is how it will be. Rutgers did the right thing here for its program. Others will continue to follow suit and should. With many athletic departments operating in the red how can universities stand to leave money on the table. Just know with each passing season the business side of the game will more out in the open.
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