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College Football 2014: Why There’s Nothing Wrong With Corporate Stadium Names

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By Chris Mahr

For those of you decried the news last week that Houston is supposedly naming its new stadium after TDECU (Texas Dow Employees Credit Union), let me ask you to do a little role-playing.

Imagine that you’re the athletic director or a high-ranking administrator for a non-traditional football school. One that aspires to be a powerhouse but lacks the heritage or the street cred where getting people to pony up money for it - in the form of large donations, ticket and merchandise purchases and the like - is inherently appealing.

Now also imagine that you have an opportunity to make a significant amount of money by selling the naming rights of your stadium to a company - more than any individual is willing to pay for those rights. Are you really going to turn down that money just because it would make for a “nontraditional” and corporate-sounding stadium name?

Money talks, bullsh*t walks. Running an FBS athletics program and building up a football team that can compete for upper echelon bowls is an expensive pursuit. So while it’s easy for us fans to throw up our arms in frustration whenever we’re watching games from fields named for a financial institution (Minnesota’s TCF Bank Stadium), a call centers company (Akron’s InfoCision Stadium) or the like, we’d be hard-pressed to turn down the money that those naming rights generate.

Money that’s used to shore up the stadium and facilities, which can subsequently be used to impress recruits enough into signing with those schools even though they’re not one of college football’s blue bloods. Money that can give a second-tier football program a chance to compete with and win against the sport’s big boys.

Look at how Louisville went from being a Conference USA afterthought to a two-time BCS bowl champion while playing in a gleaming stadium named for Papa John’s. Or how Texas Tech emerged under Mike Leach while calling a stadium partially named for SBC (from 2000-2006) and AT&T (2006-Present) home. Rutgers is trying to do the same in a newly renovated stadium named for a local health and life sciences IT company, HighPoint Solutions.

There’s a special commitment needed to become a capable football program this day in age, financial and otherwise. Whereas the Alabamas, Michigans and Notre Dames of the world have long since established themselves and rendered any visible corporate meddling unnecessary, it’s a different game that their less ballyhooed counterparts across the sport are playing. A game that often requires doing things that would make college football purists shudder.

But those purists aren’t the ones making the decisions. Those purists aren’t the ones being counted on to raise the money necessary to build up a competitive college football program from nothing or near-nothing. If they had a chance to be so, rest assured that they wouldn’t be so quick to decry a corporate stadium name.

If anything, we would decry them for being so foolish as to not consider it in the first place.

Chris Mahr is the managing editor of Lost Lettermen. You can follow him on Twitter at @CMahrtian.

 
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