Colleges play name game, too Corporate designations following way of pros

May 29, 1998|By Christian Ewell | Christian Ewell,SUN STAFF

The story is familiar. Professional sports starts something. Colleges rip it off.

There are three-point lines and shot clocks. There are narrow goal posts and AstroTurf, not to mention coaches suffering from styling gel overdose. Now, college sports -- maybe the University of Maryland to be specific -- can thank the pros for something else: naming rights to arenas or stadiums.

To pay for a new basketball arena, the campus in College Park needs $20 million to $25 million in private money to pay for part of a cost that may be as much as $106 million.

If a wildly successful alumnus doesn't come through with a large donation, the replacement for Cole Field House probably will have a corporate name, following the form of facilities in professional sports.

While colleges are late in catching up to this trend, it has origins in the college ranks. In 1979, Syracuse got $2.79 million from an air-conditioning company, Carrier Corp., in building its dome.

Recently, schools have gotten back into the act, with Georgia Tech (McDonald's), Ohio State (Value City), Colorado (Coors), Texas Tech (United Supermarkets) and Fresno State (Save Mart Supermarkets) throwing corporate names on their on-campus basketball arenas, with North Carolina State and Pittsburgh planning to do the same.

Fresno State associate athletic director Scott Johnson said packages such as his school's $40 million deal with Save Mart and Pepsi -- in which PepsiCo subsidiaries such as Taco Bell or Pizza Hut may have increased access to the campus -- weren't necessary a decade ago because schools could depend on more state funding.

"State money was aplenty and funding was easier to come by, so schools could rely on more of the traditional methods," Johnson said. "I know at least here, the state budget dried up and you couldn't do business as usual anymore. You're having to run your athletic department like a business, or you downsize and get out of Division I athletics."

Pub Date: 5/29/98

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