Terps score on bank shot First National to put logos on court as part of near $1 million deal

October 31, 1998|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK -- Junior college transfer Steve Francis and three freshmen won't be the only additions to Cole Field House this basketball season.

The University of Maryland and a Baltimore-based bank are finalizing an agreement that would result in the first placement of corporate logos on the Cole Field House floor. It will be named the First National Bank of Maryland court.

Neither party would discuss the value of the corporate sponsorship, but it is believed that Maryland will receive from $850,000 to $900,000 over the life of a three-year contract that would put two logos on the court.

The floor has had a state athletic symbol with elements of the Maryland flag and a conference logo.

"We are proud to be associated with First National Bank of Maryland in this special way," Maryland athletic director Debbie Yow said yesterday. "We believe the working relationship will be long-term and mutually beneficial. We're shooting to have everything in place for our home opener, Nov. 14, against Western Carolina."

A spokeswoman for the bank said the sponsorship went beyond the floor at Cole Field House, but would not elaborate.

"Ninety percent of the elements that will make up this relationship are in place," said Reese Nank, the bank's vice president for corporate communications. "It goes beyond floor signage, but since it [the contract] is not completed, I'm not at liberty to say more."

Purists might complain about the commercialization of what is supposed to be an amateur endeavor, but corporate sponsorships, from bowl games to coaches' shoe endorsements, have long been a part of college athletics.

Maryland will not be the first member of the Atlantic Coast Conference to have a corporate logo on its basketball court. The McDonald's arch has been prominently featured since 1996 at Georgia Tech, where the official name of its arena is the Alexander Memorial Coliseum at McDonald's Center.

"As part of the attempt to balance our budget, we've become more aggressive in the selling of corporate sponsorships," Yow said. "From 1994 to '98, we increased that kind of income from $350,000 to $1.1 million. For this fiscal year [1998-99], that's going to go up to $1.6 million."

First National Bank of Maryland is the largest of three banks owned by First Maryland Bancorp, a holding company with total assets of $17.3 billion. It has corporate signs at both Camden Yards and the new Ravens Stadium.

Terps freshmen, meanwhile, might conclude their careers on a floor other than the one at Cole Field House, which was dedicated in 1955.

Yow said that Maryland is on the verge of hiring a firm that would conduct the search for a corporate sponsor willing to pay as much as $25 million to attach its name to a new arena.

A contract for the naming rights would get the ball rolling in the university's request for state aid for a project that would cost in the vicinity of $85 million.

A new arena would be built on the north side of campus.

Pub Date: 10/31/98

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