The sports name game

The Education Beat

Sponsorship: Mayor Martin O'Malley isn't comfortable with selling naming rights for Oriole Park

he'd likely disagree with the heavy college athletics commercialism.

July 26, 2000|By Mike Bowler | Mike Bowler,SUN STAFF

SELLING THE NAMING rights to Oriole Park at Camden Yards doesn't feel right in his gut, Mayor Martin O'Malley said last week.

The mayor's gut also would have suffered recently at Stanford University in California and the University of Maryland, College Park.

Stanford's athletic department proudly announced a deal with a New Jersey company that places virtual advertisements in the televised broadcasts of sports events. The technology, widely used in the broadcasts of major-league baseball, allows TV viewers, but not fans in attendance, to see computer-generated corporate logos.

The deal was announced on a Friday, but after a weekend of negative publicity, Stanford officials put an end to it. The latest corporate-advertising arrangement was not in keeping with Stanford's two-year campaign to rid its football stadium and basketball arena of commercial hype, they said.

"We feel a little bit better that we don't have venues with corporate ads, although I don't think this is a huge moralistic statement," the university's athletic director had said last month about Stanford's "cleaning" campaign.

Neither are there moral compunctions at College Park, which announced that the cable giant Comcast Corp. has extended its naming-rights agreement for the university's new arena. Not only will the building be named for Comcast; so will the arena floor, and exercising that right increases Comcast's "gift" to the university from $20 million to $25 million.

But let us not paint Stanford as the hero in this story and College Park as the bad guy. Stanford isn't losing money in blanking out corporate advertising. Its 50 corporate sponsors have accepted other benefits (benefits that players could never accept), such as free tickets, tailgate parties and Internet ads.

Moreover, the uniforms of Stanford's 35 teams will continue to be emblazoned with corporate logos, most of them the famous swish of Nike, whose founder is a graduate of the university's business school. The Nike logo isn't as "obtrusive" as billboard ads, an official explained to the Chronicle of Higher Education.

The main difference between Stanford and College Park is that there's a major quid pro quo in the Maryland transaction. Nike is providing sports apparel to teams that might not otherwise have them, but that's peanuts. Comcast is providing cable service to all of the university's dormitory rooms.

The players on the Terrapin and Cardinal teams will be expected to perform in the great amateur tradition of American "student athletes," unaffected by the commercialism swirling about them.

Research firm finds Md. schools excel in math

Rand, a nonprofit research firm, has completed an analysis of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) tests given between 1990 and 1996. Released yesterday, the report carries some fascinating findings.

Maryland is in a group of five states, led by Texas and North Carolina, that outpaced the rest of the country in mathematics.

But when the Maryland performance on seven reading and math tests is measured against states with similar demographics, the state falls to the third tier, close by such other mediocre performers as Delaware, New York, Utah, Tennessee and Kentucky.

In this first-ever cross-state comparison of achievement "by students from similar families," Texas is first and California last. This is significant, the Rand researchers say, because the two states have similar demographics, including large numbers of Hispanic students.

What explains the difference? "States at the top of the heap generally have lower pupil-teacher ratios in lower grades, higher participation in public prekindergarten programs and a higher percentage of teachers who are satisfied with the resources they are provided for teaching." Note that salaries are not a major factor, nor are years of teaching experience.

Note also that these tests were taken BW -- Before Gov. George W. Bush in Texas. Moreover, since 1996, California has embarked on a major effort to reduce class size in the early grades.

Rand is analyzing the 1998 NAEP math and reading scores. "We find that the state rankings change little," says David Grissmer, who heads the study, and thus far, "our findings about which policies make the most difference aren't affected at all."

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