The Corporate Naming Rights Of America

As the collegiate football bowl season got underway this past weekend with the Gildan New Mexico, Famous Idaho Potato and R & L  Carriers New Orleans bowl games, it never ceases to amaze me how far this nation’s institutes of higher learning and our country have deteriorated in integrity in their pursuit of the almighty corporate dollar.  The N.C.A.A. long ago sold its soul to the television networks at the expense of its student-athletes.  Collegiate football and basketball games are now routinely scheduled nearly every day of the week with starting times at late as 10:00 p.m. on school nights.

As a nation, we are no longer concerned with excellence, but instead we award mediocrity.  With a grand total of thirty-five bowl games, more than half of the one hundred and twenty Division 1 Football Bowl Subdivision teams are eligible for post-season play.  Of the seventy teams playing in bowl games this year, one team is playing despite a losing (6-7) record, thirteen teams have six losses, fifteen teams have five losses, fourteen teams have four losses and eleven teams have three losses.  On the other end of the record, there are only ten teams with just two losses, five teams with one loss and one team undefeated.  Every year, there are always several teams playing in a bowl game despite its university having fired their head coach for either not winning enough games or other legal or amoral reasons.

In the days gone by, the only football teams playing in bowl games were conference champions and the games had exotic sounding names, such as the Rose, Orange, Cotton, Sugar, Fiesta or Gator Bowls.  This year, these games are now called the Rose Bowl Presented By Vizio, Discover Orange, AT&T Cotton, Allstate Sugar and the Tostitos Fiesta Bowls.  In addition to these absurdly sounding names, other more minor bowl games have even more ridiculous names such as the AdvoCare V100 Independence, Bridgepoint Education Holiday, Bell Helicopter Armed Forces, New ERA Pinstripe, Franklin American Mortgage Music City, Meineke Car Care Of Texas, Ticket City,, Beef ‘O’ Brady’s St. Petersburg, Little Caesars Pizza, Military Bowl Presented By Northrop Grumman, Belk, San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia and BBVA Compass bowl games.  I must admit that my favorite is the Gator Bowl not only because of its dreadful name but because it features my alma mater, Ohio State (6-6) versus Florida (6-6), as this game is a matchup of Coach Urban Meyer’s new team playing his former team.  We have even trivialized America’s national championship game by naming it the Allstate BCS National Championship game.

To make matters even more comical, instant replays are now shown to viewers courteous of so and so corporation, the first down line semi-imposed on the screen is provided by such and such conglomerate and half-time stats are bought to us by whomever.  I find it ludicrous that Allstate Insurance proudly boasts constantly how they have contributed $2.5 million to student-athlete scholarships during the past twenty-five years because they are allowed to have their logo prominently displayed on the netting behind the goalposts.  Compared to how much free advertising Allstate has received not only every time this netting is raised during games but also every time the announcers talk about it, the money it has donated is trivial by comparison.  Allstate should have donated $2.5 billion to the scholarship fund to offset the free advertising they receive every time there is a field goal or extra point attempt.

Ohio State University found the lure of money too great eleven years ago when it built a new basketball arena by naming its state of the art arena the Value City Arena at the Jerome Schottenstein Center.  Instead of rightfully naming the arena after their beloved basketball coach, Fred Taylor, who coached the Buckeyes for eighteen years (1959-1976), winning the university’s only basketball national championship in 1960, OSU elected to name its arena after a discount clothing and furniture chain of stores.  When Ohio State announced the name of its arena, I wrote university president E. Gordon Gee to express my displeasure with their choice of names.  I opined that I seriously doubt if any university leaders had or would frequent these stores, as they mainly serve lower-income patrons.  I do not understand why a university would allow some corporation to place its name on an arena as if they paid to build it, but for a fraction of the total cost.

To make matters even worse, Ohio State sold personal seat licenses when the arena was built which in effect gave the best seats to those who could afford to buy them and placed students high up in the upper bowl of the arena.  This basically created a dead arena, in that it gets really loud once or twice a season.  There was more fan support for the Buckeye basketball team in a road game at South Carolina on Saturday than what is the norm in Value City Arena.  Every time I watch a home Buckeye basketball game, with those two big green Value City logos at mid-court staring at me as a constant reminder, I cannot help but think the thought that Ohio State sold its soul to the almighty dollar at the expense of its dignity.

Steven H. Spring
OSU, Class of ‘87