The University of Houston is the latest to sell itself to corporate America.
The Cougars have moved into a new football stadium. The school’s website lists among its graduates a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, several Pulitzer Prize winners and one Heisman Trophy winner. So in keeping with the school’s 87-year history, its new stadium bears the name of a credit union. What had borne the generic name of Houston Football Stadium – and how long was that going to last? – is now Texas Dow Employees Credit Union Stadium. It’s been shortened to TDECU Stadium, which, presumably, made it a lot easier to fit over the doors. A 10-year agreement that will bring in $15 million to the school was enough to lock it up.
TDECU is the latest, but by no means the first – or last.
With many colleges paying their coaches in the millions, there inevitably had to be another manner in which to generate revenue. In fact, just naming the stadiums might someday become inadequate. How far are we from the Microsoft 50-yard line or the Burger King goalposts? And would anyone be surprised?
There are dozens of Division I football and basketball programs whose stadiums and arenas have been opened to corporate sponsorship or renamed by a new sponsor. Syracuse’s Carrier Dome is among the few whose sponsor (an air-conditioning and heating company) was directly involved with the financing of the new stadium. Most that bear the name of a sponsor just went to the highest bidder.
Some of the college stadiums that have more recently been linked to the Dow Jones Index and their contributions include:
Apogee Stadium, North Texas ($1 million per year for 20 years); Bright House Networks Stadium, Central Florida ($1 million per year for 15 years); Capital One Field, Maryland ($20 million for stadium renovations); High Point Solutions Stadium, Rutgers ($650,000 per year for 10 years; Houchens Industries–L. T. Smith Stadium, Western Kentucky (a one-time payment of $5 million);
InfoCision Stadium, Akron ($500,000 per year for 10 years); Jones AT&T Stadium, Texas Tech (a one-time payment of $30 million); Liberty Bank, Arkansas State (a one-time payment of $5 million); Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium, Louisville (terms of the deal were not disclosed, although the initial gift was $5 million. Papa John’s holds the rights through 2040).
Of course, it’s also been a while in which any bowl game came without a sponsorship tag. Some of the more creative ones include the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl; the Beef O’Brady’s Bowl St. Petersburg; the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl; AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl; and the Heart of Dallas Bowl presented by Plains Capital Bank.
As for the games that have been decades-long annual fetes, please welcome the Rose Bowl Game presented by Vizio; the Discover Orange Bowl; the Allstate Sugar Bowl; the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl; and the AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic. Got a product or a service, a fast food or a bank that you’d care to promote with a New Year’s Day (give or take a week) neo-classic game? Line forms on the right.
Colleges, however, are just keeping pace with their professional-sports counterparts. Of the 30 Major League Baseball stadiums, 21 have names linked to businesses and corporations. Twenty-five of the 31 NFL stadiums are similarly titled. One of the more interesting name sales involved the home of the Houston Astros. Upon its opening in 2000 it bore the name Enron Field. When Enron, an energy and commodities trader, went bankrupt and could no longer pay the freight, the auction began yet again; as of 2003, it’s been Minute Maid Park. They’d better keep the orange juice pumping.
Among those whose schools have remained true to their history is Army. Michie Stadium was named after Dennis Michie, who founded Army football in 1890. The field itself – Blaik Field – bears the name of the team’s all-time winning coach, Red Blaik, who in 18 years led the Black Knights to 121 victories and three national championships.
The Holleder Center, in which the basketball gym and hockey rink are located, was named in honor of Maj. Donald W. Holleder, Class of ’56, who was killed in action in Vietnam in 1967. Tate Rink commemorates brothers Joseph S. Tate ’41 and Frederic H.S. Tate ’42, who served as pilots in World War II; both were shot down in action. Christl Arena takes its name from 1st Lt. Edward C. Christl Jr., ’44, who was killed in action in Austria in 1945.
In fairness, though, it should be noted that Army does have the inherent advantage of being financed by the Defense Department.
As for the University of Houston, its basketball arena is Hofheinz Pavillion, named after alumnus and longtime Houston judge Roy Hofheinz. And there existed the common decency to name its basketball court after long-time coach Guy Lewis, whose career began at about the same time basketballs were designed as round.