I don’t get to a lot of Arizona Wildcats basketball games. I live and die with the Cats via television but taking in a game live is a rare treat.
Last week’s win against Bryant was my first trip to McKale this year. I couldn’t help but notice how much advertising has crept into the flow of the game. If revenue is needed that badly it makes me wonder:
Is it time for the University of Arizona to sell stadium naming rights?
Advertising has been a part of sports for as long as people have been paid to play or coach them. Ads in the stadium, ads on the scoreboard, even some ads on the court. Doesn’t bother me at all.
What caused me to pause was the public address announcer getting in on the act. When Brendon Lavender was raining down jumpers we didn’t just hear “Threeeee pointer!” it was “That’s another Blah Blah Car Dealership 3-pointer!” When a Wildcat made a foul shot it was a “Blah Blah Mortgage Company free throw!” At football games you couldn’t miss the home appliance salesman leading cheers on the new video board.
I understand it takes money to compete at the highest level of college athletics. Big money. It’s also extremely commendable that the UA athletic department is self-sufficient while the state’s universities deal with funding cuts.
If you want an elite basketball program but you play in an almost-40-year-old arena with no luxury boxes it’s completely understandable to find creative ways to maximize revenue. But how far is too far? Bobby Knight wore ads on his sweater when he coached at Texas Tech. Pro soccer teams put the name of the sponsor across the front of the jersey.
It’s the way of the world. You may have noticed this site also runs ads. Would I like it if this blog or the entire sports section had a sponsor? You bet I would.
With Wildcat sports, we may be at a point where it’s best to stop adding many small sponsorships and go after a few huge ones. The largest untapped revenue source for Arizona Athletics? Stadium naming rights.
Here’s a look around the Pac-12 in the big two sports:
|basketball||McKale Center||coach/ath. dir.|
|ASU||football||Sun Devil Stadium||–|
|basketball||Wells Fargo Arena||sponsor|
|basketball||Coors Events Center||sponsor|
|USC||football||L.A. Memorial Coliseum||–|
|basketball||Alaska Airlines Arena||sponsor|
As you can see, Arizona and Washington State are the only two schools in the Pac-12 that have not named their football or basketball facilities after a donor or corporate sponsor.
(You can also see that the name “Pavilion” is overused.)
I wouldn’t necessarily enjoy any changes. Not everyone can say they play in a football stadium that has kept the same name for 84 years. And it’s very fitting to honor Pop McKale who was responsible for the “They fought like Wildcats” football team of 1914 and the Button Salmon/“Tell the team to Bear Down” legend of ’26.
Of course, the way you get around it is do what Washington did. The official name of their home gym is Alaska Airlines Arena at Hec Edmundson Pavilion.
Josh Pastner coaches at the FedExForum in Memphis. Something like that would be fine (but with spaces). An airline or bank would also work.
Boise State has Taco Bell Arena which doesn’t sit right (insert indigestion joke here). I wouldn’t want any stadium named after a casino either.
But I would rather watch a game at [Defense Technology and Aerospace Systems Company] Arena than have a sponsor for every shot, foul and timeout during the game.
As always, the bottom line is wins. As college sports fans, yes, we want our school to play by the rules and recruit high-character athletes. But we also want to win and winning costs money.
Does changing the name on a building help the team inside that building win a championship?
Sometimes selling is a price worth paying.
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