Wednesday, October 27, 2004
Schools pass on $1 million naming rights
DETROIT -- Forgoing more than $1 million, Michigan and Ohio
State on Wednesday walked away from a deal that would have renamed
their annual football game the SBC Michigan-Ohio State Classic.
SBC Communications had offered each school $260,000 for each of
the next two years. A logo for the Nov. 20 game featuring SBC's
name was to have been displayed on the scoreboard and on signs
around Ohio Stadium, but not on the field or players' uniforms.
The order of the two school names was to be switched for next
year's 102nd annual meeting in Ann Arbor.
Michigan athletic director Bill Martin said he and university
president Mary Sue Coleman decided that giving a formal title to
what has been known to generations of fans as simply "The Game"
"The money was not the issue. We didn't even talk about the
money," Martin said during a telephone interview. "It was a
matter from president Coleman's perspective and mine in the final
analysis that this was inconsistent with the values that we share
with the greater Michigan family."
The rejection of the SBC deal was announced in a joint statement
from Martin and Ohio State athletic director Andy Geiger.
"As we attempted to move forward, it became apparent that this
agreement could detract from the great tradition of the game
itself," Geiger said. "Given that possibility, and the
fast-approaching date of this year's game, the two universities
agreed it was in their best interest not to pursue the arrangement
at this time."
The deal would not have included advertisements on the field or
in Michigan Stadium, where there is no commercial advertising. Ohio
Stadium scoreboards have carried ads for at least 20 years.
Martin estimated that 80 percent of e-mails and phone calls from
Michigan alumni opposed the SBC deal. Another 20 percent indicated
"we understand the realities -- if you don't (sell naming rights),
what's going to happen to our ticket prices?"
San Antonio-based SBC already sponsors the annual Red River
Shootout between Oklahoma and Texas played in Dallas and the Cotton
"We appreciate our ongoing relationships with The Ohio State
University and the University of Michigan and will continue to work
with both schools in ways to benefit education and the communities
we serve," said Matt Resch, an SBC Michigan spokesman.
Buckeyes coach Jim Tressel said he understood that the SBC deal
had stirred negative emotions among fans.
"There's a lot of different ways you can look at any of the
things we do, evolving from just going out in the yard and playing
a pickup game to where we are today," Tressel said. "I'm sure
there's a lot of things you could discuss as to 'Is that the right