Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Under Further Review: FAU is a Naming Rights Case Study

Last week, Florida Atlantic University announced a 12 year, $6 million naming rights deal for their football stadium.  It was a time for joyous celebration, euphoria for a cash-strapped mid-level athletic department.  All that was left was to sign the dotted line and announce the whole shebang to the media.

On second thought, maybe that’s a bad idea….

The company that Florida Atlantic signed the naming rights deal with is a company named GEO Group.  GEO Group is a company that runs private for-profit prisons.  Think about it, is there anything more outwardly corrupted by the dollar in the name of greed than locking up as many people as possible on the public taxpayers’ tab? 

Aside from maybe private defense contractors, it’s tough to find one.  What if Haliburton sponsored a stadium, would that be alright?

Even if you are fine with corporate greed over the welfare of fellow human beings, GEO Group’s human rights offenses range from bad to downright atrocious.  We’re talking high levels of guard-to-inmate sexual relations, dangerously poor healthcare and safety practices, and other inhumane actions. 

(Here is Dave Zirin’s take on the matter in a recent piece for The Progressive.)

Aiding the completion of the deal was the fact that the CEO is a Florida Atlantic alum.  It was a match made in heaven: Florida Atlantic saw dollar signs and GEO Group saw the state of Florida’s high population of minorities and immigrants.

As egregious as this situation may seem, it offers a look into exactly what not to do.  It’s common knowledge – at least among those that study sport management – that very few college athletic departments make money.  Thus more often than not, there is a clear void to fill in the annual budget.

(Per Sports Business Journal, FAU will use Sunrise Sports & Entertainment to book events.)

But as big as monetary gap may seem and as impossible as it may seem to close, there are still ethical standards that are expected to be upheld.  Accepting money from a private for-profit prison company certainly lies outside the realm of ethical righteousness.

In even the most basic corporate sponsorship classes we learn that if you need to question a partnership, then there is probably something wrong.  It’s exactly why teams and universities typically stray away from naming rights deals – and general sponsorship deals in some or most cases – with hard liquor, gambling and tobacco companies.

Let Florida Atlantic serve as a reminder that sometimes the money is not as green as it looks.  An agreement rife with PR problems, is not an agreement worth entering into.  Use your basic sport management knowledge serve as guidance through your career because as simple as it may seem, it went right over the heads of many.


Kevin Rossi is a pre-junior Drexel Sport Management major with a minor in Communications. Kevin has worked at Double Eagle Golf where he is now Social Media Coordinator and Comcast-Spectacor as their market research intern. Since joining the SMTSU, Kevin has worked his way up the ladder to Vice President. Currently, Kevin is a staff writer for, and he will join Temple University Athletics for co-op in the spring.  Follow Kevin on Twitter @kevin_rossi.

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