A plea to college football: Don't sell out with corporate stadium names | David Whitley

David Whitley
Gator Sports
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Pittsburgh Steelers fans are mad. You would be too if your favorite team were suddenly playing at Acrisure Stadium.

“Sort of rolls off the tongue,” mused Florida athletic director Scott Stricklin.

What do the Gators have to do with selling their football stadium’s name to the highest corporate bidder?

Nothing!

And for the love of all things holy, let’s hope they never do. Same for the Seminoles, Bulldogs, Crimson Tide and every other self-respecting university.

Many of them have sold naming rights to their basketball, baseball, lacrosse and other venues. They’ve resisted the urge to sell their football souls/names for 30 pieces of silver.

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Could new stadium name happen at UF?

Steve Spurrier-Florida Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium as seen last weekend.

Some venues are sacred — Fenway. Wrigley. Lambeau. Ben Hill Griffin isn’t quite in that league, but at least it’s not the name of a bank, insurance company, or feminine hygiene product.

Griffin got the stadium name the old-fashioned way. He graduated, became filthy rich and donated a ton of money to his alma mater. Almost nobody knows what Acrisure is or does, which is why it’s paying Pittsburgh $10 million a year.

The Steelers figure their fans will get used to it, and they probably will. In the NFL, money always rules. If Jerry Jones owned the Vatican, tourists would probably be visiting the AT&T Sistine Chapel.

In college football, money rules only 98.3% of the time. The worry is it's quickly climbing to 110%. It probably won’t be long until players are full-fledged employees and the average locker room is larger and swankier than the Queen Mary 2.

If Florida wanted to go the corporate route, one hurdle is the official name of The Swamp is “Steve Spurrier-Florida Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.”

A new name would erase a lot of history. Stricklin said there are zero plans to do so, but he couldn’t definitively rule it out.

“Resources help,” he said.

I guess you can never say never. But when a corporate chieftain eventually calls, whoever’s in charge needs to hang up. Steve Spurrier-Florida Field at Acrisure Stadium will never roll off anyone’s tongue. ...

Big winners: Cameron Smith in golf, Gator Bradley Beal in NBA

Stud of the Week: Cameron Smith. Not only did the Aussie win the British Open at St. Andrews, he became the first golfer since John Daly in 1991 to win a major while sporting a mullet. Well done, Joe Dirt.

Stud/Dud of the Week.The NBA, for designating $24.5 million to 113 former ABA players who never qualified for a pension plan. That’s nice, but only $24.5 million? Russell Westbrook will get almost twice that next season for making 19% of his 3-pointers and committing eight turnovers a game. ...

Speaking of hefty contracts, ex-Gator Bradley Beal signed a five-year, $251-million deal with the Wizards last week. After buying a small country or two, he should donate a few million for UF to rename Exactech Arena the Bradley Beal Center. ...

Iran banned the mullet and other “decadent Western cuts” in 2010. That explains why no Iranian golfer has won a major since. ...

Anthony Richardson is turning in his “AR-15” nickname because it’s not a good look these days to be associated with the rifle. Makes sense, though it was a catchy nickname.

If you want a speculative investment besides Bitcoin, “AR-15” jerseys ($90) temporary tattoos ($5) were still available on his website Monday. AR-15 shampoo and snow globes are no longer available. ...

Prediction: As much as I like the sound of UCF’s “FBC Mortgage Stadium,” no college with a corporately named football stadium will ever win a national championship. ...

UF grad behind Dick Vitale documentary

Programming note:Dick Vitale will receive the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance at Wednesday night’s ESPYs. If you’re a Dickie V fan (and at this point who isn’t?) check out the documentary that starts running this week on ESPN platforms.

It was produced and directed by Nick Nanton, a UF grad who interviewed more than 40 people for the documentary. “He has done so much for so many people,” Nanton said, “and the world doesn’t know 10% of it.” ...

To promote NIL transparency, boosters should get the naming rights to any recruit they purchase for more than $1 million. ...

Congratulations to the Treasure Coast Naturists. The club set a state record when 769 people plunged naked into the Atlantic Ocean near Fort Pierce last week. That broke the previous record of 391 naked people in Rob Gronkowski’s hot tub after the Bucs won the 2021 Super Bowl. ... 

I’m not an NRA member, but I will give up my Pistol Pete Maravich T-shirt when they pry it from my cold, dead fingers. 

Update: In an attempt to spread decadence and turmoil in Iran, the Saudi-backed LIV Tour will start giving $25 million bonuses to golfers who wear mullets. 

That’s about all the space we have for this week’s Whitley’s Believe It or Not. If you’re interested in acquiring naming rights to the column, please contact my agent. For $10 million a year, I could live with Acrisure’s Believe It or Not.

— David Whitley is The Gainesville Sun's sports columnist. Contact him at dwhitley@gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter @DavidEWhitley

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