Colulmn: The name game

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Jeff Budlong, On the Rebound

What’s in a name?

Every year the U.S. releases a list of the most frequently used names for newborns, but no matter which one ends up on top it can’t be as exciting as the Minnesota Gophers new favorite name.

TFC Financial Corp. Aww. It does have a certain ring to it doesn’t it.

It is a name that will bring a lot of benefits to TCF Financial Corp. after it inked the $35 million deal to name the Gophers’ new football stadium.

Stadium naming rights are all the rage in professional sports whether it is Enron er… I mean Minute Made Park, or Pacific Bell Park … I mean SBC Park oh, wait, I mean AT&T Park.

I always found it interesting that these companies were supposed to pay millions of dollars to the teams only to be off the marquee within a year or two.

It bothered me a little when Candlestick Park went by the wayside and even the fact that the Steelers now play at Hines Field but that was professional sports.

It was all about revenue streams and money grabs.

The tried and true names of Wrigley Field or Fenway will soon be a distant memory. Forget line-ups, fans will have to buy programs just to find out the name of the stadium where their favorite team is playing this year.

I was glad to see the Gophers and Twins get stadium deals, but the thought of the name game now trickling into the college level is not sitting well with me.

It is hard enough to attach the student to student-athlete these days as it is more and more about the sport and money for the athletic department than it is about getting an education and playing a game on the side.

I guess this is just the next step but coming from a fellow Big Ten state I would hate to see Kinnick Stadium, Camp Randall or even Michigan Stadium (The Big House) go. I always felt that pro teams had a connection to the place they played before the whole name game began, and I still

feel that way at the college level.

I find it bad enough having to watch the Rose Bowl presented by Citi or the Nokia Sugar Bowl.

Let’s not keep a bad thing rolling. I can’t wait for the Chicago Bears presented by Pepsi or the Budweiser Rams of St. Louis.

The Gophers may struggle to get into the upper echelon of the Big Ten football standings but they are now trailblazers in the financial game.

Along with the naming rights, TCF can slap its logo just about anywhere it wants to on campus, it is in prime position to bully its competitors off campus and my personal favorite among the list of concessions that $35 million buys you: If the school erects a lighted sign on the stadium exterior that says &8220;Home of the Golden Gophers,&8221; any nearby sign with the words TCF Bank Stadium must be illuminated &8220;with the same or greater lighting quality and intensity.&8221;

One other awesome perk in our &8220;Do Not Call&8221; society is the exclusive access to the names and addresses of nearly 250,000 alumni and season ticket holders the company now has to market its new debit cards.

That is just scratching the surface of what is in the deal but chances are if you can name it, it’s in there too.

(Sports editor Jeff Budlong’s column runs on Wednesdays.)