Of the 129 college football teams scheduled to compete in the FBS in 2017, 13 will play in stadiums with naming-rights deals. We hope Arizona State doesn't join that group in 2018.
College football needs money to survive and thrive. They need money for student-athlete scholarships, medical expenses, academic support services, gameday operations costs and dozens of other items. For those and other reasons, it's impossible to fault the University of Kentucky for selling naming rights to Commonwealth Stadium to The Kroger Company in a 12-year, $22.2-million deal that will pay UK $1.85 million annually.
The University of Kentucky has every right to generate revenue in any NCAA-approved manner, as does every other higher-education institution. But instead of Arizona State joining them after the conclusion of a three-phase, $268-million renovation project to Sun Devil Stadium — an idea suggested by Justin Toscano of Cronkite News — the school should raise the money elsewhere and join the shrinking number of schools whose stadiums are named after former players, coaches, or key university stakeholders.
Do not craft a multimillion-dollar deal with Arizona Federal Credit Union, PetSmart, Best Western or another Arizona-based company. Name it Pat Tillman Stadium.
Join the University of Tennessee, who, in 1962, named Neyland Stadium after Robert Neyland, a former coach and athletics director and brigadier general in the United States Army. Join the University of Iowa who honored Nile Kinnick, the 1939 Heisman Trophy winner who departed law school early to join the Naval Air Reserve and died during a training mission in 1943.
Solicit private donations and put Pat Tillman's name on the side of the stadium he won 26 games in for Arizona State and Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year in 1997. It's the same stadium he played in 60 games for the Arizona Cardinals, and it's the same stadium that features the retired jerseys from his careers with the Sun Devils and Cardinals.
And it's the same stadium that Tillman could've played three more years in as part of a three-year, $3.6-million contract he was offered in 2002.
Arizona State could use the naming-rights money. They could use it to create more academic and financial support for student-athletes, among other things. They don't need it. The athletics department had a record $94.6 million in revenue for fiscal year 2016, which created a $5.5 million surplus in their annual operating budget, according to the Arizona Republic.
Don't take the corporate money. Use a portion of the surplus and solicit private donations and name the venue after Pat Tillman, an American hero.