The University is at a crossroads, says Dick Baddour ’66, director of athletics and chair of the task force that in late May announced its unanimous endorsement of permanent advertising in UNC’s top sports venues, the Smith Center and Kenan Stadium.”My preference is not to go in this direction, but I have a stronger preference to maintain” the athletics programs, Baddour said.
In making its recommendation on May 27, the UNC Task Force on Signage in Athletic Venues said fixed advertising – which it described as “limited and tasteful” – and other partnerships would help the athletics department meet financial needs.
Last year, for the first time in 15 years, the athletics department helped the Educational Foundation, also known as the Rams Club, absorb a shortfall of about $300,000 in its funds to pay for scholarships.
Baddour said the estimated deficit for the next school year is $500,000 to $600,000. Tuition increases have been cited for the rise in scholarship costs.
The task force said permanent advertising could be added to the Smith Center and Kenan Stadium while maintaining UNC’s environment and traditions.
If Chancellor James Moeser and the Board of Trustees approve signage, advertisements could appear in the 2005-06 academic year, Baddour said.
Trustee John Ellison ’69, a member of the Rams Club and the task force, said such advertising should be “as unobtrusive as possible.” The aesthetics of the sports venues are important, he noted, and he added that the task force preferred that the stadium floors remain free of ad messages.
But Ellison called some signage an unfortunate necessity. UNC is one of a few U.S. universities that do not allow permanent advertising in their major athletics venues; at UNC, it is currently allowed in Carmichael Auditorium, Boshamer Stadium and Fetzer Field. So-called “soft advertising” has been a staple at events in the past, including commercial spots run on video boards and signs held up by cheerleaders in promotional events during timeouts.
Ellison said he hopes that additional signage at UNC would be more limited than at some schools.
The fact that UNC has held out so long is a source of pride for many in the University community.
Associate Athletic Director Norwood Teague ’88 said signage could produce $600,000 to $1 million in annual revenue for athletics, depending on the quantity and location of ads.
Baddour said he doesn’t know if signage would be a permanent solution, but he said it would be a major step in supporting the athletics department’s budget.
In the 2003-04 academic year, more than 470 athletes, mainly those in nonrevenue sports, received some athletic financial aid.
No specific companies have been identified as being considered for signage, but earlier this year the task force produced mockup advertisements for several financial institutions and an automaker.