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By Jason A. Vrtis
Arizona Daily Wildcat
September 4, 1997

Cellular One, UA Athletic Dept. reach sponsorship agreement


Ian Mayer
Arizona Daily Wildcat

Cellular One's on-court logo at McKale is only the second of its kind among all universities across the nation. According to the Department of Athletics Director of Marketing the Cellular One sponsorship may be the largest in UA's history.

Cellular One and the UA's Athletics Department have reached a verbal agreement on the largest sponsorship deal in the UA's history, according to the department's director of marketing.

Steve Sullivan, the director of marketing for the Athletics Department since 1994, said yesterday the wireless phone company and his department are in the final stages of the contract negotiations.

Once the deal is finalized the University of Arizona's Athletics Department will receive $243,000 a year for three years running through the 1999-2000 school year, said John Perrin, senior associate director of business affairs for the department.

Under terms of the agreement, Cellular One will receive two horizontal logos on the McKale Center court, additional signs at Arizona Stadium, Sancet Field and Hillenbrand Memorial Stadium, and a game sponsorship package with six on-campus sports, Perrin said.

In addition, Cellular One will have a phone kiosk at every home men's football and basketball game for people to familiarize themselves with their products, he said.

Tom Frey, a public relations representative for Cellular One said the company is excited about their upcoming partnership with the UA, but can not comment further on the deal until it is finalized.

The on-court logo at McKale is only the second of its kind among all the universities across the nation, Perrin said, adding more deals like these will surface from other schools in the near future.

Georgia Tech is the only other school to have a logo on their basketball court. They struck a deal with McDonald's three years ago.

Both Sullivan and Perrin said the department tried to keep the integrity of the arena in mind when putting together this package.

"The sponsorship deal has been done with good taste in mind. The signs are not intrusive and they look very sharp," Perrin said.

The department will use the money to replace the hard-wood floor at McKale at the end of this year's regular season, Perrin said. The floor replacement will cost the department approximately $500,000 because of annual maintenance. The floor itself will cost $175,000, he said.

The rest of the money will go to the department's general revenue fund to cover the costs of the 18 varsity sports at the university, Perrin said.

Jim Rosborough, the men's assistant basketball coach, said the current floor is one of the hardest floors in the Pacific 10 Conference and many Arizona and visiting players have been concerned about its injury potential in the past.

The 12-year-old floor has also buckled a little on the north side of the court as a result of a plumbing leak nine to 10 years ago, Perrin said.

He said after the new floor is installed, McKale will have one of the premier courts in the country.

Perrin said public reaction has been indifference to the new sponsorship.

The basketball purists hate it and a few people love it, but most people are unaffected by the logo, he said. The three-panel advertisement screen hanging down from the McKale rafters elicited a more negative response when they were first installed than the Cellular One deal has, he said.

The players and coaches also were indifferent to the on-court sponsorship and they understand running a large college athletic program requires substantial funding, he said. He did not feel the players or coaches would be distracted by the logo in any way.

"These are the facts of life these days in major college athletics," Rosborough said.

Sullivan who was the assistant marketing director for two years before being promoted said he was hired with two major goals in mind: increasing sponsorship funding and attendance at sport events.

Five years ago the department raised approximately $50,000 in total corporate sponsorship, but this year with the new deal factored in the department has raised an estimated $1.2 million, he said.

Sullivan added other Pac-10 schools are certainly looking into sponsorship deals similar to the Cellular One agreement, but universities across the country are also doing this because they have to if they want to stay competitive and continue to raise funds for athletic improvements.

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