Hooley: How much is the Horseshoe worth to OSU?

posted by Bruce Hooley -

Ohio State has a football tradition that's second to none, but there are a few select schools that can compete with the Buckeyes in wins, championship and elite awards individually.

Perhaps no school is closer to matching the Buckeyes in all three of those barometers than USC, which makes sense given its long rivalry with OSU in the Rose Bowl.

Throughout the 60s, 70s and 80s, those schools were measured against each other almost annually, and often settled their rivalry on the field in Pasadena o Jan. 1

Last week, USC did something that I'm sure Ohio State took notice of. The question is, will OSU move to duplicate it?

I'd expect it will, if not in the next five years, then certainly in the next 10.

What did USC do?

It sold the naming rights to its iconic home stadium to a corporate sponsor.

Details haven't been released yet, but the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in some way, shape or form will be linked with United Airlines.

That might seem blasphemous to those who remember the LA Coliseum hosting both the 1932 and 1984 Olympic Games. But college athletic programs are always looking for new revenue streams, and USC couldn't resist the chance to make an estimated $5 million annually over the next 15 years just by allowing United to paste its name onto the Coliseum.

So, I ask...how far away is the day when Ohio State will do the same on Ohio Stadium?

If you think it will never happen, let me remind you that the Buckeyes play basketball in Value City Arena. When that was announced in 1999, there was a huge outcry of protest. Now, no one blinks an eye about it.

Ever since then, Ohio State has gradually and unrepentantly put a price tag on almost everything associated with OSU athletics that has any value at all. And nothing has more value than Buckeye football in an era where Urban Meyer is winning big and administrators are becoming increasingly nervous about revenue streams drying up.

Every sport but two in Ohio State's vast 36-varsity sport athletic program loses money. Most of them lose a ton of money, so if some corporation is willing to throw down millions of dollars per-year for the privilege of linking its name with the Horseshoe, there's bound to be a price point where OSU will be willing to deal with the fallout for doing in football what it did nearly two decades ago in basketball.

The question isn't so much, “Will they do it?” It’s, “When will they do it?” Or, “How much will they get for doing it?”

So get used to the idea of AT&T Ohio Stadium, or Verizon Field at Ohio Stadium, or some variation.

Otherwise, prepare to pay the $190 you'll pay for a single ticket this year to both the Oklahoma and Michigan State games each and every week.

Again, if you doubt me, if you think Ohio State has too much respect for tradition to ever sell naming rights to Ohio Stadium, flash back in your mind to the uniforms OSU wore for its home game against Penn State two years ago, the uniforms it wore last year at home against Nebraska, or the black helmet it wore for its end-of-season rivalry game against Michigan.

The Buckeyes have worn some sort of alternate uniform at least once in each of the last eight years.

The Nike swoosh has been a fixture on all of them. That swoosh looks an awful lot like a tail, which is more than appropriate, because it certainly wags the dog, not just at Ohio State, but throughout college athletics.

So there's already a corporate logo on the jersey the players wear. Another one on the Stadium in which they play is only a matter of time.

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