Will this Div. 1 football team play in Owlcatraz?
(CBS Moneywatch) What do you get when you cross a Division I football team with a private prison corporation?
The football team at Florida Atlantic University, otherwise known as the Owls, finally found a naming sponsor for its glitzy football stadium in Boca Raton that opened in 2011. The sponsor that stepped forward with a $6 million naming gift is none other than the nation's second largest private prison corporation - The GEO Group.
George Zoley, the chairman of The Geo Group, is an alumnus with two degrees from Florida Atlantic and he once served as chairman of FAU's board of trustees. Four other board members have also worked for the prison giant. They don't have to travel far to attend board meetings at the public university. The company's headquarters overlooks the stadium.
Less than 24 hours after the announcement, FAU supporters were already circulating petitions to stop the naming deal, which FAU's play-by-play announcer nicknamed Owlcatraz.
Some boosters are protesting the prison operator's checkered history, which has included what The Palm Beach Post called "reports of sloppy -- and sometimes gruesome -- practices." Here is where you can see a list of some of the regulatory actions and lawsuits aimed at the GEO Group.
The stadium's new sponsor has already triggered a great deal of black humor on local sports message boards including these suggestions on how FAU football will adapt to their prison partner:
- Instead of giving away shirts, the FAU student government will give away striped prison jump suits.
- New 15-yard penalty for unnecessary shanking.
- Ushers will carry batons and hand guns.
- Team will walk onto the field with the song "Folsom Prison" blaring.
The real tragedy
This controversy sadly illustrates the over-the-top resources that many universities are devoting to their football programs. FAU, for instance, spent $70 million building its football palace with deluxe boxes even as the academic programs at the school sorely need attention.
According to federal statistics, only 16 percent of FAU students are graduating in four years while just 42.2 percent manage to earn a bachelors degree in six years.
Too bad the university isn't focused on spending more money where it really matters --- educating students.
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