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Wisch: Picking 'Naming Rights' For Big Ten Coaches

By Dave Wischnowsky –

(CBS) What's in a name?

Forget that. What's in a job title?

At Northwestern University, it's $16 million bucks apparently. Last Friday, Crain's Chicago Business columnist Danny Ecker reported that NU trustee Christopher Combe and his wife Courtney have plunked down a cool $16 mil as a gift to the school, of which $10 million will endow Athletic Director Jim Phillips' job.

And officially rename the gig as the Chris and Courtney Combe Vice President for Athletics and Recreation. Good luck fitting that on a business card.

"We share the value Northwestern places on educating student-athletes in the classroom as well as on the athletic field," explained Mr. Combe, whose ego has to rival his wallet in size, considering that he actually wants to have a guy's job named after him.

To each his own, even though I personally find the whole naming-rights-for-jobs thing to be odd and even a little risky. After all, can the job's benefactor demand someone be fired from it if they don't like the way their name is being represented? Regardless, the phenomenon is apparently nothing new at Northwestern, which already has christened women's lacrosse coach Kelly-Amonte Hiller's job as the "Combe Family Head Women's Lacrosse Coach," while Pat Fitzgerald is the "Dan and Susan Jones Family Head Football Coach."

Ecker reported that the pigskin programs at Stanford, Boston College and Vanderbilt also have endowed jobs and that other schools are seeking them. Anything for a buck, or big bucks, I suppose. And since this name train has already left the station, I got to thinking why stop with solitary families purchasing naming rights? Schools should really go for gold with corporate sponsorships. For example, after the Wildcats' narrow loss to Ohio State on Saturday, NU could have scrapped the Jones Family sponsorship of Fitzgerald's job in favor of Cigar Aficionado.

You know, close but ...

To show I'm not just blowing smoke, here are some other suggested sponsors for a few of the Big Ten basketball and football coaches:

ILLINOIS: Hair Loss Solutions For Men Basketball Coach John Groce 


ILLINOIS: Hair Loss Solutions For Women Basketball Coach Matt Bollant


ILLINOIS: Marie Callender's Three Meat & Four Cheese Lasagna Football Coach Tim Beckman


OHIO STATE: Urban Outfitters Football Coach Urban Meyer

Red is hot this fall.

NEBRASKA: PETCO Football Coach Bo Pelini

Muzzles for the next time he wants to spout off about Huskers fans.

MICHIGAN: Casual Male XL Big and Tall Football Coach Brady Hoke

If the suit fits …

IOWA: AutoZone Shock Absorbers Football Coach Kirk Ferentz

With that $4 million contract and a brutal Big Ten schedule, it's gonna be a bumpy ride.

MICHIGAN STATE: Milton Bradley Basketball Coach Tom Izzo

Connect (Final) Four.

OHIO STATE: Breathe Right Nasal Strips Basketball Coach Thad Matta

He's got a nose for success.

MINNESOTA: Basketball Coach Richard Pitino

The Gophers can only hope.

INDIANA: OfficeMax Basketball Coach Tom Crean

You have nets. We have scissors.

LIMBO: Gateway Central Bank Football Coach Ron Zook

That one actually already exists.

Jeff Pearl
The author. (credit: Jeff Pearl)

If nothing else, Dave Wischnowsky is an Illinois boy. Raised in Bourbonnais, educated at the University of Illinois and bred on sports in the Land of Lincoln, he now resides on Chicago's North Side, just blocks from Wrigley Field. Formerly a reporter and blogger for the Chicago Tribune, Dave currently writes a syndicated column, The Wisch List, which you can check out via his blog at Follow him on Twitter @wischlist and read more of his CBS Chicago blog entries here.

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