The University of Sioux Falls on Monday denied that it is looking for a corporate sponsor to brand everything from its sports complex to its letterhead, saying the surprising news was a result of vague language taken out of context.
President Mark Benedetto said he was contacted by a reporter for the Sioux Falls Business Journal who asked to interview him about the ongoing development of the university’s sports complex. Since the university had recently severed ties with Sanford Health, which previously owned the naming rights, Benedetto said he saw an opportunity to plug the university’s hunt for a new sponsor. He was therefore surprised when an article in the weekly's parent publication, The Argus Leader, titled “USF's search for corporate partner is a delicate quest ,” suggested the university “would integrate its business partner into many facets of the organization.”
On Monday, Benedetto acknowledged that the language he used in the interview is partly to blame for the mixup. “It was my mistake to use the term ‘corporate sponsor,’ ” he said. In conversations with potential investors, Benedetto said he uses the term because he feels it is more sellable than “naming rights sponsor.”
When the university does find an appropriate sponsor to put its name on the sports complex, Benedetto said its logo could appear only on fliers and tickets for athletic events. “It never was my intention to put a corporate logo on a business card,” he said.
The previous naming rights contract, signed when the sports complex was “basically a cornfield,” fetched the university $3.2 million eight years ago, Benedetto said. He estimated the university has invested more than $20 million into the complex since, and said he hoped the new contract would attract a multimillion-dollar deal. As part of the negotiations, Benedetto said the Baptist-affiliated university would seek a sponsor that fits its mission. He added that the the university has already turned down sponsors deemed inappropriate.
The liberal arts university, which enrolls about 1,500 students, is a member of the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities. Students are not required to sign a statement of faith, but campus pastor Dennis Thum said the university always places its faith first when considering how the institution should be governed.
“As a Christian college, we identify that as the most important part of our identity,” Thum said. “We do not want to compromise our Christian integrity.”