Renaming the Sun Dome a struggle

Changing the name of the Sun Dome has proven to be more complicated than originally anticipated.

Only days after the announcement that USF was close to signing a sponsorship deal that would change the Sun Dome’s name to Academic Financial Services Arena, the school is now at odds with Action Sports Media – the company hired to sell the Sun Dome’s naming rights – over the University’s right to approve or reject any potential sponsors provided by ASM.

The deal USF is opposing is a proposed contract with Academic Financial Services, a Tampa-based student loan company, worth at least $2.99 million over five years. The main reasons for USF’s reluctance to enter a deal with AFS is the recent controversy surrounding the student loan industry nationwide, as well as the criminal history of AFS CEO Wayne Morgan.

The student loan industry is under national scrutiny after revelations that some companies – though not Academic Financial Services – have developed questionable relationships with colleges, in which loan companies provide perks to financial aid officers. In return, the schools steer aid-seeking students toward specific lenders.

Morgan’s criminal history has also been a reason for USF’s reluctance to partner with AFS. The CEO was convicted of numerous felonies as a youth, including breaking and entering and safecracking, and has faced punishment by authorities as recently as 2002, when he pleaded no contest to bad check charges.

USF claims that a provision in the deal it signed with Action Sports Media allows it to reject any potential sponsor it deems “offensive or inappropriate,” and that recent governmental scrutiny of the student loan industry, combined with Morgan’s checkered past, gives it the right to reject the high-profile partnership with Academic Financial Services.

Action Sports Media, which provided USF with $1.8 million worth of video scoreboards last year in return for the right to broker the naming rights for the Sun Dome, wants to move forward with the AFS deal and insists that its contract with USF allows it to sign an agreement with or without the school’s approval.

Basketball announces Big East scheduleWhile no schedule for a Big East basketball team can be considered easy, first-year coach Stan Heath and the Bulls couldn’t have asked for a better conference schedule for the 2007-08 season.

USF’s recently released conference schedule has the Bulls hosting four of last year’s top five Big East teams, including No. 2 Louisville, No. 3 Pittsburgh, No. 4 Notre Dame and No. 5 Syracuse. The Bulls’ other home Big East match-ups will be against Connecticut, Rutgers, St. John’s, Seton Hall and West Virginia.

The most notable away game on the Bulls’ conference schedule next season will occur when USF travels to Washington, D.C., to take on defending Big East champion Georgetown. The Bulls will also play away games against Cincinnati, DePaul, Marquette, Providence and Villanova.Six of USF’s contests will be home-and-away match-ups against Syracuse, Rutgers and Seton Hall.

Dates, times and broadcast information for Big East games will be announced at a later date.