OLIVER MCKENNA | DAILY EVERGREEN FILE
News broke on Friday that WSU had reached a ten-year, $11 million deal with Gesa Credit Union to name the field inside of Martin Stadium. This is an incredible deal for Pat Chun and appears to be the first time a corporation has purchased the naming rights for a WSU Athletics facility.
However, it should not be the last time. It is time to change the name of Martin Stadium.
When Martin Stadium was opened in 1972, it was named after former Washington Governor Clarence D. Martin. Martin did a lot of good during his time as governor, but he has no connection to the school. In fact, Martin was a Husky and graduated from the University of Washington in 1906.
The reason the stadium is named after him is simple. His son, Dan Martin, made a $250,000 donation when the stadium was being built in early 1972. Martin’s widow, Charlotte Martin, also donated $250,000 in 1978 and $150,000 in 1979 for expansion projects.
When adjusting for inflation, that initial donation was $1,585,231.38. The two follow-up donations bring the total to $3,211,821.44. That is less than 30 percent of the amount that Gesa is paying for just ten years of having their name on just the playing surface. It also breaks down to just under $67,000 in today’s money per year.
A stadium name is worth far more than a field name, so there is big money to be made. The current name does not honor a legendary coach or any sort of iconic name within WSU. That is the difference between Martin Stadium and either Bailey-Brayton Field or Beasley Coliseum. Both are named after major influencers either in their program or the university as a whole.
Maybe it is easier for me to say since I am not a life-long Cougar, so there is not as much of an emotional connection to the name, but it is certainly time to move on from the name, especially with it currently honoring a Washington graduate.
Naming rights are much more common in pro teams, but in the last decade has started to become much more prevalent in college sports.
There is also a lot of money that the Cougars could certainly use. In 2014, the Houston Cougars signed a $15 million deal for ten years of naming their stadium. Additionally, Boise State and Albertson’s have a $12.5 million for 15 years.
Both of those schools have significantly smaller football programs than WSU does and were able to command a large amount of money. For a Power Five football program, the money would be even more extravagant.
If the Martin name is a major thing for you, look no further than what Texas Tech did with AT&T. When their stadium was built in 1947, Clifford and Audrey Jones made a sizable donation, and the stadium was named Jones Stadium.
In 2000, SBC Communications purchased the naming rights. Instead of dropping the Jones name, they simply changed it to Jones SBC Stadium. Since then, AT&T has purchased SBC and continued the deal under the name Jones AT&T Stadium.
So, if the Martin name is that important to WSU Athletics, they can keep it and still grab a ton of money for WSU.
And the money is super important for the Cougars. Currently, WSU and Athletics specifically have some debt they need to handle. A big money deal to rename Martin Stadium could be just what they need to fix their current situation.
As a whole, it just makes sense to change the Martin Stadium name and to change it now.