The University of Minnesota athletic department will receive about $300,000 per year from alcohol licensing and sponsorship deals under the proposal the board of regents approved Friday. The university's name and signature "M" logo can appear on beer cans or other alcohol-related paraphernalia, but the mascot Goldy Gopher cannot.
As reported by the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the board approved the measure by a 7-5 vote. A portion of the revenue generated from such sponsorships will help fund alcohol recovery and education programs.
David McMillan, one of the seven regents in favor of the proposal, admitted he was not "wild-eyed" about it but said income from the sponsorships can help with finances. He said he understands why people believe the deal will increase the potential of students drinking on and around campus, but he doesn't believe it will have as much impact as previous decisions on the matter.
"If we really want to reverse course and make a bigger difference in terms of student consumption of alcohol, we probably need to back all the way up to decisions long ago about selling alcohol in our venues," McMillan said. "That, to me, is a bigger deal than a branding opportunity that hopefully will be thoughtfully, carefully and wisely used in cases where they can actually make a bottom-line difference."
The policy also excludes alcohol-related advertising in classrooms, dorms and research buildings, according to the Star Tribune.
In voting against the measure, regent Darrin Rosha expressed concern the partnerships would have a negative impact on the university's brand. He was not alone in his opinion that the $300,000 annual reward is not worth the risk. Regent Mike Kenyanya voted against the proposal, claiming the $300,000 figure is not likely to even be met.
According to vice president of university relations Matt Kramer, who presented the proposal to the board in December, the athletic department received $1.59 million from licensing agreements in fiscal year 2020.
Learfield IMG College, the University of Minnesota's marketing partner, said more than 130 of its 200 higher education clients have alcohol sponsorships and licensing agreements.
Minnesota joins 11 other Big Ten institutions that allow alcohol licensing and sponsorship deals. The only schools in the conference that prohibit such agreements are Wisconsin and Penn State.