Wednesday, March 29, 2006

What in a name?

A lot. Especially when it comes to the name of a stadium on the University of Minnesota campus. Here are the opening grafs of an article in the Pioneer Press online edition today:
The University of Minnesota's new football stadium strategy passed its first test Tuesday at the state Capitol, but a panel of lawmakers punted several thorny financial issues to another committee.

Two stadium bills moved through the Senate Higher Education Committee on unanimous voice votes, indicating bipartisan support for a basic plan unveiled Friday with the support of Gov. Tim Pawlenty.

One of the bills, backed by the university, says funding should include student fees and a corporate name on the door. The other bill scraps the fee and the naming deal, with a key senator indicating those ideas are fundamentally tacky.

Tacky? Yup, according to Larry Pogemiller:
Sen. Larry Pogemiller, DFL-Minneapolis, whose district includes the university, said charging students $50 annually to help pay for the stadium is inappropriate in light of large tuition increases in recent years. He also wants the stadium name to honor veterans or a former university athletic hero or administrator.

University of Minnesota President Robert Bruininks, on the other hand, thinks the deal which names the stadium after a saving and loan is
hunky-dory. The Prez was accompanied at the hearing yesterday by Spotty’s own senator, Geoff Michel. These are strange bedfellows indeed!

Spot’s readers know that Robert Bruininks is the Prez, but fewer probably know that his academic background is education. He spent most of his career training new teachers in education and child development and running a university department to do that. At a land grant university. A big time supporter of public education, you’d think.

Geoff Michel, on the other hand, is a member of the Minnesota Republican Taliban, a supporter of religious school vouchers, the $185,000,000 budget cut to K-12 education last biennium, and the governor’s hare-brained 65% solution last year, not to mention his partisan support for Cheri Pierson Yecke, the cashiered Commissioner of Education. Spotty says just peruse the archives of for more.

Oh, and by the way, Michel’s wife is the niece of former U Athletic Director Tom Moe. No link here, but trust Spot; it’s true.

TCF, the putative sponsor of the stadium that will get the naming rights, is the creature of William Cooper, until recently the Chairman of TCF. Cooper is also one of the big-deal Republicans in Minnesota, a supporter of the Minnesota Taxpayers League. It is ironic, to put it mildly, that a leading member of the bunch so allergic to the public interest, and both K-12 and higher education budgets, would get his company’s name on a stadium at the state’s land grant and leading university. Think the Carrie Nation School of Viticulture.

Senator Pogemiller says that the naming deal is not a “deal-breaker” for him. It ought to be.


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