Pity the suburban commuter school that goes belly-up trying to spend its way to college-football greatness, then looks to cover its bet with shady stadium-naming rights. Pity the Florida Atlantic University Owls.
In February, the Boca Raton-based choice of teens and lifetime learners everywhere—if "everywhere" is a 35-mile radius around Boca Raton—announced a $6 million deal to name its shiny almost-new stadium after GEO Group, the world's largest for-profit prison operator. Alas, the so-called Owlcatraz Stadium deal quickly fell through after critics pointed out that GEO Group had a dead-prisoner problem.
But FAU's recently fired athletic director says the public state university came close to a stadium-naming deal with another human rights-humbugging corporation: Chick-fil-A. With $45 million in debt, "We had to make a lot of sacrifices and mortgage the athletic department to make the stadium a reality," the former athletic director, Craig Angelos, told the conservative Sunshine State News. He had nearly closed an agreement with a local car dealer—but:
...the higher-ups in the school's chain of command wanted to hold off for a better deal with fast-food chain Chick-fil-A or, indeed, the GEO Group. After being put on hold, the automotive chain's interest cooled, and FAU ultimately landed GEO, whose chairman and CEO is an FAU alumn [sic] and former chairman of the university's board of trustees.
Lisa Metcalf, a spokeswoman for FAU, declined to say whether anyone at the university had ever discussed athletic sponsorship with Chick-fil-A. "Craig Angelos is no longer employed at FAU," she wrote in an email. "If he is stating these conversations took place, then you will need to speak with him." Angelos—who is now an AD at the University of South Florida—and Chick-fil-A did not respond to requests for comment in time for publication.
Georgia-based Chick-fil-A is no stranger to the NCAA gridiron: It sponsors both an annual opening-weekend football game and The Mid-Major Postseason Game Formerly Known as The Peach Bowl. But it's not as if the FAU could have pled ignorance of Chick-fil-A's politics. The Sunday-loving purveyors of waffle fries have long fancied a "no homo" ethos, honoring their evangelical Christian values by fighting marriage equality and nosing into job applicants' marital matters and church attendance.
Boca, however, is not known as a hotbed of Southern-fried "traditional" values. Which may also help explain why nobody in Boca is showing up to watch shitty Division I football in a shiny almost-new stadium in search of a sponsor.