UI's President Says She Likely Won't Renew Beer Company Deal
By Erin Jordan, Reporter
JOHNSTON, Iowa -- If she had it to do over again, University of Iowa President Sally Mason would not likely renew the UI’s contract with Anheuser-Busch because of the backlash caused by the beer company deal.
“I’m not sure it’s worth the revenues we’re getting for our athletic department,” Mason said at a taping Friday for Iowa Public Television’s “Iowa Press.” “I probably would reconsider. More than likely not even do it.”
The UI has been fighting its party school image for years and has tried to push the message of “safe, responsible, legal,” Mason said. That seemed to fit with Anheuser-Busch’s pitch for drinking responsibly.
But recently the UI’s Tigerhawk logo appeared on posters advertising drink specials at Iowa City bars – a move not approved by the university.
“We didn’t mean to send a mixed message,” Mason said. The posters have been removed, but the damage is already done, she said.
“If they’re not going to be sticking to the agreement, I’m a lot less likely to renew it,” she said.
Learfield Communications, the sports-marketing company that represents UI Athletics, has had a contract with Anheuser-Busch for more than 20 years. The deal brings in millions for the athletic department – which Mason has charged with supporting itself without taxes or tuition.
Other major universities, including Iowa State University, University of Northern Iowa and the University of Kansas, have similar deals with the beer giant, Mason said.
Mason talked about the UI’s record fall enrollment of 31,500 students and how to strike a balance between recruiting talented international students and maintaining enough space for Iowans.
“You're going to see a lot more what I call personal attention to high schools and middle schools all across Iowa where our folks will begin very early to encourage and hopefully bring more Iowa students to the University of Iowa,” Mason said.
Sally Mason, hired in 2007 and paid an annual salary of $493,272, said she would not be attending President Barack Obama’s speech in Iowa City Friday. In fact, Jessup Hall, which houses her office, was being used for Obama and his security detail before the event, she said. But she did plan to attend Fry Fest in Coralville.
When asked if she and ISU President Steve Leath have a wager on which team will win today’s Iowa/Iowa State game, Mason said she heard there was a bottle of Templeton Rye on the line.
“Now, I'm not sure I would have gone there but I'm happy to play along,” Mason said. “He's a great guy and I'm looking forward to the rivalry.”
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