By Carol Cain
After the University of Michigan’s board of regents agreed to rename its football coach position after a donor who gave millions, regent Denise Ilitch waved a cautionary flag about the commercialization of UM athletics.
J. Ira and Nicki Harris made a $10 million donation to the athletic department for the naming and endowment of the head football coach position. After being approved by regents including Ilitch, it will now be known as the J. Ira and Nicki Harris Family Head Football Coach.
“Ten million dollars is a lot of money and can do to a lot of good things,” said Ilitch, who joined along with the seven other regents in approving the sponsorship. “I applaud the Harris family for making the donation.”
“It’s just a slippery slope,” she added during taping of “Michigan Matters” which airs 11:30 a.m. Sunday on CBS 62.
“I only want to be the voice of caution on my concern of the commercialization of Michigan athletics,” Ilitch said.
She said a second naming rights sponsorship for UM’s offensive coordinator’s job was in the works, though she did not reveal any other information.
Universities and athletic departments thrive and survive on donors – often graduates who give back to their alma mattas
Stanford has similar endowments for its head football coach and offensive coordinator positions.
As part of the new arrangement, Hoke’s letterhead will identify him as the J. Ira and Nicki Harris Family Head Football Coach.
During televised games, he will still be known as UM’s head football coach.
Ilitch knows a thing or two about sports as her family owns the Detroit Tigers and Detroit Red Wings as well as Little Ceasars and Fox Theatre.
Ilitch, CEO of Ilitch Enterprises and publisher of Ambassador magazine, said she voted to approve the sponsorship because of today’s economic realities.
The decision came months after regents agreed to rename the athletic campus after Stephen Ross, the New York real estate tycoon and alum who donated $100 million last year.
Women Making History
Ilitch appeared with Terry Barclay, president and CEO of Inforum, Jill Alper, partner at Dewey Square, Mousumi Sarkar, president-NAWBO Greater Detroit who runs Aristo Preci Consulting, and Monique Henderson of NAWBO Greater Detroit who runs MoHen & Associates, talking about the inroads women have made as March celebrates Women’s History Month.
“My feet still haven’t touched the ground” since Inforum member and Michigan native Mary Barra was named CEO at General Motors — the first woman to hold that title at an auto company, said Barclay.
“I have to imagine she is getting tired of all the attention,” Barclay added.
Sarkar and Henderson talked about the upcoming NAWBO Top 10 awards event on Thursday, March 13 at Laurel Manor. The evening dinner which marks the 20th anniversary of the event will celebrate the achievements of 10 leading Metro Detroit women.
I will serve as mistress of ceremonies at the NAWBO evening gathering.
For more call 313.961.4748 or check out www.nawbogdc.org
(Watch “Michigan Matters” 11:30 a.m. Sunday on CBS 62.)
Carol Cain is the Emmy winning Senior Producer/Host of “Michigan Matters” which airs 11:30 am Sunday on CBS 62. She also writes of business and politics in Sunday’s Detroit Free Press. She can be reached at email@example.com