As Benedict has learned, some calls are tougher than others.
Boola Boola, Moola Moola
Yale lost the first intercollegiate sporting event in U.S. history, a rowing match against Harvard in 1852. Over the 145 years since, the Elis have gone on to compete—and win—in a full range of sports. Yet, when it comes to sports marketing, somewhere along the line Yale missed the boat. While other schools were reaping big bucks from sales of T-shirts, stuffed mascots and other licensed products, the Elis collected zip for the use of their name and such hallowed icons as bulldog mascot Handsome Dan.
That policy has at last gone the way of the raccoon coat and the single wing. Yale recently announced plans to end the exemption on licensing fees and to more aggressively promote products bearing its name and logo. "We recognize that our name means a lot—even to people who didn't go here," says Helen Kauder, Yale's director of licensing. "Plus, this way we can crack down on the NAKED COED LACROSSE shins out there with YALE on them."
Of course, the additional income is a significant attraction as well, concedes Kauder, who says that Yale hopes to make $250,000 a year from its stepped-up licensing program. While that's a handsome figure, it's a far cry from the bottom line of, say, Notre Dame or Michigan—and, by the way, still a boat length or two behind the $1 million Harvard pulls in.
ABL vs. WNBA
A Plucky Proposition
The two-year-old ABL has clamored for attention in some creative ways, particularly during its all-star weekend last month. First, Sylvia Crawley pulled off a blindfolded jam during the slam-dunk contest, and then CEO Gary Cavalli, in his state of the league address, proposed an interleague all-star game against the higher-profile WNBA "It would be good for the fans and good for professional women's basketball," says Cavalli. He's right. The game would attract more publicity than either league could hope to generate on its own.
Alas, it's not going to happen. WNBA commissioner Val Ackerman responded by letter to Cavalli's challenge, writing that, with its recent expansion to 10 teams, the addition of two regular-season games per team and a lengthened playoff format, the WNBA is "currently not in a position to devote the time or resources that would be required for us to participate in a WNBA/ABL all-star event in the near term." Cavalli countered with an offer to handle all preparations and even foot the bill, but Ackerman issued a two-sentence letter cutting off the exchange.
Nor was Ackerman diplomatic in discussing the ABL's proposal: "It's a one-time publicity stunt that in the end isn't good for women's basketball." Translation: The game wouldn't be good for the losing team—which would likely be the WNBA. Sure, the WNBA has marquee names, including 28 former Olympians, but many are aging pioneers like Lynette Woodard, 38, and players from mediocre national teams.
The offer may seem to be a gutsy one from a league that has hung its reputation on being superior on the floor. But it was more a cagey move, one that put the NBA-backed league on the defensive. "We believe we have better players," says Cavalli. "I think this game would support that."