SSU drops Army as athletic department sponsor
Faculty objects to receiving funding from armed forces due to 'don't ask, don't tell' policy
Published: Tuesday, October 30, 2007 at 3:49 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, October 29, 2007 at 9:00 p.m.
Sonoma State University canceled the Army's athletic sponsorship -- the sports department's largest cash sponsor -- amid concerns over the "don't ask, don't tell" policy for gay soldiers, university officials said Monday.
SSU maintains an anti-discrimination policy that extends to contracts with outside entities and severed its ties to the Army after complaints from the faculty.
The Army was committed to spending $15,000 on the Ron Logsdon Basketball Classic, a four-team tournament in December. The event would have been renamed the Ron Logsdon Classic presented by the U.S. Army, Athletic Director Bill Fusco said.
SSU Provost Eduardo Ochoa said the administration will provide the lost funding for this year's tournament, but the athletic department will have to find a replacement sponsor for future tournaments.
"This campus has a long-standing position against discrimination that includes discrimination against sexual orientation," Ochoa said. "This is not an action that is meant to, in any way, disparage the armed forces or express a view on the Iraq war."
People who are openly gay are prohibited from serving in the armed forces. Under the "don't ask, don't tell" policy adopted in 1994, the military permits gays to serve as long as they remain silent about their sexual preference.
Some schools eliminated ROTC programs to protest the policy, but the military has remained a major sponsor of college athletics.
At SSU, the Army's sponsorship would have paid for hotel rooms, meals and other costs for three teams to travel to and stay in Rohnert Park.
The Academic Senate voted 38-0 last week to urge the university to reject advertising and sponsorship money from the military. SSU President Ruben Armiñana approved the sponsorship cancellation Friday.
Since 2004 the Army has sponsored Seawolves basketball and was poised to dramatically increase its financial commitment this year in support of the annual tournament.
Ochoa said Fusco had gone through proper university channels to cultivate the sponsorship, which did not raise significant concern until talk of renaming the annual tournament arose.
As part of a $3,400 sponsorship, an Army sign hangs above the Seawolves' home court. And $5,000 paid for a backlit Army sign installed courtside.
Thursday's unanimous Academic Senate vote condemning the sponsorship was the first complaint the department has fielded in more than three years, Fusco said.
"I have never had anyone come up to me and say, 'I'm offended by that sign,' " he said. "They weren't setting up a recruiting table in the gym, they just had a presence."
Fusco noted other California State University campuses have similar military sponsorships.
"This isn't something that is unique to Sonoma State University," he said.
Although the administration has said this year's costs will be "taken care of," Fusco said eliminating the Army from the mix "puts us in a very difficult position," in part because schedules are made a year in advance.
Trying to line up teams to travel to Rohnert Park in 2008 is contingent upon securing a sponsor.
"This definitely hurts," he said. "We have to really scramble to find another type of sponsor."
Math professor Rick Luttmann, a member of the Academic Senate, said faculty members were particularly chagrined by the idea that Ron Logsdon's name might have been removed from the tournament.
Logsdon, a SSU alumnus and faculty member, earned a Bronze Star and the Vietnam Service Medal while serving in the Army. He also was gay. He died in 1999.
"The irony is, he was gay and was also a decorated Vietnam vet. So the concept of letting this tournament be renamed from his name to the U.S. Army when he had managed to serve honorably despite the fact that they didn't know he was gay . . ." Luttmann said. "It was sort of a no-brainer."
Fusco said the tournament was at one time going to be renamed the U.S. Army Basketball Classic, but the naming rights were not critical to the sponsorship and the arrangement still was being negotiated.
Just before the university ended the relationship, he said, the proposed title was the Ron Logsdon Classic presented by the U.S. Army.
"That got lost in the shuffle," he said.
The Army sign in the gym cannot be removed without a lift and is expected to remain for about three weeks, Fusco said.
The Seawolves' season opens Nov. 3 with a road exhibition game against the University of San Francisco. The home season starts Nov. 14 with an exhibition game against Cal State East Bay.
You can reach Staff Writer Kerry Benefield at 526-8671 or email@example.com.
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