Lightning’s Vinik puts name on USF sports management program in 15-year deal
The University of South Florida’s sports management program will further cement its connection to its founding benefactor this week when it announces a 15-year naming-rights agreement with Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik.
The deal will provide mid-six-figure funding annually, with about half of that paying for a dozen residency positions at Vinik’s sports and entertainment properties in the region, one-third supplementing faculty and staff salaries, and the rest covering student experiences, such as field trips and speaker visits.
To launch and run the program, USF hired Bill Sutton, a well-regarded sports marketing professor who helped launch a program at the University of Central Florida with the financial support of Orlando Magic owner Rich DeVos.
The hook for that program was a connection to the role of sport in society. For this one, it’s the unparalleled experiential opportunities created thanks to such a deep and broad connection to a pro franchise.
“At the press conference when I came here to run the program, I looked [Vinik] square in the eye and said, ‘My goal is that within five years this will be the Vinik program, and we’ll do our best to make it one of the five best programs in the country,’” Sutton said. “This takes what we’ve been able to build pretty quickly and secures it well into the future.”
Vinik’s ties to the school have broadened even further of late. In July, the school’s athletic department announced a 10-year, $29 million marketing rights agreement with Vinik’s recently formed Tampa Bay Entertainment Properties agency. Vinik’s company also took over management of USF’s on-campus arena.