Whitman County Gazette - Serving Whitman County since 1877

Chris Peterson's first task at his new job


January 2, 2020

By Garth Meyer

Gazette Reporter

Chris Peterson is now a “Leadership Advisor” at the University of Washington.

Questions abound as to what the job will entail, and it has not been designated by Peterson or the university.

What will his work with this new title be?

It sounds open-ended.

Here is one thing he may consider for the first item in the in-box, once he returns from a much-deserved break: Get those Alaska Airlines logos off the turf at Husky Stadium.

A small thing? Irrelevant? A joke?

Chris Peterson is a football coach who has quoted Confucius and taught players that 'How you do small things is how you do all things.’

The two 10-yard Alaska Airlines logos painted on the field since 2016 represent a small thing that is on the cusp of staking a claim across all of (college) sports.

In an era of a seeming flood of money in college and pro sports, field-level advertising has risen, too. Part of it is to pay for this flood, but there are many unanswered questions.

Villanova basketball now plays with a 10-foot Jeep logo on the court.

They don't have any money? They just won two national championships. They're in a huge market, however much that matters. Gonzaga plays with double logos for Northern Quest Resort & Casino and Kalispell Tribe on the court.

They're hurting for money too?

USC added United Airlines logos this fall on the field at Memorial Coliseum.

Costs to compete have really risen that much?

UW just spent $282 million revising Husky stadium, re-opened in 2013.

Are the Huskies still that vulnerable in “first-class student athlete experience” – which is what the Alaska logos on the field deal was deemed to go to?

Husky Stadium is one of the greatest venues in all of sports. UW is in Seattle. Why exactly are they so desperate?

Chris Peterson is someone who clearly thinks beyond just the mechanics of sports.

That is why he is uniquely positioned, at this particular moment, to take a few hours one morning, make a couple phone calls and restore the field at UW.

The paint is worth $41 million over 10 years. Offer Alaska a $12 million refund to get the logos off the field. Give them the difference in trade; more commercial time during game broadcasts, etc. Have alumni cover the difference if it's really necessary. You don't think Chris Peterson could raise a few million from Husky alumni for the “student-athlete experience”?

It's bad enough UW pasted over Hec Edmundson Pavilion first with Bank of America for five years then Alaska Airlines Arena.

UW is supposed to be more sophisticated than this.

The last time the Huskies won a (shared) national championship in football, they did not even have an indoor practice facility. Now, in order to “keep up” they need 10-yard corporate logos on the field.

Yes, it's a different world since 1991. But how different? Teams will never win on total expenditures. It always takes a coach, first and foremost. Also, in marketing and advertising, good ideas are still the gold standard.

To paint your logo on a football field is not advertising, it's sledgehammering.

“This agreement formally brings together two iconic local organizations for the next decade,” Brad Tilden, CEO of Alaska Airlines, said in a statement when the deal was announced. “Alaska is proud to be the official airline of the University of Washington, a pillar in the Seattle community with a rich tradition of academics and athletics.”

But you can't do it without diminishing one of the “icons” and embarrassing both. That pillar teeters when it has to have sponsors' logos on the turf of its football field, the most visible part of the entire university.

There simply has to be something in broad society above un-checked marketing, advertising and revenue generation.

UW, as a major, respected, possibly pretentious university, needs to be above that.

Chris Peterson seems like he is, by nature. Now it's time to make the university so.


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