July 12th, 2005

Memphis Tests New Vehicle in Heisman Promotion

By Michael McCarthy
USA Today

The University of Memphis is revving up a $38,000 promotional effort for DeAngelo Williams that uses toy cars to link a Heisman Trophy campaign for the senior tailback to the popularity of NASCAR.

The school’s athletics media relations department has mailed 850 die-cast race cars to sports media and former winners who’ll select the 2005 Heisman winner. The 1:24 scale cars, sporting a paint scheme in the same colors as Williams’ Memphis Tigers team, declare: "The Race is On."

Athletics media relations director Jennifer Rodrigues dreamed up the idea while watching her husband fiddle with his collectible Dale Earnhardt cars. The school presold another 2,400 cars to boosters and season ticketholders at $35 a pop in April, another novel approach that needed NCAA approval. The racing theme continues at http://www.racefortheheisman.com.

"We had to come up with something with a ‘wow’ factor that people wouldn’t toss in the garbage," Rodrigues says. "If a few people pay more attention to DeAngelo’s (candidacy), that’s good enough for me."

Gary Ruskin of watchdog group Commercial Alert criticized the program as "promotional hysteria" run amok: "They should spend less time promoting their Heisman candidate and more time teaching students who pay thousands in tuition."

Rodrigues counters the promotion will turn a $35,000 profit. She says it would be a "huge boost" for recruiting if Williams is one of the finalists in New York for the Heisman ceremony. Williams, 2004 national leader in rushing touchdowns, "is learning about" racing, she says.

Sales of licensed NASCAR gear was $2.1 billion in 2004. While NASCAR is not involved in this promotion, the cars are manufactured by Action Performance Cos., which sells more than $350 million in licensed cars, T-shirts and key chains annually. CEO Fred Wagenhals says the school is clever to harness the popularity of auto racing.


  1. Posted by Psicosis on July 12th, 2005

    "They should spend less time promoting their Heisman candidate and more time teaching students who pay thousands in tuition.”

    I was not aware that the people in the Athletic Department were somehow obstructing the fine folks on the teaching side of things from doing their duties. This is the first I’ve heard of such ridiculous action by Jennifer Rodrigues and her horrible cronies, and I am OUTRAGED. This must come to an end right this instant!

    Oh, wait. You mean they’re not actually keeping anyone from learning, they’re just doing their best to promote a remarkable young man’s efforts to break through an incredibly biased system’s glass ceiling, as it were, which would in turn bring priceless recognition and attention to the school in ALL respects, both athletically and academically?

    College sports is big business, and the University of Memphis, sadly, is not one of the cash cows in the football side of said big business. Outlandish and inventive Heisman campaigns are nothing new (Remember Joey Heisman?), and to single out a brilliant campaign for a person who’s done an incredible amount to help re-energize the entire student and alumni body of the university he so proudly represents is utterly ludicrous.

    Not that you had much in the first place, but your credibility is completely blown when you make ridiculous assertions and inane comments that have no basis in reality.

  2. Posted by KingB on July 12th, 2005

    That has to be one of the most moronic criticisms I’ve ever read.

    Does Gary Ruskin think that athletic administrators are charged with educating students? 

    The promotion is turning a profit, so no money was wasted.  What the hell is he talking about?

  3. Posted by REB on July 12th, 2005

    Gary Ruskin, another liberal idiot in a world full of them.

  4. Posted by Ken M. McNatt on July 16th, 2005

    Well, as a “non-athletic” college student, I can say that while the athletic department does not have any impact on the teaching side of things, it does hurt students who are strictly on the academic side of the coin. 

    I have a 4.0 QPA after 2 years (60 credit hours out of 120) of college but yet I am still paying half of my costs out of pocket (through loan money).  Some athletes who get “full ride SCHOLARships” do not necessarily deserve them, but get them because they drive in the big bucks for the schools through their athletic ability.  Do well in class, who cares, put a ball through a hoop with amazing accuracy, and the school will jump through hoops for you.  Many of these “scholarships” should in all reality be called “athletiships”.  I can’t take credit for the term, as I have seen it elsewhere on the Internet, but I think we need to refer to them as they are.  There needs to be more full ride scholarships for those who do exceptionally well in the classroom, but unfortunately, students like myself aren’t the ones who make the big bucks for the school through sports.

    As for promoting Heisman candidates, schools SCHOOLS be more focused on education.  For this change in focus to occur, however, there has to be a major shift in the paradigm of how colleges do business (education and real world preparation first, everything else next).  Unfortunately, the money is too huge in sports to pass up.

Add your own Comment