‘Cal’ strikes crypto naming rights deal


California State University stadium naming rights Image: California State University

The California Golden Bears (athletic teams) announced recently that it has reached agreement on the first-ever collegiate cryptocurrency naming-rights sponsorship, a 10-year, $17.5 million deal that will be paid in full in cryptocurrency, with the result being that the Golden Bears’ football field will now be known as FTX Field at the California Memorial Stadium.

The ‘Sports Illustrated’ stated that ‘Cal’ fans will come to the FTX Field for the Bears’ September 4th opener against Nevada, knowing the name is paid for by virtual currency.

The California Golden Bears are the athletic teams that represent the University of California, Berkeley. Referred to in athletic competition as California or ‘Cal’, the university fields 30 varsity athletic programs and various club teams in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA)’s Division I primarily as a member of the Pac-12 Conference, and for a limited number of sports as a member of the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF).

The Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) is a college athletic conference with members located mostly in the Western United States, although it now has members as far East as Pennsylvania.

The 63,000-capacity California Memorial Stadium is an outdoor football stadium on the campus of the University of California, Berkeley in Berkeley, California (US). Commonly known as the Memorial Stadium, it is the home field for the University of California Golden Bears of the Pac-12 Conference.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is a nonprofit organization that regulates student athletes from up to 1,268 North American institutions and conferences.

The Pac-12 Conference is a collegiate athletic conference that operates in the Western United States, participating in 24 sports at the NCAA Division I level. Its football teams compete in the Football Bowl Subdivision, the highest level of college football in the nation.

FTX.US is a U.S.-regulated cryptocurrency exchange, built from the ground up with customers in mind. Its mission is to grow the digital currency ecosystem, offer US and international traders a platform that inspires their loyalty, and to become the leading US crypto exchange by volume within the next two years.

An interesting note to this story is that the head of FTX (Sina Nader) was a walk-on football player at ‘Cal’ two decades back.

FTX.US’s Chief Operating Officer Sina Nader earned his bachelor’s degree in legal studies from Cal and was also a walk-on member of the Golden Bears football team from 1999 to 2001. Nader reportedly showed up for tryouts with a friend in 1999, when Jeff Tedford was ‘Cal’s’ head coach, and was kept as a member of the scout team. He was a defensive end, and his last name at the time was Pyghambarzadeh. He changed it to a name that would make things easier in business. Nader is also the former head of crypto at brokerage firm Robinhood.

The ‘Sports Illustrated’ further stated that the deal will also include on-field branding and branding on athletics press backdrops and social integration and will initiate a community-service platform that will support philanthropic causes.

A statement sent out by ‘Cal’ read, “Cal Athletics and its multimedia rights holder, LEARFIELD’s Cal Bears Sports Properties, and West Realm Shires Services Inc., owners and operators of FTX.US (‘FTX’), a leading U.S.-regulated cryptocurrency exchange, announced on August 23rd the first-ever collegiate cryptocurrency naming rights sponsorship. As part of the $17.5 million deal, LEARFIELD will accept the full payment in cryptocurrency on behalf of the University. Through this historic, 10-year agreement, FTX receives naming rights to the field at California Memorial Stadium, which will be known as FTX Field at California Memorial Stadium.”

‘Cal’ Director of Athletics Jim Knowlton affirmed, “We believe we have found a great partner in FTX. FTX is a growing company at the forefront of innovation in an emerging technology, one that fits well at both Cal and in the Bay Area. This agreement extends well beyond field naming rights, which is part of our strategic plan to diversify revenue streams in support of our student-athlete experience, and includes commitments for our Cameron Institute, Cal Veterans and students in need here in Berkeley. We are looking forward to building our relationship now and in the years ahead.”

Will ‘Cal’ accept cryptocurrency given this new agreement? While LEARFIELD will accept full payment from FTX in cryptocurrency, Cal Athletics is not yet at that point, but will work with the FTX to determine the best path forward. Crypto is being accepted in more locations around the country, and ‘Cal’ will consider how it can introduce it when the time is right.

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