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Correction and Explanation

We caused consternation within the University’s athletic walls. We heard from Dr. Gross himself. The following is The Fizz’s explanation of the story.

Syracuse Post-Standard/ Frank Ordonez

The Fizz takes its job seriously around these parts. (Not too seriously, mind you. We still dissect Jim Boehiem’s tie-selection and grade Otto’s barrel rolls.)

However, a post by Mike Couzens from last week [10.2.09] caused consternation within the University’s athletic walls. Our good friends at Nunesmagician may have briefed you on it already. We are here to explain.

As Editor-in-Chief, I take my share of the responsibility for where we we fell short of acceptable journalism (if I didn’t, my former professors at Newhouse would have me hunted down and sold to Iran). Writer Mike Couzens will also clarify his angle on the story.

We heard from members within the sports information department, as well as Dr. Gross himself. The following is The Fizz’s correction and explanation of the story.

* * *

Posted: Mike Couzens.

The Fizz posed some questions, and as is our responsibility, we now must answer them.

Here at The Fizz, we erred in presenting opinion as fact. Last Friday’s post posed questions about the naming of the field but instead of posing them as opinions solely belonging to us, we posed them as facts. We apologize for those errors.

I was at Dr. Gross’ news conference on Monday and asked him questions about the specifics of Ernie Davis Legends Field

“To give you some background, we were always trying to name the football field and that could go to a corporation or something like that. It could’ve been called you name the corporation field. And we had this wonderful family that just loved the movie The Express, loves the Ernie Davis story, loves what Ernie Davis stands for as far as diversity, and fighting through all the bad times that were going on back then and how he did it with such class and dignity.”

So the naming rights could have gone to X Corporation or Z Company but instead this family stepped forward, with an undisclosed donation amount. Enter Sam and Carol Nappi:

“We had mutual friends and Sam (Nappi) and I met through all of that and got to have good conversations. He had a great idea and I told him about what we were trying to do and how it would be great to try and name something after Ernie, but Sam came with us with the idea of wanting to name it Ernie so it kind of just merged together perfectly.”

(Gross) on the size of the donation:

“They’re such humble people. I will just say that it was very generous, very generous and obviously we’re appreciative and it was generous and they want to remain humble and if you get to talk to them one day maybe they’ll share that with you.”

The Nappis and Carrier both commented in the University’s press release.

I attempted to contact both Nappi through his company and Carrier for further comment, but have not heard back yet from either one.

Another media member asked (Gross) if the school had looked into possibly dropping the “Carrier” name from the building and just naming it “The Ernie Davis Dome”:

“Naming rights for a whole facility has become such business deals. This is more intimate than a naming rights for a facility. We have good partners at Carrier and they’re gonna be there at the presentation on Saturday at halftime. Obviously Carrier has been in this community for a long time, so we always have discussions going on there business-wise but they have been a good partner and we’re proud that they’re going to be there to represent us.”

A corporate sponsorship would certainly be an intriguing possibility for the field. Carrier paid a lump sum of $2.75 million dollars for naming rights of the $27 million dollar facility. Overall, about 10% is not a bad cost to pay.

Today? Naming rights go for similar numbers – but per year. This accurately explains how much corporations are paying per year for naming rights. Needless to say, it’s a lot of money. Deals now are spread out over long periods of time, rather than done in lump sums.

I’m interested to see how the final product turns out and what public perception of it is after Saturday’s game.

* * *

The university also felt it was unfair how The Fizz portrayed the context of the donation. Sam Nappi is founder of Alliance Energy, which has natural gas gathering fields in Alaska as well as numerous other extensions to more regional parts of the country.

We included an off-handed comment about the Exxon Valdez and the pillaging of the natural environment. While maybe distasteful to some, any regular reader of The Fizz knows we include a healthy dose of sarcasm and snarkiness to our daily reporting.

Was it well-researched? No. Do we have any idea if Mr. Nappi is a green-loving, carbon-footprint tree-hugger who writes love sonnets to the environment or a modern-day industry baron, plowing down thousands of acres of natural habitat like Sim City to turn a buck? None (although healthy contributions to the W. administration probably has him leaning away from the former, based on the White House’s environmental record, especially on Alaskan drilling, from 2000-2008).

But if you are founder of an industry company, with projects that include energy exploration in Alaska, donate a lump sum of money to a major BCS university, make your identity public and get unnerved by a few unsolicited, ham-fisted shots from across the bow from the blogosphere, you’re probably a tad hyper-sensitive.

We get plenty of anonymous haterade emails to The Fizz-box. Do we get bent out of shape and go hunt each IP ping down? No. Part of the game, man.

I emailed Dr. Gross my thoughts yesterday afternoon. He immediately responded by phone, which should be applauded. We spoke for about twenty minutes and both explained our sides. Here was the bulk of my email to give better clarification on where we stood at The Fizz:

* * *

Dr. Gross,

It has been brought to my attention the athletic department and Syracuse University was disappointed and disagreed with a post from the blog I created and edit, The Orange Fizz.

The post in question asked “why” on the decision to rename the field for Ernie Davis [10.2.09]. While we all agree Davis’ legacy is powerful and important, our writer Mike Couzens asked hypothetical questions that reach beyond just Davis.

I have written to clarify some aspects: As Editor-in-Chief, I take full responsibility for the omission of the conjunction “could’ve” in the final sentence of the third paragraph.

“As great as Ernie was and the powerful symbolism his Heisman still holds, this isn’t just about #44. There are multiple reasons why this happened,” should’ve read “As great as Ernie was and the powerful symbolism his Heisman still holds, this isn’t just about #44. There are multiple reasons why this could’ve happened.”

It has been corrected. Couzens was also in attendance at your press conference and asked your reasoning behind the renaming. Your response was not included in the post. We recognize and understand, proper journalism would include your answer and explanation. He will post a follow-up piece that includes that.

However, we also believe the question of “why” is a fair one to ask. And that linking and citing the Nappi financial background is fair information dissemination. This is a historic change on The Hill. The faces and names behind it are obviously pertinent questions.

Financial issues have bubbled to the surface at almost every athletic department in the country during our recent economic downturn. We know that Syracuse does not have the public funding of other state universities in the Big East, such as UConn, Rutgers or West Virginia.

We also understand a football program is the engine that fuels the fiscal bottom line of any athletic department in the BCS. Because of recent on the field struggles and attendance drop-offs, any major infusion of money to SU should rightfully be explored.

As for the reference to “Dr. Doom,” it became popular nomenclature during the early part of our blog’s existence, as many Syracuse fans blamed you, fairly or unfairly, for the football woes. We, at the Fizz, do not believe, despite the name, you deliver global Doom as the comic book villain does. We’ll take a 2-3 record any day of the week after the previous four years. Hopefully you’ve seen the X-men movies. He’s really not such a bad guy.

Hopefully this clarifies our position at The Fizz. No one hopes the Orange succeed more than me and that has been the inspiration behind The Fizz. As you know, not all of our news is good news, however, especially when you work in sports on a daily basis. We try to give both sides and ask questions SU fans might care about themselves.

Thanks for your time and if you’d ever like to clarify a position or decision, or merely speak to the readers of this blog, the door is always open. The Orange Fizz Podcast has an open invitation to you.

Sincerely, Damon Amendolara SU ’01

* * *

My conversation with Gross ended extraordinarily amicably and it seems we both have a better understanding of each side. They felt it was unwarranted swipe at Nappi without knowing him. That’s fair. Is Nappi fair game in our eyes? Yes. He’s now a public figure for SU fans everywhere. Comes with the territory.

We should not have posted a blog stating opinion as fact. It has been corrected. We felt the theme of the blog was fair in a time of fiscal struggles for almost all schools. To his credit, Dr. Gross said he understood that criticism comes with his position, and that the “Dr. Doom” nickname is part of that. We explained, we’re just huge comic book fans.

We appreciate the members of the SU athletic department we spoke to not expecting us to simply cheerlead for the school. There’s enough of that out there already. We also applaud Gross for taking time out of him day to explain his position. We respect it, just as we hope our position as a means to inform yet also (ahem) entertain Orange Nation is respected by the university.

Now, how pissed off are you that you just spent three hours reading a 14-volume freaking Fizz post!?!?

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