U celebrates partnership with Coke

Kamariea Forcier

Students, University administrators and representatives from the Midwest Coca-Cola Co. gathered in St. Paul on Wednesday to celebrate the first year of the business partnership between the school and the soft drink giant.
“To put it mildly, we’ve gone where no one’s gone before with this partnership,” said McKinley Boston, vice president for Student Development and Athletics.
The 10-year deal, signed early in 1996, gives money to the University for academic, community, campus and athletic programs. In exchange, Coca-Cola has sole beverage rights to athletic events, cafeterias, hospitals, restaurants and vending machines on the Twin Cities campus.
Speakers from each of the four beneficiary programs spoke about the achievements they made because of financial sponsorship.
Academics, community building and campus life each received $40,000 this year that was passed along to students as event grants.
Figures for men’s and women’s athletics were unavailable Wednesday, but the women’s program was set to receive $1.1 million at the start of the deal.
Karen Smith, assistant director of women’s athletics, outlined 10 program initiatives in women’s athletics sponsored by Coke. The initiatives are mainly aimed at increasing the visibility of Gopher women’s sports.
“Thank you for sharing our vision for women’s athletics and making us visible in the community,” Smith said. After thanking her program’s supporters, she introduced one student who benefitted directly from the deal.
“When you support our team, people come to see us,” Gophers gymnast Kim Sveum said. “The more people at our meets, the more excited we are and the better we do.”
Sveum, ranked 10th in the nation for women’s gymnastics, thanked the soft drink company for its dedication to making women’s athletics more visible.
“On behalf of Minnesota athletics, we thank you for every new fan you’ve brought to us,” she said.
“And, I personally think I wouldn’t have made it through numerous practices without my Diet Coke for lunch,” she said.
Coca-Cola’s deal with the University is estimated to be worth up to $28 million in the 10-year term.
The University is guaranteed at least $15.5 million during the deal, with $6 million paid up front. The University earmarked that money for the student development department, women’s athletics and sales incentives.