"Can't anybody here play this game?" -- Baseball manager Casey Stengel, about the 1962 New York Mets, whose 120 losses are the most by any MLB team in one season in the 20th century.
Hapless Florida Atlantic University president Mary Jane Saunders resigned yesterday, and with their usual talent for due diligence and public relations savvy, the board of trustees filled the still-stinking seat with Dennis Crudele, who reportedly was go-between in the school's effort to sell naming rights to its football stadium to the notoriously homophobic fast-food chain Chick-fil-A.
Crudele is better known for supporting maximum tuition hikes last summer, at a time when governor Rick Scott opposed them. Crudele argued hikes were necessary because FAU faced cuts of $24.8 million in state funds and might have to close campuses in downtown Fort Lauderdale and Port St. Lucie. (The former is still open; the latter is not.)
Though the school was flogged for its decision (since scuttled) to name its stadium after global private prison operator and serial human rights abuser GEO Group, last month the Sunshine State News, a right-wing web pub spawned by GOP political operative Justin Sayfie, reported that Chick-fil-A was also courted as a stadium sponsor.
Reporting on the collapse of the GEO deal the digital rag included this snippet from former FAU Athletics Director Craig Angelos:
Angelos says he had a superior stadium-rights deal on the table, before the first football game was ever played, involving one of South Florida's largest car dealership chains. That arrangement could have put $1 million of annual advertising money and straight-up sponsor gifts into the program each year for six years. But, he says, the higher-ups in the school's chain of command wanted to hold off for a better deal with fast-food chain Chick-fil-A or, indeed, the GEO Group. After being put on hold, the automotive chain's interest cooled, and FAU ultimately landed GEO...
"Higher-ups in the school's chain of command"?
A couple of days later we saw Gawker had picked up the story, and noticed this exchange:
Lisa Metcalf, a spokeswoman for FAU, declined to say whether anyone at the university had ever discussed athletic sponsorship with Chick-fil-A. "Craig Angelos is no longer employed at FAU," she wrote in an email. "If he is stating these conversations took place, then you will need to speak with him." Angelos--who is now an AD at the University of South Florida--and Chick-fil-A did not respond to requests for comment in time for publication.
We took Metcalf's advice. We located Angelos at his new job. We sent him an email asking him to name names. And he did, saying it was Crudele, then senior vice president of financial affairs, who walked point on the Chick-fil-A deal.
We emailed Crudele repeatedly in April to ask about his involvement in discussions with Chick-fil-A. He never replied. Neither did he respond to several phone calls we made to his office. We expect that, newly exalted, he may finally feel the need to respond.
Fire Ant -- an invasive species, tinged bright red, with an annoying, sometimes-fatal sting -- covers Palm Beach County. Got feedback or a tip? Contact Fire.Ant@BrowardPalmBeach.com.
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