Escape from ‘Owlcatraz’: An Interaction Ritual Case Study of the Stadium Naming Rights Agreement Between Florida Atlantic University and The GEO Group, Inc.

Kiernan O. Gordon – University of New England


In 2013, Florida Atlantic University and The GEO Group, Inc. entered into a naming rights agreement for the university’s football facility, which the latter rescinded 42 days later. This agreement is unique relative to similar agreements within intercollegiate athletics in the United States for two reasons: the sponsoring entity’s business model and the fact that the agreement failed. The online media coverage of the naming rights agreement was gathered and used to reconstruct key events through qualitative content analysis (Berg, 2007). Interaction ritual theory (Collins, 2004) was employed to examine these events and provide an explanation for the agreement’s outcome. Findings advance theory regarding the power of definitive stakeholders (Mitchell, Agle, & Wood, 1997) to influence the outcome of a unique corporate partnership within intercollegiate athletics. Specifically, findings demonstrate that current university students acquired and expressed more power than any other affected stakeholder group, primarily through their ability to effectively mobilize and frame the issue within public discourse. This case study’s findings may expand the ways in which the behavior of sport stakeholders may be analyzed in future scholarship, as well as inform practitioners who are engaged in the execution or examination of future naming rights agreements within intercollegiate athletics.