Controversial UNH scoreboard revenue raises $120,000 for student aid

  • Robert Morin poses for a photo at the University of New Hampshire Library. Courtesy University of New Hampshire

  • The new scoreboard is seen at the University of New Hampshire football field last year. Monitor file

Monitor staff
Friday, October 20, 2017

The controversial $1 million video scoreboard at the University of New Hampshire’s Wildcat Stadium has contributed a hefty chunk of change to the student financial aid budget.

UNH spokeswoman Erika Mantz said this week the scoreboard had raised about $120,000 in advertising revenues, which went toward aid for in-state students.

The scoreboard created a public relations nightmare for the university last year. When a frugal UNH librarian, Robert Morin, died and unexpectedly left the school the entirety of his $4 million fortune, the school pitched the tale to media outlets as an inspirational story.

But backlash ensued when critics seized on the fact that $1 million had gone to pay for a high-definition scoreboard while only $100,000 was funneled to the library. For students, it became a symbol of an administration’s misplaced priorities in a state with one of the highest in-state tuition rates in the country.

The controversy was reignited last week when Deadspin, a website dedicated to sports news, published a lengthy article about how UNH administrators worked to sell the story to reporters.

A key part of the narrative that the school crafted to explain the gift’s use – that Morin had become passionate about football in the last months of his life while living at an assisted living facility – was a cynical marketing gimmick, Deadspin argued. Email chains acquired through public records requests showed administrators had decided to buy the scoreboard with Morin’s gift months before they learned the details of his life. The administration responded that the outlet hadn’t really reported any new information.

Deadpsin didn’t report on the second line of defense UNH used after the controversy picked up steam. Weeks after it originally announced the gift, administrators began saying the scoreboard was actually the best way to invest in student aid. Put into the school’s endowment, the $1 million would have only returned about $40,000 a year, they had argued.

The school ultimately didn’t set up a specific scholarship, Mantz said this week, but simply transferred the advertising revenues over to the overall financial aid budget. From here on out, the UNH plans to use the scoreboard’s advertising revenue that way.

“Revenue from the video board will continue to be added to the financial aid budget,” she wrote in an email.

(Lola Duffort can be reached at 369-3321 or lduffort@cmonitor.com.)