Board considers Pepsi sponsorship

School officials ponder philosophical debate surrounding the $25,000 bid

Pepsi is offering the Moffat County School District $25,000 if it agrees to give Pepsi sole distribution rights in Moffat County High School.

But after an hour-long discussion Monday night, the Moffat County Board of Education decided to table a decision another month on whether to accept the offer.

Moffat County High School Athletic Director Jim Loughran, accompanied by a representative from Pepsi, presented the idea of corporate sponsorship to board members Monday.

"The budget I have to run athletics is adequate," Loughran told the board. "But more and more we're running into needs for capital improvements. The competitive wrestling mat is the original one we had 20 years ago. We're in need of a better mat."

After listing off several other needed capital improvements in the high school athletic program, Loughran presented the idea of giving Pepsi sole refreshment distribution rights at the high school.

Pepsi would pay the school district $25,000 up front if the school district agreed to only have Pepsi machines in the high school. A Pepsi banner would also be hung on the front of the scorer's table at Bulldog wrestling meets.

While many board members admitted the money was alluring, some were skeptical of allowing the district to become corporately sponsored.

"I've got some concerns philosophically," Board President Phil Hasting said. "I'm opposed to any corporate sponsorship within the schools. I think support for any sport should come from the school budget."

Board member Steve Hafey had mixed emotions.

"I don't like the message but I don't mind taking the $25,000," he said.

The Pepsi representative at the meeting estimated $120,000 total profit would be made from drinks bought from the machines over the term of the seven-year contract.

But Superintendent Pete Bergmann pointed out that the school system already had that revenue from the pop machines already in the school.

"Whether or not we have corporate sponsorship, we still have that revenue," he said.

In advising the board on its decision, Bergmann said each board member needed to ask himself if $25,000 was worth it.

"I would advise the board to go back to Phil's statement and make a philosophical decision," Bergmann said. "Where are we going with it? Where does it stop? They're not asking for control over what we do but we're promoting their product."

While the money would be nice, he said, there is a budget for capital improvements for the athletic department.

"There will be a continual need for capital purchases in athletics," Bergmann said. "We have to buy these things and don't need corporate sponsorship to do that. It's something that would definitely help. If I gave my kid 25 bucks he would take it, but the question is does he need it?"

The board asked the opinion of recently hired Assistant Superintendent Joel Sheridan.

"Basically I'm philosophically opposed to it," Sheridan said. "I didn't hear Pete say the decision to get a new wrestling mat hinges on accepting this. If we need to buy a new wrestling mat, let's buy one."

When asked by Hafey how many schools are corporate sponsored, the Pepsi representative estimated that 60 to 70 percent of schools in Colorado have corporate sponsorship.

"There's a lot of corporate sponsorship out there," she said. "It's a huge opportunity for increased revenue."

Board member Gary Ellgen said he did not see where much would change if the school district signed an agreement with Pepsi.

"I just wonder what the difference is," he said. "We've already got the machines in there."

The board voted 4-3 to table the issue until the next meeting.

Hastings was concerned that making the agreement might be in conflict with school policy.

The board requested that Bergmann review school policies to find out if the board of education would indeed be breaking policy by approving the

agreement.

Hastings said he would also like to hear public comment on the issue, and said the issue would be open for discussion at next month's "Let's Listen" session held at the beginning of meetings.

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