Feb 152009
 
Authors: Aaron Hedge

Despite its success in bringing more revenue to CSU, five-year private marketing firm Nelligan Sports Marketing has gained increasing notoriety — much of it negative — across the country in recent years for allegedly prompting conflicts and legal disputes with at least three universities.

“Our relationship and the results generated by Nelligan Sports Marketing have been tremendous in a short period of time, and we are optimistic both will continue to grow in the future,” said Gary Ozzello, the director for external operations in the Athletics Department, in an e-mail message.

Since 2005, NSM has increased CSU Athletics revenue 55 percent from $600,000 to $929,838.

Three of Nelligan’s contracts — those at St. John’s, DePaul, and Temple universities — have been terminated since 2002. And the company’s partnership with Ball State University was not extended under the direction of top officials, according to school newspaper reports there.

Ball State officials did not return phone calls from the Collegian.

After it terminated its agreement with the company, St. John’s in Queens, N.Y., sued NSM in February 2005 for declining the reputation of its athletics department to an “unacceptable” level.

Court documents claim that “NSM carried out a threat to ‘strip’ the University intercollegiate athletic program by refusing to devote the resources required for NSM to meet its obligations under the (operating) Agreement” after the university refused to extend the contract in 2004.

St. John’s athletics officials declined to comment on the lawsuit.

And DePaul in Chicago, Ill. brought a lawsuit against NSM in 2002 after it alleged that the company had failed to pay the university its share of the marketing revenue.

Bill Bradshaw, the former athletic director at DePaul, confirmed that NSM left the university before he transferred to Temple in Philadelphia. And just after Bradshaw arrived in the athletic director position at Temple, NSM, which had an existing contract, left its post there, too.

Bradshaw declined to comment on the reason for the company’s departure from the universities.

Nelligan said in an e-mail message last week to the Collegian that the lawsuits were settled and didn’t provide details about the outcomes.

“NSM initiated the lawsuit with DePaul and countersued St. John’s — those suits were settled amicably and the terms of the settlement are confidential,” Nelligan wrote. “All parties agreed to these terms. NSM will continue to honor the settlement agreement [sic] that were reached and has no further comment.”

In additional controversy last year, Rutgers University looked into NSM’s books when the school conducted a review of its athletics department.

Last fall, The New Jersey Star-Ledger published a series of investigative reports on Rutgers athletics that led to an internal review of financial practices in the department, which included its no-bid contract with NSM that essentially created an off-the-books account that the department could use at its discretion.

The stories also reported that the firm provided a $250,000 buffer to Rutgers football coach Greg Schiano’s salary — money that was guaranteed by the university if NSM didn’t bring in enough sponsorship revenue.

When asked to respond to the allegations in the stories, Nelligan said, “None of that stuff is factually based.”

He said Rutgers’ internal review had nothing to do with NSM, and that in his 20 years of experience in sports marketing “we have never had our integrity or our ethics questioned.”

No legal action has been taken against NSM by Rutgers.

The Rutgers athletics department didn’t return multiple calls from the Collegian.

Development Editor Aaron Hedge can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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