Martin Jacobson Editorial - Football Offers Opportunity For Community Bonding
Aug. 21, 2014
The following editorial was written by UMass alum Martin Jacobson, who alongside his brother Richard, has donated $2.5 million to help fund the new McGuirk Stadium Press & Skybox Complex. The editorial was originally posted in the Springfield Republican. The line version is here: http://www.masslive.com/opinion/index.ssf/2014/08/guest_viewpoint_umass_football.html#incart_river
By Martin Jacobson
We didn't realize it at the time, but a half-century ago my family embarked on a business venture that ultimately resulted in the rise of the modern man cave. When wood paneling started to come into fashion in the 1960s, my father saw a need for a store that sold a wide selection of paneling and began a business called Mr. Panel. My brother, Dick, and I joined him; we were in at the beginning of something big. Mr. Panel grew to 63 stores and sold materials for the basement retreats that evolved into the signature, well-appointed enclaves of the 21st century.
Why mention Mr. Panel? As a passionate sports fan, I love settling in front of my big screen at home in anticipation of a World Series contest or the UMass Minutemen (my alma mater) returning to the NCAA basketball tournament. But, if we're honest with ourselves, we know attending the real thing, seeing a game in person, can be a far more memorable, community experience. Despite the skeptics, I sense something big happening again, this time the emergence of UMass Amherst, our flagship state university, as a high-profile competitor in FBS football. But to ensure success, UMass alumni, students and the broader community must demonstrate their support.
So, I want to draw men (and women, too) out of their paneled enclaves this fall to Gillette Stadium in Foxborough and McGuirk Stadium in Amherst to cheer on the Minutemen. The first two years of FBS play proved difficult, the scores were lopsided and our fans discouraged. But a foundation was being laid, and fans are intrigued by the return of Coach Mark Whipple. Can he recruit, coach and cajole the Minutemen, Division 1-AA champions in his past tenure, to success again?
Dick and I will be there for the first game of the year on August 30 against Boston College at Gillette Stadium, one of the country's best football facilities. We anticipate being joined by thousands of UMass alumni and other fans within close driving distance of Foxborough. Later in the season, three home games will be played at McGuirk Stadium and that is where Dick and I chose to directly invest in the future and importance of UMass football. We proudly donated $2.5 million to help erect a new Press and Skybox Complex at the stadium, and at the north end of the stadium you will also see a wonderful new football training facility for our student-athletes.
I studied business at UMass Amherst from 1964 to 1968, a golden age of UMass football, when McGuirk Stadium was new and students vied to build the most elaborate homecoming parade floats. Attending football games with my friends gave me memories I'll hold forever. Although I now live in Florida, I still attend as many UMass basketball and football games as I can.
A game is a celebration that brings a university together. It provides a bonding experience for students; a reason for alumni to reunite; a way for the broader community to connect to the school. Athletics, I believe, truly helps the university as a whole by shining a light on its achievements. UMass Amherst has thrived in recent years with record numbers of applicants, rising admission standards, groundbreaking research, partnerships with business and the Commonwealth, and a building renaissance. An outstanding university like UMass Amherst should also be home to top-level athletics. And the truth is, athletic success increases visibility and school spirit like nothing else can. You truly can make a difference by coming out to a game or two and demonstrating support for the state's flagship campus.
I became fully aware of the power of school spirit during my entrepreneurial days. After selling Mr. Panel, my brother and I started a business that manufactured and marketed licensed sports apparel. We were in on the beginning of something big, and our Nutmeg Industries created partnerships with the NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB and major colleges and universities. Our business prospered because of the fans' commitment to their professional and college sports teams, and the company's success provided us the means to contribute to the improvements at McGuirk.
So, as someone with the good fortune to hear when opportunity knocks, I urge you to get in on the early days of FBS football at UMass Amherst. Get off the couch and into the autumn air, starting with the season opener with Boston College.
You'll have a good time. And someday you can look back and say you were there when it all started.
Martin Jacobson is a University of Massachusetts alumnus, graduating in 1968 from the Isenberg School of Management.