It’s Memorial again: Kabam pulls name from football field

Alvin Wu/File

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Kabam, Inc. has recently pulled out of its naming rights partnership with Cal Athletics, meaning the flashy name will no longer be featured on the field at Cal football’s Memorial Stadium.

The two parties came to a mutual agreement that will net Cal Athletics about $5 million that will go toward paying debt services, according to Cal Athletics spokesperson Herb Benenson. This ends the initial 15-year, $18 million deal — the largest naming rights agreement in college athletics at the time of signing in 2013.

“We plan to start looking for a new naming rights partner immediately,” said Director of Athletics Mike Williams in a press release announcing the move.

The department has four years to find a new partner before the end of the agreement results in a net loss — the Kabam deal paid Cal Athletics about $1.2 million each year. Cal Athletics, which operated with a deficit nearing $22 million in fiscal year 2016, has the most debt of any athletic program in the nation.

At the time, some expressed disapproval of the branding, which added bright orange logos onto the 25-yard lines of the stadium’s field. The logo has since been removed as a part of recent updates to the stadium.

The move is another sign of the athletic department undergoing change in recent years. In June, the department began an $86 million partnership with sports equipment manufacturer Under Armour, ending its long-term relationship with Nike. It also announced a 10-year, $100 million multimedia rights partnership with sports media company Learfield last year, moving from its previous partner IMG College. Additionally, the department has hired new head coaches in both football and men’s basketball — its two most prominent sports — in the last year, all the while balancing the looming threat of budget cuts to close its deficit.

Contact Hooman Yazdanian and Austin Weinstein at [email protected].