FAU stadium naming update: Stadium will remain nameless for now after GEO Group pulls donation

FAU President: 'We need better public relations'

BOCA RATON, Fla. - Students who represent the "Stop Owlcatraz Coalition" celebrated victory right outside the FAU Administration building Tuesday. This after the GEO Group pulled a $6 million donation from the FAU Foundation for naming rights to the football stadium.

The deal prompted controversy as protestors argued GEO runs private prisons where inmates are allegedly mistreated.

"We've been told we're a rag tag team of 20 or so students who don't know what we're doing, and it turns out we do know what we're doing," says student Gabi Aleksinko.

University President Mary Jane Saunders spoke Tuesday morning about the decision. Saunders says she was surprised by GEO's decision to withdraw the donations. 

"We don't have a say in it when a donor decides to take their gift back," says Saunders.

In a news release GEO states, "What was originally intended as a gesture of GEO's goodwill to financially assist the University's athletic scholarship program has surprisingly evolved into an ongoing distraction to both of our organizations." 

Not everyone is in favor of GEO breaking the deal.

"It's disappointing that a few students ruined it for us. I was looking forward to naming the stadium, and now we can't reap the benefits of a $6 million gift," says sophomore Ally Scully.

It took two years to solidify the deal with GEO. President Saunders fears it will be difficult to find another donor for the naming rights in this economy.

George Zoley, the Chairman and CEO of The GEO Group, says the company will make a $500,000 pledge to FAU's academic scholarship program, as a symbol of admiration for the university.

NewsChannel 5 asked President Saunders if she thinks the controversy has damaged FAU's reputation.

"We have more freshman applications than ever and the same goes for our medical school. There is too much good here for one or two incidents to diminish the reputation," says Saunders.

But it all depends on who you ask. Students in favor of GEO's $6 million gift fear the school will get a bad reputation among potential donors.

"Who will want to donate to a school that rejected a generous donation? It will be very difficult," says Scully.

While those who protested say they've lost trust in school leaders.

"The FAU community I'm very proud of in all of this, but the FAU administration... I'm not sure I'm happy with them," says Rory Padgett.

Click here to listen to ESPN 106.3 Evan Cohen radio interview with FAU's M.J. Saunders.

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