Florida Atlantic's football stadium won't bear the name of a corporation that manages private prisons after all.
The south Florida-based GEO Group withdrew its $6 million offer for naming rights on Monday. The association stirred controversy in February when the university announced the gift and the renaming of the football facility that opened in 2011 to GEO Group Stadium.
"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 ogling distraction to both of our organizations," GEO Group chairman and CEO George Zolee said. "We employ many FAU graduates and Boca Raton community members. We take pride running a well-respected company and are proud of our long-term support of the university."
The stadium deal drew protests across campus, prompting some students to picket in front of university president Mary Jane Saunders' office. They went so far as to call the stadium "Owlcatraz" in reference to the school's nickname and GEO's prison connection.
After more than a month of dissent from faculty, students and alumni, Saunders backed down. A group of 60 community members sent a letter to Saunders and the school's board of trustees on Monday protesting the agreement. The board had continued backed the initial decision to accept the offer as late as last Friday.
"FAU alumnus and Trustee Emeritus George Zoley and his colleagues have been loyal supporters of this University," Saunders said in a statement. "We are thankful for all the companies, organizations individuals who give to this university to support our mission, our pursuit of academic excellence and valuable contributions to this community."
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