The sports arena, er, Convocation Center, at Northern Illinois University, that is.  Don't say I didn't warn you these projects are money pits, without the mystery of the Knights Templar or salt-sea pirates.  "The Convocation Center was built without the consent of students or faculty, and the Jehovah's Witnesses were willing to pay a substantial rent for its use."  Even the opening festivities, featuring Bill Cosby, ultimately went sour.

The way forward, apparently, is to sell naming rights.  "Sean T. Frazier, NIU associate vice president and athletic director, said in a news release this is an important step as the university looks to maximize potential revenue for NIU athletics."  That's at least truth in packaging.  It's a sports arena, used incidentally for such things as the farm implement show or the occasional concert.  "'We want a partner which matches our visions and goals,' Frazier said. 'We need a partner with a history of service – someone who serves the university, the community and, frankly, the Chicagoland area. We want to make sure we have a partner who understands and believes in what we’re doing, and isn’t just writing a check.'"  But Illinois is no longer a good place to live, and people are leaving, and that's showing up in reduced enrollments at Northern Illinois, at Illinois State, at the University of Illinois.  "'The Convocation Center was built with student fees built into the funding model,' said John Cheney, senior associate athletic director/internal operations. 'Obviously, as student enrollment goes down, so do your fee hours. You have to find other ways to generate revenues.'"  That's life in the Mid-American conference, where all the sports programs rely heavily on student fees that frequently time-crunched students view as sunk costs on game day, or game night as the case may be.  For all the good that will do.  Two of the three bowl-eligible football teams that didn't get invited were from the Mid-American (Buffalo and Western Michigan), and it's likely that only the conference tournament winner in either men's or women's basketball will make the field of 66, or whatever it is these days.

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