As the landscape of college athletics changes with the NCAA granting more autonomy to the power conferences, smaller programs such as the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga must look for ways to remain relevant and competitive.
UTC vice chancellor and athletic director David Blackburn thinks that building partnerships can help the Mocs, and Thursday he unveiled a three-year partnership between UTC athletics and FSG Bank, making FSG the official bank of Mocs athletics.
"We're proud to have this partnership," Blackburn said at a news conference. "The best news of the whole thing really is that this will benefit our student-athletes and our staff who work hard to go out and bring in the best and the brightest that we can bring in to elevate what we do and hopefully elevate our community and our stature within the community."
FSG Bank, which also reported new branding in its downtown branch and recent growth in its business, is looking to build its image as a community bank through initiatives such as the one announced Thursday.
"The partnership with UTC and the university is critical to becoming the brand we want to be," said FSG Bank president and CEO Mike Kramer. "Our mission statement is to be the bank that genuinely cares about the clients and communities we serve.
"By aligning with folks of the reputation and excellence of UTC and UTC athletics, we think that helps us advance our cause."
Blackburn said the partnership is part of his renewed focus on looking for ways to help build UTC athletics in a time where old revenue sources, such as guarantee games with bigger schools, could be in jeopardy.
"We try to project forward knowing there could be a day when we may not have those games," he said. "We're trying to be proactive and look for partnerships and ways to increase our revenues and resources, and this is one way to do that."
FSG Bank will establish an endowment to provide aid to student-athletes and more resources to UTC coaches and staff to help the competitive level.
FSG Bank will offer customers a UTC athletics debit card, which will be available this fall and will feature the Mocs' "Power C" logo. FSG also will continue its "Take it to the Bank" campaign for the upcoming school year with UTC football and men's and women's basketball. Last year, "Take it to the Bank" raised $15,000 for six local nonprofit groups, and the program now will raise money for the endowment benefiting UTC athletics.
A new television commercial featuring Kramer and UTC football coach Russ Huesman was shown, highlighting the "Take it to the Bank" program.
Huesman said the partnership with UTC reminded him of his playing days in the early 1980s when the Mocs were closely aligned with Krystal restaurants.
"When I was playing here, Krystal was so involved with UTC and our athletic department," he said. "You always thought of Krystal and UTC back in those days. Now you look at FSG and UTC, and I can kind of see the similarities ... and you hope that that's how this partnership is going to go."
Contact Jim Tanner at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-653-9631. Follow him at twitter.com/JFTanner.