AirTran acquisition may affect MU athletics

The trickle-down effects of the massive acquisition of AirTran Airways by Southwest Airlines’ have reached Marquette.

AirTran, based out of Orlando, Fla., is one of the major sponsors of MU Athletics, and signed a three-year agreement with Marquette in November of last year.

Mike Broeker, Marquette’s deputy athletic director, said he is not 100 percent sure whether the university’s deal with AirTran will be affected by the company’s recent business dealings.

“It’s hard to say at this point because of the time it will take for an acquisition of this size to go through,” he said.

When one company takes over another, the buying company is usually responsible for honoring the commitments of the company being purchased, said Ralph Anzivino, a Marquette law professor.

“(Southwest‘s) contract can change that rule,” Anzivino pointed out.

AirTran originally signed on as Marquette’s sponsor in an effort to increase its share of the market in Milwaukee. The company also has sponsorship deals with the Brewers, and employs Wisconsin sports stars Ryan Braun and Donald Driver as spokesmen.

While Marquette Athletics does have a number of different sponsors, losing Airtran’s contract would be a significant hit, Broeker said. It would not be a significant enough loss to jeopardize any of Marquette’s sports programs, however.

The university would have to scramble to find a new sponsor, however, which could be difficult.

“I don’t think finding any sponsor in this economy would be easy,” said Broeker, who declined to release the amount AirTran‘s contract is worth. “There are limited potential partners.”