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Fiction writing at UNH: Scoreboard story is amazing

October 14. 2017 6:02PM

UNH's $1 million high-definition video board was introduced at the opening football game in the new Wildcat Stadium in September 2016. (MARK BOLTON/UNION LEADER FILE)

The continuing story/fable of the UNH football scoreboard is one of cynical manipulation by a public institution that doesn't appear to respect that public.

When a frugal former UNH staff librarian died and left the school $4 million in unrestricted funds, UNH used $1 million of that fortune for a fancy digital-screen football scoreboard in its expensive new stadium.

The stadium pricetag itself had initially ruled out such an extravagance. So this gift was money from heaven. There was no question that it would go for the scoreboard. But since UNH was giving only $100,000 of Robert Morin's money to the library where he had toiled, the scoreboard might look a tad controversial. UNH needed a story.

And it found one, or rather it spun one. It was a story about how the man, in his dying days in an assisted living home, had suddenly developed a keen appreciation for football, having watched it on TV.

Mr. Morin may have also developed a fondness for "The Price Is Right," but that didn't fit the narrative. The public was told that he liked football, and therefore we bought a big shiny football scoreboard with his money. Now move along.

UNH President Mark Huddleston even added to the scoreboard tale. He told this newspaper that the advertising revenue from the digital sign would go to a specific student scholarship.

But when we asked for details, the UNH PR person at first hedged.

A week later, she wrote to say "we're still working out the details," but they were "confident that the advertising revenue from the videoboard will be able to provide substantially more scholarship dollars than an endowment would have. In effect, we had a choice between (A) $40,000 a year in additional financial aid or (B) more than $40,000 a year in additional financial aid plus a videoboard. It was not a hard choice."

That was a year ago. We have yet to see "the details" of the supposed scholarship.

Meanwhile, last week, UNH wished to remind us that the Union Leader logo appears on the fancy sign, as proof that it was a worthwhile investment for the university.

Indeed our logo does appear there. It is part of a non-cash reciprocal trade agreement that dates back to the old stadium sign. That sign was perfectly fine with us.

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