No, the UMass license plate was not issued in June
After today's fail at Gillette Stadium in front of a sparse crowd -- making it five losses in a row -- it's unlikely the UMass Alumni Association will suddenly see an urgently needed surge in orders for the UMass license plate, now seriously stalled two-thirds of the way to the goal line.
After all, a license plate is the kind of thing serious sports minded fan boys savor more so than your average academic high achiever, who was probably too busy studying to attend tailgate parties and all the other fun things built around sports.
Fourth loss in a row equals "strong showing." Gotta love PR flaks
On August 3rd I received an email from the Alumni Association with the headline "UMass license plate is a go!" that certainly gave the impression 1,500 orders required by the Registry of Motor Vehicles had been attained.
Of course what they meant was the "overwhelming interest" had generated 1,500 pledges to buy the plate, but when it came time for the $40 down payment, over a third of those pledges went MIA. And even though the original pitch set an order deadline of September 7 their Facebook page (with only 139 likes) is still passively soliciting buyers.
Interestingly the Alumni email uses the term "UMass Amherst License Plate" but the actual plate does not contain the name of our beloved town, Amherst. Hmm ...
With a potential client base of over 110,000 UMass graduates living in Massachusetts you have to wonder why the organizers of this drive can't seem to motivate 1.4% of them to "Ride with UMass pride."
First off, the plate really costs $110, not $40.
A vanity plate requires a $50 "special fee" on top of the $40 "regular fee", plus an initial $20 swap fee or $110 total. Then, every two years renewal is $90 -- more than twice the amount as a "regular" plate.
Then there's the matter of where the "profits" actually go. The Alumni Association pitch originally pulled at the heartstrings by suggesting all the money raised would fund scholarships for deserving in state students.
But the Alumni Association website leaves a lot of wiggle room: "Proceeds from the special plate fee will support scholarships and programs provided by the Alumni Association that advance UMass Amherst."
When the Alumni Association suddenly dropped annual dues in 2010 and automatically made every UMass graduate a member. At the time the Vice Chancellor of alumni relations was claiming about 5,000 dues paying members at $40 each.
Although an alumni program still exists for "investors" at $50 each annually, the number of takers comprises less than half the former dues paying membership.
So it must be awful tempting to dip into a new source of funds (if they ever materialize).
Even if the Alumni Association does get 1,500 fans to pony up all associated costs, there's still a catch: The RMV requires the sponsoring body post a $100,000 performance bond to guarantee an additional 1,500 plates will be sold in the second year or else forfeit some of the insurance bond money.
And if the Alumni Association is having this much trouble with the initial 1,500 sales, the second batch will be an even steeper hill to climb.
Perhaps it's time for the Alumni Association to punt.