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Michigan State basketball becomes silliest mortgage wars battleground

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Billionaire grads take a business rivalry onto the hardcourt, kind of, while making everyone look ridiculous along the way. And no, Michigan State basketball is not changing its name.

Cleveland Cavaliers Introduce John Beilein Photo by David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images

No, the Michigan State Spartans basketball teams have not been renamed.

However, the fact that a sentence like that even needs to be typed out is a sign as to just how ridiculous things have gotten. Two billionaire MSU graduates are using the basketball team/athletics department as a battleground for the mortgage wars waging in Detroit.

Shortly before the Spartans men’s basketball team played their first – and only – Big Ten Tournament game, an extremely curious news report hit the interwebs. According to multiple reports, based on an MSU press release, the Spartans would be known as the “MSU Spartans Presented by Rocket Mortgage.

Stories were written. Jokes were made (including some truly stellar dad-joke-mortgage-puns from yours truly). But it wasn’t exactly accurate reporting.

Roughly 24-hours later, MSU Athletics clarified what was actually happening — kind of.

In a statement released to the press, MSU Athletics said no, the basketball team wasn’t receiving a new name. Instead, Rocket Mortgage was just becoming the presenting sponsor.

From the full press release:

Under the new five-year deal, Detroit-based Rocket Mortgage will be the presenting sponsor of the famed men’s basketball team which will now be known throughout the Breslin Center as, “MSU Spartans Presented by Rocket Mortgage.”

Get it now?

See, they aren’t the “MSU Spartans Presented by Rocket Mortgage” but inside the Breslin Center they are the “MSU Spartans... Presented by Rocket Mortgage.

As if this wasn’t all silly enough, it’s pretty easy to trace how exactly this all happened.

All of this comes just over a month after former basketball walk-on Mat Ishbia donated $32 million to the athletic department. An extremely generous gift. But, wonder what that has to do with Rocket Mortgage? See, Ishbia made all of that money as the CEO of United Wholesale Mortgage, a competitor of Rocket Mortgage. Oh, and the majority shareholder of Rocket Mortgage just happens to be fellow MSU-alumnus Dan Gilbert.

Coincidentally, last week Ishbia announced that UWM would no longer work with brokers who send loans to competitors – namely Rocket Mortgage. The most recent sponsorship announcement came from the notoriously spiteful Gilbert exactly one week later.

It turns out this was just one part of a tough day for for MSU men’s basketball (fortunately the women held up their end of the bargain). Something that will likely be a punchline around the Big Ten for anyone who remembers. But not much more.

Fortunately, it does mean there will be a lot more money in the MSU Athletics coffers. We can all only hope it eventually leads to the Ishbia and Gilbert going one-on-one right there on Tom Izzo Court presented by UWM while wearing MSU Spartans presented by Rocket Mortgage jerseys.