The tired old refrain of the sporting times has become: Is nothing sacred? Well, apparently not the Ohio State-Michigan football game.

The rivals, who first faced each other in 1897, signed a deal this week to have their game sponsored by SBC Communications. The schools will each receive $530,000 for the two-year deal. So, on Nov. 20, get ready for the SBC Michigan-Ohio State Classic.

Let the grumbling begin.

"I don't want to get into it," Michigan Coach Lloyd Carr said yesterday, "other than to say I think some of the things we're doing, and the directions we're taking, speak to too much money [being spent], and all the things that go into putting more and more pressure on the people that compete. And I'm not talking about coaches, because coaches are well-paid. I'm talking about the kids that compete."

SBC, a phone company based in San Antonio, isn't new to this game. The company already sponsors the SBC Red River Shootout, formerly known as the Texas-Oklahoma football game. The company's logo will appear on the scoreboard at Ohio Stadium, as well as on signs throughout the venue, but not on the field. The revenue will be used to support each school's athletic department.

Ohio State Coach Jim Tressel said that considering the Buckeyes support 36 varsity sports, any additional revenue is helpful. As to whether the deal tarnishes the rivalry -- well, Tressel doesn't see it.

"If typically you turned on a game and there were no advertising going on at all and all of a sudden this was brand new, I suppose you'd understand that feeling," he said. "But I think we're all realistic to a point that advertisement and commercialization has become a part of our culture."

-- Barry Svrluga