Perhaps the only good thing that can come out of a truly independent, “outside” investigation of the current ugly mess in the Kansas University athletics department ticket case is that sunshine and openness may expose what really goes on in the allocation of tickets for KU basketball and football games.
A “point system” currently determines how individuals earn seat locations in Allen Fieldhouse and Memorial Stadium.
The more you give, the better the seat location. This makes sense, but a vast majority of KU fans wonder just how evenly this formula is applied.
For instance, skeptical fans wonder whether the people sitting next to or near them in the fieldhouse or stadium all have given the same amount of money, in addition to the cost of the tickets.
The surest way to obtain “points” is to give money to the athletics department. At the outset of the points program, it didn’t make any difference if an individual had been generous in giving to various areas of the university: academic programs, the library, a museum or the endowment association. Only gifts to the athletic department counted toward seat locations.
Eventually, a plan was developed where nominal credit would be added to the point total for an individual’s gifts to academic programs, as well as to the athletics department.
Area automobile dealers win points by giving cars to the athletics department staff, coaches and even a spouse. The points system also is used as a tool to try to boost attendance for so-called minor sports (many now referred to as “Olympic sports”).
There’s no question that Athletic Director Lew Perkins has done the job he was hired to do: raise more money to fund a better athletics department that could pay big salaries to coaches and improve facilities, all of which would hopefully improve the win-loss record of the major sports teams and bring in more money for minor sports.
Perkins has, indeed, raised millions of dollars, but the manner in which he has accomplished this has caused problems and some ill will toward the university.
As noted above, there is distrust of how seats are assigned. Some longtime ticket holders report they see different individuals or different families seated next to or near them from game to game. They are not the same people throughout the basketball season. How do they get their tickets? Did they pay the same extra cash to the athletics department, or does the department have many tickets to hand out on a game-by-game basis with no additional cash required?
Others question why some faculty members or administrators seem to be seated in high priority locations when many of their university colleagues doubt that these individuals have the means to pay the extra thousands of dollars needed for seats in these locations.
The KU Endowment Association enjoys a proud history. Past chancellors have noted funding provided by the association has helped KU distinguish itself from other state-aided schools. However, there are growing numbers of association donors, as well as some trustees, who are concerned about how much money may have been advanced by the association to fund KU athletics-related projects, such as buying out salaries for coaches who have been terminated, paying salaries for new coaches and buying out their salaries from their previous employers. Has association money been loaned for other costly athletic uses?
While this is going on, those on the academic side of the university wonder why more money, even more endowment money, cannot be spent on academic needs.
They would like to have equal status with the athletics department in having their needs met.
Again, there is no question that Perkins and his crew have raised record amounts and KU facilities and programs have improved. KU now competes with most any top Division I NCAA school in what it pays its basketball and football coaches and its athletic director. It’s a very successful program and brings much attention to the university. Also a strong sports program frequently leads to added student enrollment and other forms of involvement by alumni and friends with the university.
Nevertheless, the current ticket mess is embarrassing. It should be embarrassing to first-year Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little, and it seems she has every right to ask why her athletic director was not on top of this situation. She should be the one asking for an investigation.
A major KU capital campaign has been delayed far too long, for various reasons, but the ticket scam, along with the poor economy, a new chancellor and the highly favored basketball team being knocked out of the NCAA post-season tournament so early all contribute to a lowering of expectations, or, to put it another way, make it even more difficult to encourage alumni and friends to give money to the university.
Like it or not, KU endowment officials, as well as national specialists in overseeing major capital campaigns, will acknowledge that winning athletic programs play a significant role in attracting dollars.
If the Jayhawks had advanced into the Final Four or, best of all, won a national championship, it would have been the best possible send-off for a capital campaign.
Hopefully, the upcoming independent, outside, thorough investigation of the athletic department ticket situation will provide answers to the growing question of whether everyone seated in a given row or section of Allen Fieldhouse has paid or earned the “points” premium (in many cases, many thousands of dollars) to qualify them for the seats in which they are sitting.
Unfortunately, more and more KU sports fans are saying it is cheaper to pay a ticket broker a high price for a well-located seat than to pay the far more costly prices to earn points to buy a ticket for a season of games, some of which the buyer doesn’t have a strong desire to see.
Maybe this is why a number of ticket brokers have been subpoenaed in the KU ticket probe. How did they get tickets to sell? How did others get tickets, and who, in addition to the brokers, pocketed the money?
Why not print a seating chart of Allen Fieldhouse showing how much each ticket owner has paid in premium “points” money?