Sunday, January 21, 2007

UI President Search Held Hostage Day 66 - Jan. 21

Jan. 21, 1:40 p.m.
UI Held Hostage Day 66

"Oprah didn't call again today." UI held hostage Day 66. What do we have to show for the first two months of Search II? How much closer are we to finding a president for the University of Iowa?

The Regents and the Search II Committee Chair have rebuffed Jon Carlson's well-considered arguments for a sufficiently diverse and populated search committee to get the job done with qualtiy (the successful one he chaired had 26 members). (Those arguments were discussed, and linked to, yesterday.) And, given their ability to find search committee members it may be just as well.

Let's see, 66 days and how many Search Committee II members have been rounded up so far? Oh, yes, five. Let's see, 5 members in 66 days -- that's almost two weeks per search committee member. And they have six more to go! I don't want to even begin to try to calculate how long it's going to take that future committee to find a president.

Gambling on the Hawkeyes; Wanna Bet?
NCAA to Legalize, Organize, Profitize Intercollegiate Sports Betting?

Last September I asked the question, "Is the University of Iowa Athletic Department, specifically the football program, promoting gambling?" Nicholas Johnson, "UI Football Promoting Gambling?" September 16, 2007.

I think the only fair answer to that question is, "Yes, it is." And last week it only got worse.

As with the Regents' "rolling closed meetings" and "decisions by polling and e-mail exchange," and the UI position regarding John Colloton's e-mails, the athletic department is fearless in its willingness to skate on the edges of some very thin ice: "we haven't violated the letter of the law," they all say. There's some dispute about even that assertion, and virtual unanimity that the spirt of those laws has been seriously abused.

The NCAA professes to be opposed to gambling on intercollegiate athletics.

But these professions of innocence are beginning to produce as many snickers among independent observers of the college sports scene as NCAA President Miles Brand's straight-faced assertion (regarding the tax deductability of "contributions" to football programs) that, "The fundamental purpose of intercollegiate athletics is the education of student-athletes in both the classroom and on the field or court." (See "Federal Subsidies for UI Football Program" in Nicholas Johnson, "UI President Search Held Hostage Day 64 - Jan. 19," January 19, 2007.)

So what do the NCAA rules provide?

The NCAA Division I Manual provides:


Staff members of a member conference, staff members of the athletics department of a member institution and student-athletes shall not knowingly: (Revised: 4/22/98 effective 8/1/98)

( a ) Provide information to individuals involved in organized gambling activities concerning intercollegiate athletics competition;
( b ) Solicit a bet on any intercollegiate team;
( c ) Accept a bet on any team representing the institution;
( d ) Solicit or accept a bet on any intercollegiate competition for any item (e.g., cash, shirt, dinner) that has tangible value; or (Revised: 9/15/97)
( e ) Participate in any gambling activity that involves intercollegiate athletics or professional athletics, through a bookmaker, a parlay card or any other method employed by organized gambling. (Revised: 1/9/96, 1/14/97 effective 8/1/97)

NCAA Division I Manual, Bylaw Article 10, Ethical Conduct, 10.3 (2001-02).

Note that, while the prohibitions regarding intercollegiate athletics seem to cover all betting, the limitations on "professional athletics" only prohibits participation in a "method employed by organized gambling" (which I take to mean the legal sports betting permitted, I believe, only in the state of Nevada). Thus, while "illegal sports betting" would be illegal -- illegal is illegal -- it would not violate the NCAA rules if the illegal gambling involved "professional athletics."

Note also that there is no effort of any kind to control (a) gambling in general, (b) illegal sports betting in particular, or (c) legal or illegal betting by fans or others on intercollegiate athletics.

But those are just interesting asides.

So the position of the UI Athletic Department seems to be, "We can be as hip deep in the organizaed gambling industry as we care to be and find profitable so long as (a) our coaches and players aren't betting on intercollegiate games (especially those involving Iowa teams), and (b) we're not doing anything that violates any state or federal laws."

The issue I wrote about last September involved a tie to the Riverside gambling casino:

"[It] does seem a bit incongruous for the University's athletic program to enter into what amounts to a partnership with the gambling industry. How has it done that?

"The University has (1) sold special indoor box facilities in the football stadium to a local gambling casino, aware that the casino purchased the facility to entertain, and encourage, high rollers, (2) knowing that the casino plans to bring gamblers into the state, put them up at its hotel, transport them to and from the football games, and (3) then agreed to let the casino use the football program's oversized electronic scoreboard to advertise the gambling casino to the 70,000 plus sports fans in attendance! (4) Removing any possible ambiguity about this, the Casino Web site's opening page currently displays, 'Turn a Hawkeye game day into a weekend getaway!'

"See William Petroski, 'E. Iowa Casino to Lure U of I Fans; It will offer post-game parties, stadium shuttles,' Des Moines Register, August 29, 2006 ('The casino has spent $165,000 for a three-year deal to lease a new skybox at Kinnick Stadium, and the casino has purchased dozens of football tickets for its preferred customers. Starting with the Iowa-Iowa State game on Sept. 16, charter buses will be offered to transport patrons between the casino parking lot and Kinnick Stadium, and there will be post-game parties at the Riverside complex.'), and William Petroski, 'Kinnick ‘Hotel’ ad omits 'Casino;' By design, an ad for Riverside's complex does not mention gambling,' Des Moines Register, September 8, 2006 ('Chief Executive Officer Dan Kehl pointed out in a recent interview that . . . many students already gamble online.').

"The duplicity is stunning. Apparently the University, recognizing the impropriety of what it was doing, but wanting the money from the gambling industry advertising anyway, decided everything would be OK if only it would falsely represent that no gambling actually takes place in a gambling casino by changing the name on its scoreboard from the gambling casino's real name -- the 'Riverside Casino & Golf Resort' -- to that of a non-existant facility called the 'Riverside Hotel & Golf Resort.'"

And why is all of this OK according to
University of Iowa athletic director Gary Barta? Because, he's quoted as saying, "casinos in this state . . . are legal businesses."

In other words, so long as it's "legal," anything goes. Ignore propriety, ignore responsibility to students, ignore what appears unseemly, ignore ethics and good sense. If it's legal, and it makes money for the athletic program, it's OK.

Well, bars are legal, too. And, just like gambling casinos, they are forbidden to serve students under 21. (Riverside was recently fined $20,000 for violating this law.) But just because it's legal doesn't mean it would be OK to serve alcohol at Kinnick Stadium, would it?

Oh, I forgot. I guess they decided that was OK, too, so long as you also purchased one of those $165,000 contracts for a skybox. After all, it make it easier to sell them.

Anyhow, that was the logic Barta found equally persuasive this past week. The issue this time was TV commercials using the University of Iowa athletic program to promote the Iowa Lottery. Never mind, he said in effect, that it constitutes just one more tie between students, gambling and intercollegiate athletics. The lottery, once a serious federal crime called "the numbers racket," has now been taken over by the State of Iowa to be run (at least in part) for its profit. In short, it's legal. And so long as it's legal, "Catch me if you can." (See

Dane Schumann, "AD defends 'Hawk' Lottery," Daily Iowan, January 19, 2007.)

The outrageous coaches' salaries, stadium building and rennovation projects, skyboxes, TV revenues, and ticket prices have captured Congress' attention. See, e.g., "Congress' Letter to the NCAA (letter sent to NCAA president Miles Brand from House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Thomas on October 2, 2006)," USAToday, October 5, 2006;
Tom Witosky, "Grassley: Do College-Athletic Contributions Merit Tax Deductions?" Des Moines Register, January 18, 2007 (with link to Tom Witosky, "How Deduction is Figured on Kinick Lease Payment"); and Scott Dochterman, "Tax-exempt changes could affect donations; But officials at Iowa, ISU have no immediate concerns about issue," The Gazette, January 20, 2007.

I haven't taken the time to do thorough research, but 7 years ago the NCAA reported, "Total NCAA operating revenue for 1999-00 was $364,546,859, 77.5 percent of which came from television rights fees." One can only assume, given the increase in coaches' salaries over the past 7 years, that the $356 million has only grown over time, and the TV rights fees with it. Indeed, the NCAA itself projected at that time revenues from a single contract, with CBS, would grow to $764 million by 2012. See "Revenue" in NCAA Membership Report 2000.

In short, whatever one may say of the Regents' hopes of turning the entire University of Iowa into a business, intercollegiate athletics -- at Iowa and elsewhere -- clearly is a business, a big business. It is, to borrow a line from Steve Martin's character in the movie "The Jerk," "a profit deal."

As such, intercollegiate athletic programs are constantly looking for, and capitalizing on, opportunities of any kind for expanding revenues and budgets. They are more than willing to accept the proceeds from TV advertising that is not always consistent with the educational mission of the University. The UI is willing to partner with gambling casinos, and sell skyboxes in which alcohol can be served.

So why do I think we'll see the day when the NCAA, and the University of Iowa Athletic Department will be profiting from sports betting on intercollegiate athletics? Because, as Willie Sutton once explained when asked why he robbed banks, "Because that's where the money is.

Koleman S. Strumpf, of the Department of Economics, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, reports in Illegal Sports Bookmakers, February 2003, that illegal sports betting "currently generates over $100 billion in wagers or roughly $10 billion in bettor losses per year. The illegal market dwarfs the legal one, with only one to three percent of all sports wagers being placed in the legal Nevada market" (citing a 2000 American Gaming Association report).

Don't you know that $10 billion has to look attractive to the NCAA, which is only now getting used to $1 billion from TV? And don't you suspect it's learned a lesson from "the numbers racket" and "gambling casinos"? How can college athletics profit from them? By making them legal, partnering with them, and thereby being able to respond to critics: "We're not doing anything illegal."

As you may have noticed, the college operations' big brothers, "the pros," (for whom they function as farm clubs), claim that they "own" reports of the scores of their games. They claim that those who have put the money into the computer software and marketing of games using pro players' look-alikes will have to pay to use their names.

How much of a stretch could it be for college athletic programs to say, "Hey, look, its our games you're betting on. We own those games. We own the right to let you bet on them. We will continue to prohibit our coaches and players from betting on games -- especially those in which they are playing -- but we see no reason why we shouldn't be allowed to have the kind of monopoly we do over the TV rights when it comes to the operation of sports betting on our games -- once they are legalized."

It's coming. You read it here first.
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[Note: If you're new to this blog, and interested in the whole UI President Search story, these blog entries begin with Nicholas Johnson, "UI President Search I," November 18, 2006.
Wondering where the "UI Held Hostage" came from? Click here. For any given entry, links to the prior 10 will be found in the left-most column. Going directly to will take you to the latest. Each contains links to the full text of virtually all known media stories and commentary, including mine, since the last blog entry. Together they represent what The Chronicle of Higher Education has called "one of the most comprehensive analyses of the controversy." The last time there was an entry containing the summary of prior entries' commentary (with the heading "This Blog's Focus on Regents' Presidential Search") is Nicholas Johnson, "UI President Search XIII -- Last Week," December 11, 2006. My early proposed solution to the conflict is provided in Nicholas Johnson, "UI President Search VII: The Answer," November 26, 2006. And the fullest collection of basic documents related to the search is contained in Nicholas Johnson, "UI President Search - Dec. 21-25," December 21, 2006 (and updated thereafter), at the bottom of that blog entry under "References". A Blog Index of entries on all subjects since June 2006 (updated January 17, 2007) is also available.]

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Media Stories and Commentary

Editorial, "Strengthen Laws to Keep Government Open," Des Moines Register, January 21, 2007

Editorial, "Where Are Plans for Reform?" The Gazette, January 21, 2007

Amber Bryant-Tapper, "A new look at 'sunshine' laws; Open government rules under review in Iowa," The Gazette, January 21, 2007


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