Thursday, April 05, 2007

UI Held Hostage Day 439 - NCAA Criticizes Gambling Tie

April 5, 7:30 a.m.

Register Blows Lid Off UI Athletics-Gambling Ties

Last September I wrote Nicholas Johnson, "UI Football Promoting Gambling?" September 16, 2007. It was a lengthy essay with reference to the NCAA rules and recommendations that seemed to me to have been flaunted by the UI's athletic program. As I noted in that blog entry the Daily Iowan had reported the problem four months earlier:
"'[Riverside Casino Manager Joe] Massa has hired a sales manager to lure groups and conventions to the casino, and he plans to hire a sales staff in Chicago and Des Moines. A package could include a hotel stay with a trip to Kinnick Stadium for tailgating and box seats at an Iowa football game. Kehl says he wants to organize junkets to the casino, where out-of-state gamblers would be flown into the Eastern Iowa Airport.'

Elaine Watkins-Miller, 'If they build it, will they come?,' Master's Media Project/Riverside Project, The Daily Iowan, May 5, 2006."
The marketing plan was effectuated. The gambling casino gave the athletic program $165,000 for a skybox to entertain its high rollers, and bought advertising space on the score board during the games.

I have continued to blog about this issue over the months since. Most recently the issue has involved the athletic program's ties to the Iowa Lottery.

Throughout, the position of Athletic Director Gary Barta and Interim President Gary Fethke has been that since casinos and lotteries are legal in Iowa there is nothing wrong with the athletic program taking their money in exchange for promoting gambling to UI students and fans.

The UI Faculty Senate and Faculty Council see the issue differently, but things are rigged at the University so that the faculty has nothing but the power to recommend when it comes to athletics. The power to make the decisions is restricted to the Athletic Director and the President -- which means, as a practical matter, the Athletic Director.

Well, it turns out that there is a lot more to this story than ever came to light while I was blogging about it.

The Des Moines Register has kindly acquired, opened, and spilled the can of beans all over this morning's edition: Tom Witosky, "Gambling Ads Prompt Letter to U of I; A lottery commercial that parodied the Iowa Fight Song and a hotel casino’s video ad at Kinnick bring an admonishment," Des Moines Register, April 5, 2007.

Want to read the letter from the NCAA's Rachel Newman Baker to Gary Barta from last September? The Register makes it available here. And who is Ms. Baker? She's the NCAA's Director of Agent, Gambling and Amateurism Activities.

Turns out that the NCAA saw the issues pretty much the same way I did. As Witosky reports, apparently the September letter was not enough, so Ms. Baker wrote Barta again on February 23 of this year:

"I am aware of at least three public instances where businesses with gambling interests have partnered with the Iowa athletics department within the past year . . .. Our staff believes that although this activity is not considered a violation of our gambling legislation, it should be construed as similar to other activities that are not within our legislation but that we discourage involvement in."

In Barta's defense, "Mark Abbott, associate athletic director, . . . pointed out that Barta and other athletic officials have been focused in recent weeks on hiring a new men's basketball coach."

So that's why they haven't yet gotten around to reading their mail from last September?

Hey, I'm just a blogger. No one at the University of Iowa has any obligation to read, let alone respond to, what I write. But correspondence from NCAA officials?!

How can the Athletic Department justify keeping these letters secret at a time when these very issues are under discussion?

Our new basketball coach, hired in part on the basis of his "integrity," is coming into a University whose Interim President and Athletic Director think collegiate athletic programs' gambling ties are OK, notwithstanding the NCAA's recommendations to all member schools and two letters of admonition to the University of Iowa. Has Coach Todd Lickliter always shared the view of his new bosses? Did he hold a contrary position on the issue at Butler, which he's recently changed out of a felt obligation to adopt theirs? Does he disagree, but chooses to remain silent on the issue? Was this something he and Barta discussed before he was hired?

I think the UI community and fans are entitled to a lot more candor than we've been getting over the last six months on these issues.

UICCU and "Optiva"

The UICCU-Optiva story is essentially behind us. There may be occasional additions "for the record," but for the most part the last major entry, with links to the prior material from October 2006 through March 2007, is
"UICCU and 'Optiva'" in Nicholas Johnson, "UI Held Hostage Day 406 - March 3 - Optiva," March 3, 2007.

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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. (As of January 25 the count has run from January 21, 2006, rather than last November.)

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.

Searching: 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 is also available. And note that if you know (or can guess at) a word to search on, the "Blogger" bar near the top of your browser has a blank, followed by "SEARCH THIS BLOG," that enables you to search all entries in this Blog since June 2006.]

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Media Stories and Commentary

See above.

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