STORRS, Conn. The University of Connecticut on Friday
banned all employees from giving or selling tickets to sports
events for anything of value.
The new policy follows a state investigation into athletic
director Jeff Hathaway's agreement with a car dealer in which he
traded personal tickets to UConn events for use of two cars. He did
not initially disclose the ticket swap to the state's ethics
Hathaway is among the handful of UConn administrators and
athletic department employees who get tickets as a part of their
contract, school officials said. UConn president Philip Austin
called Hathaway's actions "clearly a mistake" but lauded him for
his "honesty, integrity and forthrightness."
"When you're in a job like this, you need to know that you're a
public official and subject to scrutiny," Hathaway told The
Associated Press. "I understand the scrutiny. Our decisions are
reviewable by many different constituencies on a daily basis."
The new policy does not preclude coaches and other staff from
making endorsements. Both basketball coaches Jim Calhoun and Geno
Auriemma have had promotional deals with Nike for years. As part of
their contracts, the coaches were required to provide the company
with basketball tickets. Under the new UConn policy, the ticket
exchange must stop.
The new, stricter policy leaves little room for interpretation
and comes at a time when even perceived ethical missteps in the
state are amplified after a corruption scandal brought down former
Gov. John G. Rowland last year.
"We're in an evolving environment where standards are
different," Hathaway said. "And my job, our job here, is to make
sure we're achieving those standards."
The use of tickets is one of a number of ways Division I schools
attract and retain top athletic administrators or coaches.
"Whatever your imagination can conjure up, there's a contract
out there," said Dutch Baughman, executive director Division I-A
Athletic Directors Association in Fort Worth, Texas. "What I see
across the country now is that institutions are much more creative
than ever before."
Baughman said athletic directors often are provided with a car
(or cars) and memberships to country clubs and fitness clubs.
"These kinds of social opportunities are very, very common,"
UConn's president said that while the practice of bartering
tickets is not an NCAA violation, it is no longer consistent with
the best interests of UConn or the state.
"As expectations and standards for ethical conduct of state
employees evolve, it is important that our employees avoid any
appearance of impropriety," Austin said.