Tickets can't be traded for anything of value

Updated: April 22, 2005, 5:41 PM ET
Associated Press

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 commission.

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," Baughman said.

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.

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press