Johnson Hall working on IRS “business purpose” justification for Vegas junket 

12/3/2017:  That’s according to Andrew Nemec in the Oregonian here, who thinks this will be a disaster for recruiting. The Las Vegas Bowl is run by ESPN, so there’s no public information on how much the organizers rake in. With any luck UO’s take, after the expenses for team travel and the junkets for top JH and Senate administrators and families, will be enough to cover the $500K we paid Southern Utah for the body-bag game that gave Willie Taggart a winning season and a $100K bonus. Who goes and what it costs will be available under Oregon public records law however, since “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” is not yet listed as a mandatory exemption under ORS 192.

2016: Losing season, no bowl game.

12/28/2015: UO cuts Bowl of Ducks list to the bone

Two and a half weeks after asking, UO’s Public Records office responds to a request for the Alamo Bowl junket list:

No University employees will be receiving paid “junkets” to the Valero Alamo Bowl on January 2nd. However, the following University employees will be travelling to the Alamo Bowl as a part of the official delegation, and will be expected to perform work on behalf of the University.

Mike Andreasen
Roger Thompson
Tim Gleason
Rob Mullens
Randy Sullivan

The office considers this to be fully responsive to your request, and will now close your matter. Thank you for contacting the office with your request.

That’s going to save a lot of money from last year’s extravaganza, when Interim President Coltrane offered all-expense-paid trips to the Rose Bowl and the football championship game to everyone from Board of Trustees Secretary Angela Wilhelms to Library Dean Adrienne Lim, plus their spouses:

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Gottfredson was even willing to pay for Interim General Counsel Doug Park’s kids:

Lest you think those 5 names the Public Records office provided is really the complete list of Alamo Bowl junketeers, here’s the full dump of 2015 junketeers here, courtesy of a public records request by Nathan Tublitz: A snippet of those getting free tickets:

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I’m guessing this year’s list will be similar.

12/6/2015: This year’s Johnson Hall junket: The Alamo Bowl

I’ve sent in my traditional pre-Christmas public records request for the list of Johnson Hall bowl game junketeers:

Date: December 6, 2015 at 4:44:37 PM PST
To: Lisa Thornton <pubrec@uoregon.edu>

Subject: Re: PR request, Alamo Bowl junkets

Dear Ms Thornton –

This is a public records request for the email, memo, or similar announcing which UO employees will get paid junkets, as they are commonly called, to the Jan 2, 2016 “Valero Alamo Bowl”.

Last time the Ducks went to the Alamo Bowl the president’s office got a bit pissy about me calling it a junket, and wouldn’t send the documents:

On MondayDec 23, 2013, at 5:37 PM, Office of Public Records <pubrec@uoregon.edu> wrote:

Mr. Harbaugh-

Your request was for a “copy of any email, memos, or similar announcing which UO employees will get paid junkets to this year’s ‘Valero Alamo Bowl’”. No UO employees will be attending the Valero Alamo Bowl on a junket.

Sincerely,

Lisa Thornton
Public Records Officer
University of Oregon
Office of the President

While we wait to see what happens this time, here’s some background info on the Alamo Bowl, CEO Derrick Fox, and UO’s efforts to claim this will help us recruit top students. According to their most recent IRS return, the “non-profit” San Antonio Bowl Association brought in $10M from the 2014 Alamo Bowl – about half from tickets, half from TV and sponsorships. Each team nominally gets ~$3M (maybe a bit more now) but the Ducks have to split that 12 ways with the rest of the PAC-12. Then there’s a travel allowance of about $1.5M. All in all UO will be lucky to come out even.

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The justification for the bowl’s IRS non-profit status is that the bowl gives out scholarships and help local charities. Here’s Alamo Bowl CEO Derrick Fox, explaining this to congress in 2009:

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Fox was lying, as the Arizona Republic reported in 2011:

Alamo Bowl Chief Executive Derrick Fox appeared before Congress in 2009 during hearings on bowl and BCS financial issues, saying bowls provide tens of millions of dollars to local communities annually.

“Since almost all the postseason bowl games are put on by charitable groups and since up to one-quarter of the proceeds from the games are dedicated to the community, local charities receive tens of millions of dollars every year,” Fox said.

The Republic’s examination of financial records for U.S.-based, non-profit organizations that ran 25 bowl games in 2008-09 and 24 bowl games in 2009-10 doesn’t support Fox’s claims.

The Republic found the non-profits that ran the bowls in 2008-09 generated about $216 million in revenue and gave away $6.4 million, roughly 3 percent of revenues. In 2009-10, the bowls generated about $202 million in revenue and gave away nearly $3.7 million, less than 2 percent.

For 2013, the Alamo Bowl gave a total of $200K for scholarships, or 2% of their revenue:

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Fox, on the other hand, got $550K, or 5.5% of the gross:

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But at least the Alamo Bowl’s Derrick Fox has managed to stay out of federal prison, unlike former Fiesta Bowl CEO John Junker, who used bowl revenue for illegal political contributions and taking athletes to strip clubs:

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The Alamo Bowl is a minor bowl but the coaches will do OK. Under the contracts that Board Chair Chuck Lillis and the Trustees approved this spring, Helfrich gets $100K, and his assistants probably get another $200K or so.

No word how much AAD Eric Roedl paid Lloyd’s of London to insure the bonuses this year. Noah McGraw has the story on the last time Roedl tried this, in the Emerald here. It’s still in court. So at ~$300 per billable hours, you can add UO’s Harrang, Long, Gary, and Rudnick law firm to the list of Bowl game winners. And even the players will get some swag, thanks to a little known NCAA loophole. From SBNation’s swag report:

3. Valero Alamo Bowl

GoPro Hero4 Silver camera and 32MB memory card; Fossil watch; Oakley Works backpack; Schutt mini helmet; panoramic photo

There’s some meta-trolling going on when a bowl game gives you a GoPro camera. It’s like “Hey, you’re used to being filmed and not getting paid for it, so might as well do it yourself.”

Part of the cost of bowl games is travel for the swarm of administrators and their spouses and families, paid for by UO out of a travel allowance the conference provides. Some of this is totally legit. It’s a fundraising opportunity, and the president and deans need to be there to make sure Athletic Director Rob Mullens leaves a few scraps for the academic side. Likewise, it would be a violation of the AAUP’s principles of shared governance not to invite the president and vice president of the UO Senate and the Chair of the Senate Intercollegiate Athletics Committee, assuming he’s playing along with Rob Mullens and not asking too many tough questions about UO’s low graduation rates for revenue athletes. And of course no big-time college sports team should travel without its general counsel, that’s just basic due diligence.

But this is not exactly an academic event, so to ensure that the IRS doesn’t treat the administrator’s junkets as taxable income, Roger Thompson typically has a enrollment recruiting event, which he videotapes just in case anyone gets audited. Here’s former Journalism Dean Tim Gleason at the Fiesta Bowl a few years back, earning his airfare and per-diem by trying to convince a student to transfer to UO:

And surely all the publicity about the big game will help bring in new students, as $115K Duck PR flack Tobin Klinger posted on “Around the 0” from his all-expense-paid Dallas junket:

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Of course when you recruit at football games, you don’t hear from the parents who don’t want to pay for their children to attend a football-factory party school. And apparently there are lots of them. Here’s a link to a recent working paper: College Football Success and the Quantity and Quality of Applicants: Evidence from the BCS.

In this paper, we use a panel data set of university funding, applications, enrollment and the quality of students at the university measured by percentile on entrance exams from 2002 to 2009 to examine the effects of various levels of success including: BCS national championships, conference championships and AP top 25 rankings. Our results indicate, individually, that national championships and AP top 25 rankings can lower the quantity and quality of applicants and enrollees, however, conference championships can positively impact the quantity and quality of applicants and enrollees. Yet, when the [football] success measures are combined, tests reveal that overall success negatively affects the quantity and quality of applicants and enrollees.

The negative academic effects of football continue after enrollment. UO Economist Glen Waddell’s 2012 paper, published in theAmerican Economic Review: Applied Economics, showed that football wins led to worse grades for current UO undergraduates – particularly for males. The effect is striking:

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Why? Just what you’d expect – after a win our students party, get drunk, and skip class:

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Not exactly a surprise to any parent who was once a student themselves, so they send their kids to a school without so many distractions. The only puzzle here is why the UO administration and its PR flacks are still pretending that big-time football is good for the academic side. Oh, right, junkets!

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6 Responses to Johnson Hall working on IRS “business purpose” justification for Vegas junket 

  1. Fishwrapper says:

    Junket is as junket does…

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  2. Dog says:

    They probably think a “junket” is a small, Chinese, sailboat
    and even they know you can’t sail from Oregon to the Alamo directly …

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  3. Big XII says:

    I read your blog from time to time for entertainment purposes! I work in an executive level position at a Big XII institution. We made a bowl game this year and our instructions were:
    “As a Cabinet member, you are responsible for making and paying for your travel arrangements.”

    Makes sense to me.

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  4. Oldtimer says:

    With 8! big 12 teams in bowls, odds are against guessing your school. Thx for sharing the practice.

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    • Big XII says:

      No problem. Wise practice in my mind. If I want to go I will pay for it out of my own pocket. No need for students or anyone else to foot that bill. There really is no need for corporate style perks for me. I work for students and tax payers and extravagance does not belong when those are your employers.

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