PREFERRED SEATING: The best seats at War Memorial require big extra payments. For some people.
The football season
begins Saturday with the Razorbacks
playing the former SLI Bulldogs (Southwestern Louisiana Institute) at Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville
. (How could I have confused the home field originally? Clearly I haven't been paying close enough attention to events on the field.)
Some will have better seats than others. Some with better seats will have paid dearly for the privilege. Some not.
I reported recently that three statewide officeholders — Gov. Mike Beebe
, Auditor Charlie Daniels
and Lt. Gov. Mark Darr
— bought season tickets in 2011. Darr used money from an open campaign account post-election, a dubious personal expenditure for four season tickets. But none of them paid the required contribution to the nominally independent Razorback Foundation
for their priority seats — midfield for Mike Beebe and Daniels, down around the 20 for Darr.
I learned from that episode that it is University of Arkansas
policy to waive the required contribution for priority seating for state constitutional officers, legislators
, members of the state Higher Education Coordinating Board
and members of the University of Arkansas faculty and staff.
Relying on a badly outdated advisory opinion
from the Ethics Commission, the university believes conferring a benefit worth as much as $10,000 in the case of the midfield seats does not constitute either a favor available to public officials on account of their job (nominally prohibited by law) or a gift of something of value to a public official of more than $100, also nominally prohibited by ethics rules. Back when the 2000 advisory opinion was issued, season tickets cost $100 for four games at Fayetteville and scholarship contributions were much rarer. The cheapest single ticket this year is $45 and ranges to $65 depending on the opponent, but can range much higher depending on location for season tickets in the Fayetteville stadium.
I've forged ahead with an information request to get a deeper look at who exactly gets the cheap seats among the Razorback and War Memorial Stadium crowds.
I learned this additional information yesterday from Kevin Trainor,
who functions as official spokesperson for the Athletic Department,
about season tickets for faculty and staff, not required to pay the additional seat charge (scholarship contribution):
Assignment of ticket location within the faculty/staff pool is first determined by Razorback Foundation membership priority. Following that process, those faculty/staff who are not Razorback Foundation members are assigned by priority based on the date of purchase. Faculty and staff members are limited to two bench seat tickets under those guidelines. Any additional purchase of tickets and/or purchase of premium seats (clubs) would be subject to the seat value donation.
Rather than overburden the secretive Razorback Foundation, which is funneled millions from priority seat sales by a public university but is sufficiently coordinated that Trainor can dislodge information not available to the general public, I haven't asked for a breakdown on staff names and locations at this point.
I am interested in what's to come on the legislature and Higher Education board. I have also asked under the FOI for anyone else who might have been granted a waiver for whatever reason.
Here's the rundown on required contributions
— in addition to face value of tickets — to get better seats at the two stadiums.
PS — I believe legislators get special parking, too. That's another perk that only the top-level contributors get. It is, in other words, worth money.