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UA's Coke deal


In response to a Freedom of Information Act request from the Arkansas Times, the University of Arkansas provided a copy of its exclusive beverage contract with Coca-Cola and the cumulative value, but not a number of specifics in the contract.

The 10-year contract, which began July 1, 2002, produced $9.02 million for the school over the first nine years, or just over $1 million a year.

The contract makes Coke an exclusive sponsor of, among others, Hog athletic events and gives Coke exclusive rights to beverage sales on campus and at games. The University, however, blacked out portions of the contract that would have revealed the value assigned to various portions of the deal – such as the sponsorship rights to high-profile men's athletic events. The UA claimed the exemption given in the FOI act to protect competitive bidders from disadvantage. The university isn't bidding on anything with this contract, Coke is.

Said spokesman Steve Voorhies: "The competitive advantage exemption is being invoked by both Coca-Cola and the university. In short, Coke bids for other sponsorship agreements at other institutions, and the release of the various allocated values the company assigns for various rights under the agreement would be harmful to the company. Similarly, the university would experience competitive harm by the release of such information because bidders would be reluctant to provide sensitive information that would be accessible to other companies, and the university is competing against colleges and universities for the sponsorship support. We have provided you with the total money paid to the University under the agreement, and the university is not hiding any "secret payments."

Open bidding is typically viewed is producing more competition and thus lower costs on university spending on construction projects and higher revenue when the university has something valuable to sell, like thirst for soft drinks and association with the Razorback name.

How thorough were the blackouts? The UA wouldn't disclose how many privileged parking places it provides to Coke for football games. Sensitive stuff.

A million bucks isn't chump change, but it's a drop in the Hog athletic budget. The same day we received this information, UA Athletic Director Jeff Long unveiled a 30-year master plan – a "wish list" was one description – to upgrade Hog athletic facilities to the tune of $300 million or so.

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