Ethics guidelines lead to new UH rules on complimentary tickets

The value of season and game tickets given away in fiscal year 2012 was estimated at $2,472,595

Published  6:39 PM HST Jul 15, 2013
Empty Stan Sheriff Seats
HONOLULU -

The University of Hawaii is in the midst of reviewing its policy for complimentary tickets to popular sporting events after new guidelines by the Hawaii State Ethics Commission were issued.

In a May 30 report, the Ethics Commission said anyone who receives complimentary tickets from UH should serve a legitimate state purpose, which was defined as the following:                        

          - The individual is representing the university at an athletic event in accordance with protocol due to the individual’s position at the University

          -  The individual is hosting donors or potential donors at an athletic event to express appreciation for their support of the university or to foster relationships with them.

          -  The individual is hosting a guest whose presence at an athletic event helps to generate goodwill for the university due to the unique stature of that guest

According to an independent financial audit conducted by the university, there were 8,570 season tickets, and 22,893 individual game tickets given away in fiscal year 2012 for football, basketball, volleyball and baseball. The value of those tickets was estimated at $2,472,595, or roughly 7 percent of the Athletic Department’s $33.8 million in operating expenses.

UH sports fans at the Honolulu Quarterback Club were taken aback by the value of the complimentary tickets when approached by KITV4.

“Are we missing $2 million a year? Or, we're not going to get that $2 million a year,” asked Kimo Sutton, a member of the Na Koa booster club for UH football. “When you want to get a good seat as a student, they're all mushed in the end zone. I think the students should be given better seats.”

The new complimentary ticket policy is expected to have the greatest affect on UH administrators, UH employees and their families, and the board of regents. But don't expect much sympathy from fans who have been paying their own way for years.

“I think they've come to expect it,” Ed Chang, a UH football season ticket holder, said of those receiving free passes. “I've seen them in the charity golf tournaments too. They show up there and they’re expecting to play for free. There's not much support other than showing-up.”

UH Athletics Director Ben Jay was unavailable for comment Monday, but told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser that he’s “looking at (restricting) who is going to be able to get those tickets this season and how many they can get."

Under guidelines outlined by the Ethics Commission, regents should be limited to two season tickets per sport, while senior campus administrators like vice chancellors, deans and directors should be given only one.

The ethics guidelines also suggest limiting corporate sponsors to one ticket per company representative, but according to UH sports information director Derek Inouchi, some of the roughly 70 corporate sponsors of university athletics include language in their contracts that include complimentary tickets.

The new ticket policy is not expected to affect booster clubs like Na Koa, which rewards high-end donors with season passes.

“It is in fact a trade and we look at the value of the services we’re receiving for the value of the tickets we’re providing,” said Na Koa Executive Director Kim Fujiuchi.

The value of complimentary tickets given away by UH over the past three fiscal years is as follows:

          -  FY-2012     -     $2,472,595

          -  FY-2011     -     $2,384,357

          -  FY-2010     -     $2,482,052

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