Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Short Takes| UAA, the NCAA and me ...

A couple of years ago I helped support a trip by the UAA Women’s basketball team to Washington, D.C. and Virginia, as part of their season opening exhibition tour.  Among other things they played the University of Virginia, where I graduated from Law School and someplace I know quite a bit about. 

I viewed that opportunity as a way to help support one of the reasons why I think UAA Athletics is important.  As I have said repeatedly, I have supported UAA Athletics in the past because I think it plays an important role in building Alaska leaders.  I viewed the potential for the women on that team to experience the history, traditions and institutions of both DC and Virginia as a great opportunity in that process.

My involvement was not a surprise.   I talked about it – and UAA wrote about it – in an “I Love UAA” column in the “Green & Gold News.”  The team also blogged about it publicly during the trip. 

As the Green & Gold story notes, at the time I was a major contributor to the Athletic Department.  (Interestingly enough, it seems I still am.  Despite the fact that I have not had an extended discussion with anyone in the Athletics Department, or UAA for that matter, for over a year as the situation with Dr. Cobb deteriorated, UAA continues regularly to charge my credit card in fulfillment of my previous pledges.)  Because I thought it was an important opportunity in the effort to develop leadership for the state, I also contributed additionally toward the costs of the Virginia trip. 

The efforts proved successful.  In one logistically challenging, but accomplishable day, the team toured the White House, had a reception and met with all three members of the Alaska Congressional delegation, was given a tour of the Capitol personally by Senator Murkowski and toured the Jefferson and Martin Luther King Memorials, the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History and the Holocaust Museum.  I arranged and paid for a shuttle bus so the team wouldn't waste time and potentially miss appointments driving in DC traffic and looking for parking spaces (which don't exist).

In subsequent days the team toured the University of Virginia, toured and had dinner in Mr. Jefferson’s Rotunda and toured Monticello.  I paid for dinner in the Rotunda because I have a very strong connection to the University and felt that I was hosting them in my house.  Where I grew up, you don't invite someone to your house for dinner and then have them pay for it.  It is something I wish all Alaskans could do, but I only was positioned to affect this subset.

Then, a few weeks ago, the NCAA called and wanted to talk about it.  I hadn't heard anything from UAA about the potential for such a call, and still haven’t.  But I understand they knew about it in advance.

We talked, I was open and had a good conversation.  At one point in the conversation one of the NCAA representatives on the call raised the potential that some of the actions related to the trip were inconsistent with the NCAA rules.  I was more than a little surprised by that because I was careful continually to clear any arrangements I made in advance and during the trip with UAA.  Certainly, it was the team’s schedule; I didn't want to do anything to interfere with that, only enhance it if it was consistent with the team’s other plans.

Last Friday I received an email, following up on my request at the end of the call to let me know if they found any such inconsistencies.  Their view:

It was determined that the expenses you paid during the team’s trip to the Virginia area were impermissible and inconsistent with NCAA legislation.  In order for such expenses to be permissible, a monetary donation deposited directly with the institution was necessary, and that did not happen in this case.

Thank you again for your assistance in these matters.  It does not appear as though we need anything additional from you at this time.  Thank you.

So, it seems it was fine for me to contribute toward the costs of the trip, but it was done in the wrong way. Lesson learned, I suppose, but this seems a little bit form over substance and it’s not like UAA didn't know – and retain control over – what I was doing. If they had told me to handle it another way, I would have. 

In any event, at least as measured by the team’s “wow” reaction, the trip achieved its objectives – and I think the team, University and state are better for having made the effort. Once the current storm with UAA passes, I might do it again … but next time, I suppose I will deposit the related “monetary donation .. directly with the institution” and ask UAA three or four additional times, and three or four different ways, whether there are any other NCAA rules applicable to the efforts.  I've had all of this fun I can stand.