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New Rules Proposed for U Booster Clubs
By William Wilcoxen
June 8, 1999
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Booster-club gifts to University Of Minnesota sports teams would require approval from outside the athletic department under a policy forwarded to University President Mark Yudof.


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at the U of M is supported by a booster club, which consists of a core group of fans who donate money to supplement the team's budget. At some colleges - most recently the University of Wisconsin - booster clubs have violated NCAA rules regulating the gifts that athletic departments can accept. University of Minnesota President Mark Yudof asked a task force to recommend a policy on donations after an auditor questioned a booster club's paying for a Las Vegas golf trip by the men's basketball coaches and their spouses. University General Counsel Marc Rotenberg says oversight of booster clubs is complicated by the fact that - at most schools - the clubs are not part of the university.
Rotenberg: These booster clubs are not technically accountable to the university because they're separately established private organizations. But if they're going to make expenses for us, under this new proposed policy, those gifts or expenses will have to be approved by the university.
The task force recommended the university comptroller approve booster-club expenditures before gifts are presented. Rotenberg says the policy would be a change.
Rotenberg: Under the current system, we don't have a written policy for this area. So in general, what's been going on is the athletics department officials will approve the expense and then the booster club will make the expenditure.
The recommendations call for the comptroller to approve only expenditures that qualify as charitable donations to the university. That means most gifts to coaches - annual golf trips, for example - would not be permitted under the new proposal. Rotenberg says the task force did not address whether past trips by the basketball coaches violated any rules. The NCAA does allow gifts in recognition of a specific and extraordinary achievement, such as winning a championship. Rotenberg says a new truck the Golden Dunkers booster club gave to men's basketball coach Clem Haskins after the Gophers' 1997 Final Four appearance might qualify as an appropriate gift.

Steve Erban, the incoming president of the Golden Dunkers, says it's appropriate that boosters be allowed to reward success.
Erban: I think strongly that it's important to be able to have that ability to recognize people that are working for you under your organization. Maybe it's Minnesota basketball, maybe IBM, maybe 3M, maybe a small-business person. Once we lose the climate of people working together for success, then we're no more than numbers in a computer.
Rotenberg says if the policy is adopted by Yudof, it will lead to closer scrutiny of booster-club expenditures. Erban says clarifying the rules will help prevent misunderstandings, but he does not expect it to have much effect on the Golden Dunkers. The Dunkers contribute about $100,000 a year to the men's basketball budget. Most booster clubs provide help on a much smaller scale. Martin and Barbara Zielinski lead "Fast Lane Fans," the booster club for the men's and women's swimming and diving teams. Fast Lane Fans helps with some equipment purchases but also provides home-cooked meals to athletes when swim meets occur while campus dining halls are closed. Martin Zielinski says the club can adjust to the new policy is necessary.
Zielinski: Some of the expenditures we have are not large. It is additional paperwork, but if it keeps everybody honest and happy, it's not like it's an insurmountable obstacle. It's certainly something that can be managed.
The five-member booster-club task force was headed by U of M Law School Dean Thomas Sullivan. Its recommendations do not need Regents' approval and will become administrative policy if Yudof accepts them.