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Regents question comp ticket policies

RENO — A pair of university system regents called Thursday for a further review of who gets free tickets to athletic events at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, with the aim of bringing in more revenue during a time of anticipated budget cuts.

Regent Mark Alden, pointing to a 500-plus page list of free tickets handed out to a variety of people and businesses over the past five years, questioned the logic of such a giveaway at a time of budget problems in Nevada and the Nevada System of Higher Education.

"This is a lot of tickets," he said. "This is not a game. We need accountability."

Alden said he wants to see the dollar value of the tickets. The list from UNLV included tickets given away for men’s basketball and football games.

Regent Steve Sisolak, who also inquired about the free tickets, said tickets should not be given away if they can be sold to bring in revenue.

Looking at a confidential list that included donors and potential donors who received tickets, Sisolak said many of the recipients would likely be willing to pay for the tickets if asked to do so.

Giving away tickets that could be sold means lost revenue, he said.

Sisolak also asked for a review of tickets given away to companies in exchange for goods and services, called "trade-outs," to make sure the university is getting good value for such agreements.

Neither Alden nor Sisolak suggested how much money could be saved by tightening up on free tickets.

The review of the complimentary ticket distribution was discussed at the regents Audit Committee at the request of Alden and Sisolak.

Members of the committee were working from two lists: one of 500 pages publicly listing the distribution of tickets, and another, smaller confidential list that includes the names of donors.

Regent Ron Knecht, chairman of the committee, said he supported maintaining confidentiality of the donors identified on the second list. But he asked that those individuals be separated out and that some recipients on the second list where there is no need for confidentiality be disclosed by the time of the next meeting.

Many of the tickets given away during the 2007-2008 basketball season displayed on the public list were identified as being for promotional purposes or for athletic department staff.

Hundreds of giveaways were listed, some for individual games and others for an entire season.

UNLV President David Ashley acknowledged the regents have a valid point about whether the university is losing money through its free-ticket policies, and suggested a campus-level review is in order to ensure the capture of as much revenue as possible.

But in remarks accompanying the public list, Ashley said the intercollegiate athletics department was audited on complimentary ticket distribution in fiscal year 2005-2006 and the campus policies and procedures were found to be in compliance with system rules.

Bart Patterson, chief counsel for the system, said information about donors and potential donors is confidential under state law. The university is also taking the position that disclosure of donor information could potentially harm its fundraising efforts, he said.

But Alden called for the release of as much information as possible as soon as possible.

He called the UNLV report incomplete, while a similar report from the University of Nevada, Reno, was more thorough.

"It’s all about accountability," he said. "The public has a right to know where these tickets went."

Contact Capital Bureau reporter Sean Whaley at swhaley@reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3900.

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