An Expensive Perk for MAC Athletic Departments
The Mid American Conference gives out over 300 cars and car stipends to its athletic coaches, assistants and administrators. Central Michigan University is the top car giver, with 38 cars leased to the athletic department followed by Miami University (35), University of Akron (34) and Kent State University (33). The university that gives out the most car stipends in the MAC is Ohio University with 28 stipends that range from $3,000 to $5,760 per year. The next closest universities providing car stipends are the University at Buffalo at 23 and Bowling Green State University and Ball State University at 22 each.
All of these cars and car stipends are nice perks for the athletic departments, but are these cars really needed? According to Joel Nielsen, Athletic Director at Kent State, the cars are necessary because “it’s one of those competitive advantage situations where if we weren’t doing it, we’d be at a competitive disadvantage.”
Although those working for the athletic department expect these cars and car stipends working for the revenue sports, the sports that schools sell tickets for, members of the athletic department at Central Michigan are being taught how to receive their cars. This is being done through the Central Michigan Car Club User Guidelines that explain how to develop “a positive relationship with your dealer.”
The user guidelines state that the dealer should be treated like a recruit and that time needs to be taken to get to know the dealer and their family and that “a personal investment” needs to be made for the relationship.
There are tips on what to do “to build a strong relationship with your dealer.” This can be done by taking the dealer out to dinner or lunch, sending the dealer periodic notes, inviting the dealers children or relatives to sport camps, and many other activities.
Once the car is received there are requirements for the person who gets the car to “call or email your dealer once every 4 months; write your dealer a thank you note once every 4 months; (have) personal contact with your dealer once every 6 months; (and) provide dealer with gear from your program once per year.”
The guidelines also outline a “sample contact calendar” of when the leaser needs to contact the dealer and in what way. That “sample contact calendar” is as follows:
SAMPLE CONTACT CALENDAR
- January: Phone call or email
- February: Invite dealer to attend a CMU Sporting Event with you (personal contact, call / email)
- March: Thank you note
- April: Service your CMU vehicle at their dealership and arrange for a personal visit – if possible
- May: Invite their children or relative(s) to come to your sport camps (personal contact, call /email)
- June: Invite them to play golf or go to lunch/dinner
- July: Service your vehicle at their dealership and arrange for a personal visit – if possible
- August: Thank you note
- September: Invite them to a CMU Football game or other fall sport game
- October: Service your CMU vehicle at their dealership and arrange for a personal visit – if possible
- November: Phone call or email
- December: Send some gear to them as a Holiday gift with a thank you note
Akron’s athletic department doesn’t have a car club user guideline, but it does have an exclusive lease agreement with Montrose Brands that started in June of 2005 and ends in May 2015. The contract isn’t just for the usage of cars. The contract states that Montrose Auto Group is the “Official Auto Group” of the university and that Montrose Wireless Provider is the “Official Wireless Provider” of the university, as well.
This designation is given to the Montrose Wireless Provider as long as the group “is able to provide and offer cell phone/wireless services in a manner consistent with the University’s Cellular Telephone and Other Wireless Communication Policy.”
At the beginning of the contract the Montrose Auto Group leased 17 Chevrolet Impala’s to Akron’s athletic department and was given advertising space in return on the annual schedules for the basketball, football, baseball, softball and soccer teams.
Montrose Brands receives a lot of advertising from Akron for its loyalty, but the group never truly sees payment for its vehicles. Although the leases are paid for by the athletic department at Akron the money is given back to Akron by the Montrose Auto Group.
In the third point of the lease deal, the topic is “Donation to University” that states “Sponsor shall donate the monthly lease payment excluding tax and insurance on each vehicle leased to the University on the lease payment due date.”
Looking at how Akron has finagled its way into free vehicles through “donation”, it is no wonder that outside sources believe there is a growing divide in the athletic and academic realms of a university.
Welch Suggs, sportswriter and Associate Director for the Knight Commission says that students and education need to be the highest priority at a university. He says that in small schools it just is not right that money is subsidized to pay for things that are given to coaches for free. Suggs says “these coaches better walk around campus and say thank you for their cars to every student they see.”
Even with outside sources seeing that academics and athletics are becoming more divided each day, six athletic directors refused multiple requests for an interview. The university officials that were willing to talk from Kent State, Bowling Green, Ball State, Eastern Michigan and Central Michigan didn’t think that the balance between academics and athletics was out of balance. All of them were from athletic departments of their universities.
The debate will wage on about what is right or wrong when it comes to any coach that receives a benefit from any university. Will there balance ever be restored between athletics and academics? Only time will tell.