Skybox debate continues

By Jim Wozniak

NIU officials will continue depositing revenue made from skybox sales into an NIU Foundation account despite orders in April from the Auditor General to do otherwise.

NIU has a different interpretation of the legislation regarding skybox revenue than the Auditor General, university officials said. The Auditor General said NIU should have put the $25,000 from revenues into the State Treasury instead of diverting it to the Foundation. Foundation Director Dick Ubl said funds were not diverted.

“It’s a matter of interpretation of whether we are in compliance with university guidelines,” NIU President John LaTourette said. “We believe we are, except in one instance. The whole stadium is rented by the athletic department to use for practice and games.

“That means the athletic department secures the right to save seats, and those seats are sold to the Foundation, which uses the seats for promotional purposes to enhance the university’s abilility to gain political support, raise funds, to recognize people who’ve been supporters or friends (of the university),” he said.

LaTourette said he did know what the one exception was but said it probably was a payment from the Foundation’s account that should not have been made. He said such an incident is not major.

Audit Manager Lyle Manock was out of town this week and unavailable for comment.

Ubl said the Foundation will buy 50 seats in the skybox this year from the Athletic Ticket Office. Those seats cost the same as those in the West stands and are bought as season tickets, Athletic Business Manager Patti Perkins said. The Foundation then sells the tickets for $250 a seat, Ubl said, and money from those sales pays for entertainment and improvements in the skybox.

Tom Montiegel, vice president for development and university relations, said none of the money is given to the athletic department. Of the $25,000 the Auditor General mentioned, Ubl said the Foundation spent about $12,000. The remainder has been put into a separate account.

Ubl said one of the biggest expenses this year will be $4,000 total for food at all six home games. The Foundation also will pay for installation of monitors in the skybox so fans in the box can see instant replays when Sportsvision televises a game, he said. He said the Foundation also is fixing the sound system.

Ubl said NIU men’s Athletic Director Robert Brigham normally has a party at the end of the football season for donors, which the Foundation pays for. He said the cost of the party is between $300 and $500. The Foundation also purchases nameplates for the seats, Ubl said.

“You’re trying to entertain people,” Ubl said. “Some are good donors, and you want to keep it that way. Then the auditor says no.”

LaTourette said one procedural change is that Montiegel will be in charge of the account and see that skybox revenue is used for the right purpose. Previously, the President’s Office was responsible.