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NCAA rules bench Aggie athletes at Angie’s cancer fundraiser

March 31st, 2013 Posted in Arts and Life

By Seth Merrill

LOGAN—This spring, students at Utah State University’s John M. Huntsman School of Business are using skills learned in management courses to organize fundraisers for charities as part of a year-end class assignment. For one student, though, promoting an event included an unanticipated legal challenge.

Grad student Kamron Jensen worked with a group of classmates to organize a charity event on Tuesday at Angie’s Restaurant called Clean the Sink for Hope. Angie’s agreed to donate 20 percent of its sales that evening to Cache Valley for Hope, a foundation that helps cancer patients pay expenses to avoid bankruptcy.

Jensen said he wanted to create an event that would help fill the restaurant with as many people as possible. He came up the idea to have athletes from the football and basketball teams—including Chuckie Keeton, Michael Okonkwo, Danny Berger and Spencer Butterfield—compete in an ice cream-eating contest. Jensen created a Facebook group to promote the event.

“I talked to the players, and they all agreed to do it and were excited about it,” Jensen said. “They were talking trash a little bit about who was going to win.”

A few days before the event, however, Jensen received a call from assistant athletic director Jake Garlock, who told him to stop advertising the eating competition portion of the fundraiser. Jensen was told he couldn’t use student athletes’ names to promote an event that would generate profit for a commercial organization.

Jensen was disappointed the players weren’t allowed to participate but said Angie’s was still very generous with the amount they donated.

“I totally think that we lost people,” Jensen said. “We had an OK turnout, but it wasn’t what I was hoping. Angie’s wrote us a $350 check, which was probably a lot more than what we contributed to their business because I don’t think we raised that much.”

Garlock said NCAA bylaws states student athletes can participate in charity events but businesses cannot use the athlete’s name, picture or appearance to promote an event. Garlock said part of his job is to educate student athletes about the laws so they can avoid violations.

“The intention of the rules is for student athletes to maintain their amateur status,” Garlock said. “Even if a commercial organization is only indirectly co-sponsoring the event—like Angie’s was doing for Kamron’s charity—the athletes are not allowed to participate.”

Camron Sahely, a manager at Angie’s, said some of the people who came in Tuesday were hoping to watch the athletes compete in the ice cream eat-off, but they stayed and ate anyway. He said Angie’s tries to have charity events like Jensen’s at least every other month.

“We had a really good output, more than a typical Tuesday,” Sahely said. “When groups reach out to us, we know they will sponsor it better than if we were to find the charities ourselves.”

Business school executive-in-residence David Herrmann, who is the instructor for Jensen’s management class, said his students are prepared to adapt their fundraising goals when they hit roadblocks.

“We handle that in the planning process when we talk about contingency plans,” Herrmann said. “Most of the groups are pretty savvy after the planning lesson and they’ll plan two or three events with the idea that they have other options if they don’t meet their goal after the first event.”

Though the primary focus of the assignment is raise money for charity by creating an event from scratch, Herrmann said he structured the group projects to include a competitive element as well.

“If they raise a $1,000 or more, they can opt out of the final test,” he said. “Interestingly, that is a very powerful motivator.”

Jensen said his group is planning another event at Chick-fil-A to help meet its goal.

Herrmann said most of his students meet their fundraising goals and he said he’s happy to reward them a finals-week pardon because of all the effort that goes into their events.

“Because they actually have to go out and contact charities themselves, it forces them to work,” Herrmann said. “And they have to create their own project instead of just raising money for an existing one. There’s quite a bit of ingenuity and quite a bit of thought that goes into these.”

MDL/TP

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