By Phillip Whitten
THE University of Nebraska and Alltel Corporation announced a gift of $8 million from Alltel to the university’s athletic department yesterday, according to stories in The Lincoln Star Journal and The Omaha World Herald.
The stories confirmed – in every detail – the stories that first appeared on swiminfo in June. At that time the university’s athletic director and chancellor denounced the stories as untrue.
According to the newspapers, Alltel will give the university’s athletic department one million dollars a year over eight years for the right to become the official telecommunications sponsor of NU athletics. Negotiations between NU and Alltel were initiated last October, as the swiminfo story noted – five months before the university announced it was cutting men’s swimming for budgetary reasons. Nebraska announced in March that the swimming and diving programs would be cut from the athletic department budget in 2001-02.
The gift is the largest sponsorship package the department has ever had with a single company, according to Joe Selig, one of eight associate athletic directors at the university. Selig said the money would be used to support all Nebraska athletic programs but does not mean the university would "be able to restore men's swimming and diving."
(Of course the university is "able" to do so; it chooses not to.)
On June 30, The Omaha World Herald ran an article entitled "NU Says Swimming Magazine's Claims Are Misleading." It’s worth looking at some of the quotes from university officials in that article to measure the honesty and integrity of individuals who are supposed to be moral role models for our nation’s youth:
· University officials deemed Phillip Whitten's statement that "Nebraska was negotiating for $8 million in financial support from Alltel when the men's swimming program was cut" as "misleading."
· The Chancellor was quoted as saying: "It is now my understanding that there was no finalized gift from Alltel in the amount that the article suggests."
· Bill Byrne, the athletic director, was quoted as saying: "To suggest that we had $8 million in hand when we dropped the swimming team is absolutely a fabrication."