Finger Lakes Times by Sun-Sentinel
July 8, 2019
The humorist Max Shulman once had a simple suggestion for any university having troubles with its football program: Just hire the Green Bay Packers as “artists in residence.” It was for laughs, but it did reflect how intercollegiate athletics had become a massive enterprise often overshadowing – and sometimes overpowering – the academic missions of its hosts.
Shulman’s point comes to mind on the news that Florida State University, emulating two of its sister schools, has created a private nonprofit corporation to manage its athletic program. In this instance, the stated purpose is to have not less control, but more of it – specifically, over the Seminole Boosters, a membership organization that has been raising and spending lots of money with minimal oversight.
What’s of concern is that no state law requires the new Florida State University Athletic Association, Inc., to open to the public its meetings and records. The sunshine laws that govern the university trustees and most other state agencies don’t apply to independent “direct-support organizations,” such as the new corporation, or the Boosters, or similar associations at the University of Florida and the University of Central Florida.
Theoretically, athletic department records that are now open at FSU could be closed. The Legislature needs to fix that.
“It’s outrageous,” complained Barbara Petersen, president of the First Amendment Foundation. “It really doesn’t make much sense to me, except that they want to do everything secretly.”
FSU President John Thrasher insists secrecy is not the purpose. He has pledged that the association will keep its meetings and records open, and points to a requirement in its by-laws that “meetings of the Board of Directors or any committee shall comply with the requirements of Florida law, including laws governing public meetings, and shall provide for public comment.”