Boise State played by different travel rules
Idaho and Hawaii laws vary
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In the hectic days prior to the Sugar Bowl, University of Hawaii officials turned to its rival for advice. Who better? Boise State had just been to a BCS game the previous year and could give UH some pointers on how to handle the venture -- including with whom to fill its charter planes at state expense.
As it turns out, what's good for the Broncos isn't necessarily good for the Warriors. Hawaii and Idaho state laws vary when it comes to what employees are allowed to accept. Spouses and children traveling to bowl games on the public dime may be a no-no here, although not a problem in other states, including Idaho.
"Every school and every state is different," Boise State assistant athletic director Max Corbet said.
"When we (go to bowl games) our athletic director (Gene Bleymaier) works very closely with our vice president of administration and finance and our legal counsel. Gene's always going to double-check everything and make sure everything's above board. I'm not saying Hawaii did anything wrong. I'm just saying we're really good about double and triple checking those things."
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Boise State -- upon which Hawaii based some of its 2008 Sugar Bowl travel policies -- may have been accountable to significantly less strenuous state law when determining who could have their Fiesta Bowl trips paid for in 2007.
Idaho law requires "specific authorization of the governmental entity for which he serves" in order for a public servant to "use public funds or property to obtain a pecuniary benefit for himself."
Hawaii law is more stringent, specifically prohibiting receiving or granting of "unwarranted privileges."
The Hawaii State Ethics Commission is looking at the UH Sugar Bowl travel list of more than 550 released in its entirety last week. The commission is trying to determine if public funds were used to pay for people to go to New Orleans for the Jan. 1 bowl game who were not there serving a state function, which would be against state law.
The functions of guests, including spouses and children of UH staff, are under scrutiny. The commission's executive director said he left a pre-trip meeting with school officials with the impression that any children on the trip would not be paid for by UH.
But 14 children of university employees were listed by UH as having their way to New Orleans paid by the school.
University officials have cited paying for family of staff as standard procedure for bowl games (especially BCS bowls), using Boise State as an example to follow.
"We made these decisions based on extensive conversations with our fellow WAC school Boise State on their travel to the Fiesta Bowl, along with our own knowledge of other schools' policies and our experiences with the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl," UH Manoa chancellor Virginia Hinshaw stated May 23 in a news release.
Boise State assistant athletic director Max Corbet said spouses and children of employees went to the Fiesta Bowl at state expense, and it is routine.
"That's been pretty normal for all our bowl games," Corbet said in a phone interview yesterday. "But it's different for every game. For people on staff, like myself, that can vary. One thing for sure is that we're not going to go over budget."
Corbet said the Fiesta Bowl travel group included 478 and total travel expenses were $1,036,293.96. UH's expenses for more than 550 to New Orleans (a much farther trip) came to close to $2 million.
UH's travel guidelines for the Sugar Bowl were developed by then-athletic director Herman Frazier and Hinshaw's office, according to information provided by the school last week. In addition to advice from Boise State, UH considered input from other schools that played in BCS bowl games, WAC commissioner Karl Benson and NCAA and BCS guidelines.
"Participation in an event such as the Sugar Bowl is to be interpreted as a reward for performance and not meant to separate families during the holiday season," the UH document reads.
Corbet said he is unfamiliar with any controversy having to do with Boise State's Fiesta Bowl travel.
"From what I've gathered over the years every state is different and every school handles it differently. It's good to get ideas, but you have to make sure what you do fits your situation. I'm sure Oklahoma did a lot of things differently than we did," he said.
Like Hawaii, Boise State must answer to state law regardless of NCAA, BCS or WAC guidelines, Corbet said.
"You can get in trouble thinking, 'This money was given to us, we can do whatever we want with it.' The answer is yes and no. It's still state money. You still can't violate state laws with what you do with it."