Seat not saved

Colin Likas | Sports Editor | clikas@butler.edu

Art Levin, a retired journalism professor, has been viewing Butler men’s basketball games from the same seat in Hinkle Fieldhouse for 25 years.

But he won’t be back this year.

Prior to this season, Levin said he was told he would need to increase his donation to Butler to retain his two seats, in accordance with the athletic department’s priority points program.

With the men’s basketball team having made back-to-back Final Four appearances, Athletic Director Barry Collier and the athletics department face pressure to provide more funding for athletics.

The priority points program is one of the ways in which this has been done, and it has  upset some former faculty members like Levin.

“I was told the reason for establishing the policy was to establish more funds for scholarships,” Levin said.

Levin said he initially did not receive a phone call or letter informing him of the change. He then decided to send a letter to Butler President Jim Danko informing him of his intention to forgo this season’s games.

Collier, who declined to comment on the situation, later sent Levin a letter in which he apologized for not calling Levin about the issue.

“I felt it was demeaning to a former faculty member,” Levin said.

The program, which has been in practice at Butler for four years, takes into account the length of time a person has held season tickets as well as how much he or she has donated to the school, according to an Indianapolis Business Journal report.

“I appreciate that [the athletics department] has to balance their budget, but they can’t do it on the backs of faculty,” Levin said.

Levin said he also was offered a one-year deal in which he would get two seats near his old ones.

“I had to decline [the offer],” Levin said. “[Collier] was torn about giving me the seats I had been getting for 25 years.”

Levin decided to go public with the situation after confiding in communication studies instructor Paul Sandin.

“If what he is saying actually happened, I think he was treated badly by the athletic department,” Sandin said. “If this is the new Butler Way, then I don’t like it.”

Levin also suffered a stroke two years ago, making even his original seats difficult to get to.

“I went from convenient backed seats to bench seats,” Levin said.

The priority points program is apparently causing problems for other alumni as well.

Some alumni and longtime fans have reported needing to donate up to $2,000 more in order to retain the seats they have had for, in some cases, decades, according to the IBJ.

Levin said he would like to see a system where individuals get tickets based on falling into a certain category.

“I think it should go faculty and students, then alumni and then the ‘fat cats’ and other fans,” Levin said. “Quite frankly, the whole policy stinks.”

For the athletic department, surviving the environment created by the basketball team’s success may come at the expense of long-time fans like Levin, who said he used to go to games “when they couldn’t pay students to go.”

“Art has been very loyal to the Butler basketball program,” Sandin said. “This gives the distinction that faculty is separated from athletics.”

Stories like Levin’s may continue to be made public in the near future, as well.

According to Levin, Indianapolis Star beat writer David Woods is investigating another long-term faculty member in a similar situation.

At the end of the day, Levin said he harbors no ill will toward the university.

“I have no animosity toward Barry or Butler,” Levin said. “I’m going to watch all of the [basketball] team’s games this season, and I hope they win them all.”

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3 Comments

  1. Not Cool said:

    Same thing happened to us (Staff and alumni). We’ve had tickets in the same seats for years. We donate every year as well. We were told if our seats were in danger of being moved, then we would be notified. Well, we got notified when we got our tickets for this year and the seats were changed!

    They are hurting the core of their true fan base and shooting themselves in the foot.

  2. Joe B said:

    I used to sit near the area professor Levin sits in and know him well b/c he’s one of the loudest fans in the building. I missed a few games once in a while, but every game I made, he was at. Talking 15 years now.

    While the program should try to make money on the fans who – until 3 years ago, thought Butler was either a Division 2 school in IUPUI’s conference…or someone who served them dinner in a black coat and picked up their shoes off the floor…how could they possibly alienate a guy who went to every game even when Hinkle Fieldhouse was a graveyard in the 90s???

    Butler Basketball caught people’s attention because they went to the Final Four, but also because they win to the Final Four ON THEIR OWN TERMS. Butler beat bigger teams by making them play their game. Butler inspired fans across the country because they did it differently than every other money hungry program out there.

    The Butler Way may actually be a gimmick…certainly seems so after reading this…but the new group of people who have enjoyed Butler’s success…from disappointed IU fans to ESPN Sportscasters…believed the Butler Way actually existed and stood for something.

    Now, after this article, and the one that sounds like is coming from Indy Star, that facade will soon disappear and Butler will be vulnerable to a public perception of just another one of those programs, and that will not sustain the growing fanbase should the mind blowing success slow.

    Also I should add, this doesn’t surprise me coming from Barry. Afterall, he spent a long time suffering as coach of Butler when they were struggling to fill the stadium, and then BOLTED to some lame Nebraska basketball program that nobody cared about, but was able to pay him more money. The next year Thad and the Dawgs shocked the world by winning a tournament game and Barry…well…can anyone even name a win he gave that program? Certainly wasn’t in the tournament. Certainly wasn’t there for very long (and who else would have him as an AD except the Butler family???)

    Barry Collier is caught up in his own good press and, like many neuvo success stories, turned his back on the people that helped get him there. Like Bob Dylan says: ‘Better be nice to the people on the way up, sooner or later you’ll meet them coming down.’

    I sure hope Brad Stevens doesnt think this way…I know it’s not his decision, but his participation involves him nonetheless.

    KUDOS to the Collegian for writing this story. Kudos to Prof. Levin for standing up to what’s right. Shame on Barry for not even commenting to the reporter. Shame on anyone in Butler who let’s this continue.

    I just told my wife we’re not donating to the program anymore. If money is all Barry cares about, that’s the only way to get his attention.

    That being said, GO DAWGS I still love you (I have said that since they were 6-20 in Barry’s first year, and will say it long after he’s gone)

    Joe

  3. SeanJ said:

    Leave it to Paul Sandin to use someone else’s unfortunate situation to worm his way into the spotlight. Man shouldn’t even be teaching in CCOM. He doesn’t have a degree in communication or anything related.

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