Colin Likas | Sports Editor | firstname.lastname@example.org
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.”