Thursday, February 22, 2024

MSU turned over donor agreements, here's what's inside

After a legal battle with the Detroit Free Press, MSU turned over its agreements between Ishbia and St. Andre

December 22, 2022
<p>The Michigan State Spartan logo on a building, photographed Aug. 31, 2020.</p>

The Michigan State Spartan logo on a building, photographed Aug. 31, 2020.

Photo by Annie Barker | The State News

Michigan State University released gift agreements between donors Mat Ishbia and Stephen St. Andre.

The three gift agreements were originally requested by the Detroit Free Press through the Freedom of Information Act, but former MSU President Samuel L. Stanley declined the request, citing FOIA’s privacy exemption

The Free Press then sued the university in June for the documents and won. Judge Brock Swartzle ordered MSU to turn over the agreements, with redactions to the donors’ private information, within 10 days of the decision earlier this month.

“The university respects the tenants of openness and transparency in government the Michigan Freedom of Information Act seeks to further,” MSU deputy spokesperson Dan Olsen said in a statement. “As a public body, we also have an obligation and responsibility to protect individuals’ right to privacy while balancing the openness that furthers ethical governance. We deeply value and thank our generous donors for their contributions which continue to support the success of the institution and our Spartans – students, faculty and staff.”

Here’s a look at this information in these now public agreements. 

Ishbia’s donation totals $32 million paid over eight years. The specifics of the agreement are as follows:

  • $20 million designated for the Tom Izzo Football Building.

  • $2 million designated for the Spartan For Life fund. This fund is “to be used to support a leadership and career development program to assist current and former student-athletes with life-long employment opportunities. Expenditures from this fund will be used at the discretion of the athletic director.”

  • $2 million for the Men’s Basketball Excellence fund at the discretion of the men's basketball head coach.

  • $6.2 million for the MSU Athletics Excellence fund at the discretion of the athletic director. In recognition of the donation, the southwest entrance of the Breslin Center will be named the “Jeff and Joanne Ishbia Entrance” in honor of Ishbia’s parents.

A fraction of the $32 million total — $1.8 million — will go toward “season tickets to, and use of certain suites for all football, men’s basketball and ice hockey home games” for Ishbia over the next 10 years.

St. Andre’s donation totals $10 million paid over four years. The agreement said St. Andre recommends his gift be allocated primarily to the MSU Athletics Excellence Fund, but MSU can use it at its own discretion.

"Such uses may include, but are not limited to, recruitment and retention of coaches for the MSU Men's Intercollegiate Football Team," the agreement said.

While it's speculated, and confirmed in part by Ishbia on the HBO Max show "Real Sports with Brian Gumble" that part of the donation was given to fund Head Football Coach Mel Tucker's contract, donors cannot directly fund a coach's salary.

However, there is a way to indirectly fund a salary.

"Donors cannot give directly to a coach's salary," Olsen said. "What they can do is they can give money to the department of collegiate athletics, the general fund for that department, and the funds within the general fund are used to support the salaries of our athletics coaches."

Although the donors can indirectly fund contracts, they have no legal influence over hiring decisions as both agreements state "Nothing in this Agreement shall be construed to affect MSU's control over any employment decision related to any coach or staff member."

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