Monday, July 1, 2013
FAA investigates MSU's use of state planes
By Adam Rittenberg
It's nothing new for major college coaches to have access to planes for business and personal use. Many of them have provisions in their contract allowing plane privileges.
But Michigan State's use of state-owned planes for athletic officials has come under scrutiny. The Federal Aviation Administration has launched a preliminary investigation into the state's history of leasing its four passenger planes to Michigan State athletic officials for recruiting trips. The probe comes shortly after a series of stories by the Lansing State Journal about how the planes are used and who uses them.
The newspaper found that Michigan State football coach Mark Dantonio and Spartans men's basketball coach Tom Izzo are among the most frequent users of the state-owned planes. Dantonio used the planes 47 times in the past five years, while Izzo used the planes 55 times in the same timespan.
From today's story:
Flights for their recruiting trips are paid for out of MSU's athletics department budget, which is self-sufficient and does not receive taxpayer funding. The athletics department pays MDOT [Michigan Department of Transportation] a per-hour fee to use the planes, officials have said, and the state planes are one of several charter options that the athletics department uses.
In all, MSU employees and guests used the state planes at least 150 times during the five-year period analyzed by the State Journal. That was third-most among any state entity, behind MDOT and the Michigan State Police. At least two-thirds of the passengers on the MSU trips were affiliated with the university's athletics department, the State Journal found.
There's not much information available about the preliminary investigation, which is seeking billing documents and receipts from Michigan State. It could trigger a formal investigation by the FAA.
Officials from Michigan's 15 four-year public universities have access to the planes for work purposes, but the University of Michigan isn't involved in the FAA probe.
Many major-conference coaches have access to private planes for recruiting trips and personal use. It'll be interesting to see if Michigan State will go that route or have its access to the planes reduced in the future.