MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- The Alabama Ethics Commission said in an advisory opinion Wednesday that high school coaches accompanying prospects on recruiting trips to state colleges can receive free tickets to games under a new ethics law that prohibits public officials, including coaches, from receiving “items of value.”
Reacting to a question from the University of Alabama, the ethics commission voted 5-0 that it’s OK for the coaches to receive free admission as long as they are at the game in an official capacity as a chaperone for the high school athlete.
Officials at Auburn and other state schools had expressed interest in the commission’s ruling.
The executive director of the ethics commission, Jim Sumner, said the ruling requires coaches to follow NCAA rules for what is allowed during official visits by an athlete.
Sumner said NCAA rules, with very strict guidelines, allow coaches to receive free passes to games when they accompany recruits on official visits to college campuses. Sumner said the coaches are given passes to games during official visits in other states and that to totally ban the practice in Alabama would give schools in other states a recruiting advantage over Alabama, Auburn and other state college football programs.
The new ethics law passed the state in a special session of the Alabama Legislature in December.
The sponsor of the ethics bill, Republican state Sen. Bryan Taylor of Prattville, said he had not had time to study the ethics commission ruling, but that he does not have any immediate problem with it. He said the ethics law allows a few exceptions “where attendance will be necessary to carry out the official functions of their position.”
As an example, he said it’s customary for Alabama’s governor to crown the homecoming queens at state universities and that he would be allowed free passes to games to carry out those duties.