On Friday, the Connecticut Supreme Court heard argument in University of Connecticut v. Freedom of Information Commission, a case that will decide whether the University of Connecticut must release its lists of sports season ticket holders.
According to Christian Nolan of the Connecticut Law Tribune who has a great breakdown of the case, this matter arose from a request by former state Rep. Jonathan Pelto, who sought payroll information for UConn faculty, staff and retirees, lists of donors to college performing arts programs and libraries, and lists of sports season ticket holders. The state Freedom of Information Commission ruled, in relevant part, that the lists of season ticket holders were not exempt from disclosure. UConn appealed the decision to the Superior Court, which overturned the Freedom of Information Commission’s ruling.
The key legal issue with respect to the season ticket lists is whether the lists constitute trade secrets and thus qualify for an exemption under Connecticut’s Freedom of Information law. Counsel for the Freedom of Information Commission has argued that the lists are not trade secrets because the University is not engaged in business.
Although this case will likely decided on the Supreme Court’s definition of “trade secret”, it is difficult to argue that college sports are not a business. From UConn’s $80 million deal with IMG College, to the Fiesta Bowl losses under the BCS ticket policy, to the disintegration of the Big East, UConn has been at the center of a number of situations that demonstrate that collegiate sports are big business. Moreover, UConn directly competes with other business for the customers whose names appear on those season ticket lists. There’s no denying that UConn athletics, and all big-time college sports, are not only engaged in business, but big business.
Stay tuned for analysis on the Supreme Court’s decision on this matter.