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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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A&M cancels ZZ Top concert

ZZ Top fans suffered a blow this weekend when reports emerged that the band’s planned Kyle Field concert might be in peril – reports which were proved true. A slew of news stories laid the blame for the canceled concert on everything from lagging ticket sales to a direct command from the NCAA.
Shawn Garrity, president of MSL sports and entertainment, the organization behind Gridiron Bash and the ZZ Top concert, said that for many universities, ticket sales had begun as recently as three weeks ago. He said that some universities had sold so many tickets that they asked MSL to have the concert in another form, apart from the football aspect.
“Alabama[‘s ticket sales] had come out of the gate the fastest. They were just at or around 10,000, last I saw,” Garrity said. “Texas A&M was just behind them. LSU had just gone on sale for just three weeks, a lot of other schools had just gone on sale. A&M[‘s ticket sales] were closer to 5,000.”
Later reports portrayed the story as a battle between MSL and the NCAA, stating that MSL was blaming the NCAA for canceling the 16 nationwide Gridiron Bash events.
Again, Garrity told a different tale: “We have had ongoing conversations [with the NCAA, and it] didn’t shut this down. A lot of people made them the Dastardly Dan, but it’s [not the case].”
The NCAA rule in question states student athletes can’t promote third party events. Garrity said that it was a conference misinterpretation of the Gridiron Bash that led to a conflict with this rule.
“The request came through the SEC [Southeastern Conference] compliance office,” Garrity said. “We aren’t saying that it was anything malicious, but how [the Gridiron Bash concert] was represented wasn’t at all accurate and that’s what caused a lot of the confusion.
“The NCAA and the conferences don’t start things, they respond to things, and someone had talked to them asking if the players [being involved in the Gridiron Bash concerts was legal].”
Garrity said rather than a struggle between his company and the NCAA, the deliberations were a cordial interaction. Instead of fighting with the NCAA, Garrity described a situation in which the NCAA worked together with MSL to reach a final conclusion about whether any rules would be violated by athletes participating in events around the concert. A final answer could not be reached in satisfactory time and football conferences began to panic.
“We have people in our company that have been on [NCAA] committees or athletic directors before, so we were scrambling rapidly to work something out,” Garrity said. “It was apparent it would be left in the interim to the [universities’ NCAA compliance] advisers.”
It was at this point that the Big 12 sent out a memo to its member universities regarding the confusion. The Big 10 followed suit shortly after, and the 16 schools around the country that had planned to have the Gridiron Bash concerts canceled as well.
“A student athlete can’t promote any third party event, but they weren’t doing it for us,” Garrity said. “It’s in the definition of the event on our website and in our press releases. We aren’t using [the athletes to promote the event in any way].
“Coach [Mike] Sherman had structured an event, basically a practice, [to go with the concert]. At Tennessee, the 1998 champs would be celebrated; LSU had their national champ celebration. Each campus had its own interpretation in organizing the events. Athletes aren’t allowed to promote the event, and they weren’t. They were being celebrated.”
Though the NCAA had not reached a conclusion on whether any potential violations of its rules were inherent in the Gridiron Bash plans, the threat of a harsh punishment loomed. If the NCAA decided that any violations had occurred, it would have the option to make participating athletes ineligible for the 2009 season. It was a risk that Garrity said he felt he could not take, even if the chances of such a ruling were minimal.
“You’ve got this whole team participating, it could make them all ineligible, you just can’t do it,” Garrity said.
Full ticket refunds are offered to anyone who purchased tickets for the ZZ Top concert at A&M.
“A lot of people said, ‘Why don’t you just do the concert?’?” Garrity said. “The problem is that out of 50,000 [ticket holders], 5,000 will say this isn’t what they want.”
At the moment, no plans are in place for MSL to have a ZZ Top concert in any other venue. Garrity said that the presence of the athletes and the allure of a concert in Kyle Field were major selling points, and that he didn’t want ticket holders to feel short-changed if they were stuck with a ticket to a concert in a venue they didn’t pay for.

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