Who was on Michigan State's chartered plane to the Final Four
More than 30 spouses, children and other relatives of Michigan State basketball coaches and university and athletic-department staffers traveled on the airplane that took the Spartans men's basketball team to the Final Four in Minneapolis this month, leaving the cheer team and band to go by bus.
Michigan State released a heavily redacted copy of the 144-person travel manifest to The Detroit News this week, in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.
The university's who's-in and who's-out choices sparked social-media outrage when it was revealed Michigan State's "Spartan Brass" band and its cheer team — 43 people in all — would travel to the Final Four by chartered bus when they had traveled on the team charter plane for the first two weekends of the NCAA Tournament.
That meant a 10-hour road trip, as opposed to a two-hour flight, while the band and cheer teams for the other three Final Four participants — eventual-national champion Virginia, Texas Tech and Auburn — all traveled on their team planes to the Final Four. The NCAA calls for 43 band and cheer members to be part of the team's official travel party to the Final Four in order to receive full per-diem reimbursement.
MSU, which paid for the bus, defended itself at the time, stating, "The further a team goes in NCAA Tournament play, the greater the personnel needs are to staff and support the team’s appearance, especially during the Final Four."
The university's director of bands, David Thornton, also issued a statement deflecting criticism of the university, saying, "This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for these students. And they are thrilled to be able to participate.”
The head of the cheer team didn't comment publicly.
This week, university and athletic-department spokespeople had no further comment.
Of the 144 names on the official travel manifest, MSU redacted 64 of them, citing privacy provisions. Sixteen of the blacked-out names are known to be players on the basketball team, and 15 more are student managers. Many of the remaining blacked-out names also are known to be names of staffers' children under the age of 18. Because the manifest lists names in alphabetical order, it sometimes is clear which blacked-out names are underage sons or daughters of a basketball or university staff member, putting the total count of relatives on board at, conservatively, more than 30.
Of the 80 names that weren't redacted, at least 22 are spouses, children or relatives of MSU employees, including at least two relatives of head coach Tom Izzo's long-time executive secretary, and at least five relatives of Lupe Izzo, the head coach's wife. There are some donors listed, too, including George and Maria Johnson, who endowed a scholarship for Michigan State men's basketball managers.
Only one current member of the eight-person Board of Trustees, Joel Ferguson, was listed as being on the chartered plane, and he brought at least one guest. Trustees are permitted to bring guests. Other trustees, such as Brian Mosallam, previously made public their intent to make private travel arrangements. One former trustee, David Porteous, who's now a trustee of Michigan State's law college board, was on the plane.
Ferguson, when reached by The News, called the travel manifest "a non-issue," adding, "it must be a slow news day," before he went on to say he didn't want to be quoted. Ferguson, a millionaire mid-Michigan developer who earlier this month was part of a group that purchased 16 acres of the State Fairgrounds, said he stands by the university's statement from earlier this month.
Interim president Satish Udpa and wife Lalita were on the airplane, while controversial former interim president John Engler — who was seen sitting in premium courtside seats throughout much of the Spartans' late-season run — was not.
The team charter plane traveled from Capital Region International Airport in Lansing to Minneapolis−Saint Paul International Airport on April 3.
The News was not provided a list of the travel manifest for the return flight.
Here's a look at the chartered-plane manifest names that weren't redacted, with their affiliation to the university or relation to a university employee:
►Holly Baumgartner, assistant athletic director /compliance services
►Cynthia Beekman, athletic director's wife
►William Beekman, athletic director
►Wendy Brown, associate athletic director/ticket operations
►Kathryn Carey, wife of associate director of athletic communications
►Michael Carey, associate director of athletic communications
►Matt Costello, former Michigan State player who was assisting with coaching during the NCAA Tournament run
►Anna Costello, Matt's wife
►Timothy Day, associate athletic/development
►Reynaldo Del Rio, university photographer
►Allison Denisco, wife of men's basketball video coordinator
►Andrew Denisco, men's basketball video coordinator
►James Donatelli, director of digital marketing and fan engagement
►Albert Eaton, friend of trustee Joel Ferguson
►Joel Ferguson, trustee
►Dane Fife, associate head coach
►Kimberly Fife, Dane's wife
►Cynthia Garland, wife of assistant coach
►Michael Garland, assistant coach
►Alan Haller, deputy athletic director
►Mark Hennes, guest of staff member
►Douglas Herner, assistant video coordinator
►Susan Herner, Doug's wife
►Bryan Hoch, Spartan Fund/director of premium seating
►Tyler Hooper, assistant ticket manager
►Jacob Huber, Spartan Vision video producer
►Lupe Izzo, wife of head coach
►Raquel Izzo, daughter of head coach
►Steven Izzo, son of head coach
►Tom Izzo, head coach
►George and Maria Johnson, donors
►Michael Kaplowitz, NCAA/Big Ten faculty athletics representative
►Travis Kaufman, assistant ticket manager
►Cara Kaye, men's basketball social media
►Bonnie Knutson, NCAA/Big Ten faculty athletics representative
►Dr. Jeffrey Kovan, director of sports medicine, performance/primary care team physician
►Elizabeth Marinez, relative of Lupe Izzo
►Griffin Marinez, relative of Lupe Izzo
►Guillermo Marinez, relative of Lupe Izzo
►Rodolfo Marinez, relative of Lupe Izzo
►Matthew McDonald, guest of Tom Izzo
►Keeler McJunkin, athletic communications
►Matthew Mitchell, official photographer
►Jason Mudget, guest of staff member
►Lindsey Mudget, guest of staff member
►Benjamin Owen, Spartan Vision video producer
►John Patterson, Spartan Fund/associate director of development
►Kevin Pauga, assistant athletic director/administration
►David Porteous, former trustee, current trustee of Michigan State College of Law
►Theresa Pruder, wife of Dave Pruder, director of equipment
►Kristin Ray, sport operations assistant
►Michael Ray, guest of staff member
►Kristin Reinhart, academic coordinator for men's, women's basketball
►Marshall Repp, assistant strength and conditioning coach
►Abby Richey, wife of athletic trainer
►Nicholas Richey, athletic trainer
►Thomas Schaafsma, associate ticket manager
►Paul Schager, executive associate athletic director/external operations
►Scot Schlesinger, associate athletic director/sales and marketing
►Heather Seymour, guest of staff member
►Dalton Shetler, Michigan State radio studio host
►Sarah Skilling, director of donor relations and events
►Jennifer Smith, deputy athletic director/senior women's administrator, compliance
►Matthew Smith, assistant director/sales and marketing
►Jason Soderberg, son of executive secretary for men's basketball
►Lori Soderberg, executive secretary for men's basketball
►Samuel Soderberg, Lori's husband
►Kate Souder, associate ticket manager
►Julian Stall, Spartan Vision video producer
►Dwayne Stephens, associate head coach
►Sarah Stephens, Dwayne's wife
►Anna Strong, friend of trustee Joel Ferguson
►David Thomas, director of men's basketball operations
►Toni Thomas, David's wife
►Will Tieman, Michigan State radio play-by-play
►Satish Udpa, interim president
►Lalita Udpa, Satish's wife
►David Weston, student engagement intern
►Frederick "Doug" Wojcik, men's basketball recruiting coordinator