All in all, the TBS broadcast of USF’s 31-14 football loss to Oklahoma was not particularly memorable.
But one of the few moments of note was an interview with student body president, Mike Griffin. While Griffin calmly and happily answered the reporter’s questions, vice president Dave Mincberg bounced around behind him, looking over both of his shoulders. And just before the camera panned back to the game, the national audience was left with the indelible impression of Mincberg, three inches from the camera, tongue hanging out.
Both of the student leaders seemed to be having a good time. Who could blame them?
In addition to enjoying a pleasant evening hundreds of miles from the cares and concerns of home, Mincberg and Griffin rode to the game for free aboard a private jet.
The plane also carried USF President Judy Genshaft and her husband.
According to USF media relations director Michael Reich, the plane was provided by USF Board of Trustees member Chris Sullivan, who is founder and owner of Outback Steakhouse. Griffin, as reigning student body president, also serves on the BOT.
Reich said Sullivan, who did not travel on the plane, invited Genshaft as well as Mincberg and Griffin. Genshaft, he said, was traveling on her first football trip of the year, but normally flies on the team’s plane.
“He also invited several other people who are friends to the university and went to the game,” Reich said.
Reich said he did not know why Griffin and Mincberg were invited.
“They were just invited as student leaders,” Reich said.
Griffin originally said his passage on the jet was offered through the Athletic Association. He said he had badly wanted to go to the game but discovered airline tickets would set him back $600. At that point, he had decided to make the drive of about 20 hours before he received good news.
“Mr. Sullivan found out I was being a crazy man by driving, and he offered me a seat,” Griffin said.
Griffin said despite what some people might think, there was no ethical dilemma involved in accepting the ride on the plane.
“I can understand people believe perception is reality,” Griffin said. “If there was something anyone wanted in return, I would definitely not have taken (the offer).
“I know Mr. Sullivan pretty well, but there is really no conflict of interest.”
Mincberg said he learned of the trip from Griffin, but that he was officially invited by an associate athletics director. He said besides Griffin and himself, there were three other students on the nine-seat plane, as well as Genshaft and her husband.
“Besides President Genshaft, Mike and I were the only other employees of the university (on board),” Mincberg said.
Mincberg said he felt nothing questionable happened on the flight and that nothing was wrong with taking the trip.
“I’m very confident that Mike and I exhibit very good ethics,” Mincberg said. “I don’t take bribes. Nothing was asked of us on the plane.”