It’s unclear what, if any, action Boise State is taking after saying last month that an expansive ad deal with high-interest loan business Dollar Loan Center was under review.
As BoiseDev reported, Dollar Loan Center inked a deal with Bronco Sports Properties for exposure during athletic events and the right to use Boise State’s trademarked logos and call itself the Official Short-Term Lender of the Broncos.
After BoiseDev attempted to ask the university questions last month, it instead sent us a statement saying its Office of General Counsel was reviewing the deal. It also said that an unnamed employee “failed to conduct the diligence expected by the university and failed to consult with critical decision-makers when assessing this agreement.”
As of Monday morning, the elements of the sponsorship are still in place, including the Boise State logo on stores and the Dollar Loan Center logo on the school’s athletics website.
Top officials met with loan co.
An extensive look at public records related to the deal shows that top officials in the athletic department were informed of the deal — and, in fact, met with Dollar Loan Center before the deal was signed.
Landon Day, the Vice President & General Manager for Bronco Sports Properties — which is the Learfield Sports division that handles advertising for Boise State — engaged in an extensive dialogue by email with Director of Athletics Jeramiah Dickey and his top deputy, Senior Associate Athletic Director for External Affairs Cody Gougler.
The records, which Boise State was required to turn over to BoiseDev under Idaho’s Public Records Act, show Day first started to discuss the sponsorship with Dickey and Gougler this summer.
“They are a very successful company and are spending tons (sic) now and in the future in the market place with every radio and tv (sic) station in the Treasure Valley,” Day wrote.
The emails show Day highlighted issues for his clients at Boise State, including how much they hoped to get Dollar Loan Center to spend, but never discussed by email any issues relating to whether it was an appropriate category for the school to be associated with.
“I believe they will have a lot more money in the coming years as they continue to grow in the area and it isn’t really a category (short term lending) that we are chasing or have ever received any dollars from and so maybe we could look at reducing our requirements a little,” Day wrote on June 26th.
Gougler replied to Day 90 minutes after the first email and said he was open to “whatever makes the most sense” in a deal with DLC and that he saw an “upside as you mentioned.”
That afternoon, Dickey told Day & Gougler he planned to meet with the Las Vegas-based company later that summer at Mountain West Media Days.
“Remember I am supposed to see them in July as well as media day,” Dickey wrote.
Dickey later told BoiseDev he didn’t meet with DLC officials after all.
BoiseDev asked Boise State officials if it had taken any action in regards to the unnamed person who it said failed to conduct due diligence.
Spokesperson Mike Sharp said the school “does not comment on personnel issues.” When we pointed out the university had discussed private personnel matters relating to both former football head coach Andy Avalos and athletics staffer Lou Major, Sharp didn’t reply.
Last week, the Idaho Statesman reported the school said it “hasn’t found any record showing it provided the necessary approval” for the deal between Dollar Loan and Learfield.
Statesman editor Chadd Cripe requested any public record that had “the written approval submitted by Boise State to Learfield for the Dollar Loan Center sponsorship,” for which the school said no such document existed.
An amendment to the 2009 contract signed in 2014 says Learfild “must seek and receive (the) university’s written approval of any and all partnerships” prior to entering into deals.
But while there may not be a contract, Day and other Learfield staffers engaged in written form — by email — with staffers at all levels of the athletics department as they worked to put together the deal — including approving a news release, OK’ing a mural with the Boise State logo on it, fine-tuning the school’s colors on co-branded printed materials and more. The Dollar Loan Center logo was placed on BroncoSports.com, added to digital signage inside Albertsons Stadium, ads were added to KBOI radio broadcasts of the game, and a weekly TV show on channel 7.
In its agreement with Learfield, Boise State specifically calls out a number of categories that are off limits — including liquor, tobacco, sexually explicit materials, and firearms.
But the 2009 agreement doesn’t specifically bar short-term loan businesses but does say ad deals that “bring discredit to the purposes, values, principles or mission of the NCAA or University…” aren’t allowed.
Day said in his pitch to Dickey and Gougler that they didn’t have any other business possibilities in the short-term loan business segment. The emails do not show any university officials raised questions about DLC’s operations.
Day pitched Dickey and Gougler on the significance of the potential business by noting that “every” TV & radio station in Boise was taking ads from DLC. However, at least one radio group has refused the company’s ads.
Dollar Loan Center’s business
Dollar Loan Center provides so-called payday loans to individuals, with a marketing slogan and website address of “Don’t be Broke.”
The fine print on the company’s website spells out how a payday loan would work. A borrower can get $500, at an interest rate of 199.99%. The loan would be paid back over 65 weeks, with payments every other week of $42.42. If the borrower doesn’t pay the money back early, that $500 would cost them a total of $1,357.35 to pay back.
With loans of up to $5,000 provided — borrowers could be on the hook for more than $13,000.
Dollar Loan Center is a new entrant to Idaho. But in 2017, it was kicked out of another state. The South Dakota Division of Banking pulled the lending license for the business. Dollar Loan Center was initially stopped from doing business in that state when voters passed a ballot initiative that banned payday and high-interest, short-term loans. Dollar Loan Center and its founder, Chuck Brennan, stopped operating in South Dakota for a time, but tried to start again with loans at a lower interest rate. The business eventually exited the state.
Dollar Loan Center has turned to sports to market its business in other areas. It is the title sponsor of a newly opened arena in Henderson, Nevada.