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Penn State

A private jet flew Penn State’s president to the Rose Bowl. Who paid for it?

by Wyatt Massey of Spotlight PA State College |

Penn State head football coach James Franklin is presented with the Rose Bowl trophy as President Bendapudi looks on.
Abby Drey / Centre Daily Times

The Penn State Transparency Tracker is an ongoing effort by Spotlight PA to document and share the ways in which the university is, and is not, being transparent with the community. Due to its special “state-related” designation, Penn State is not subject to open records laws beyond the public disclosure of basic financial information.

STATE COLLEGE — In the weeks following Penn State’s Rose Bowl victory over the University of Utah in January, Spotlight PA received several tips alleging the university chartered a private jet for President Neeli Bendapudi to attend the football game.

In light of the university’s financial problems and looming cuts, Spotlight PA first worked to verify the allegations.

Flight records show a Gulfstream V jet traveled from State College to Denver to Burbank, California, and then departed to Pennsylvania shortly after the end of the game.

Flight records also show the university’s planes were not used at that time.

Bendapudi attended the Rose Bowl pep rally and was on the field during the post-game victory celebration.

After sharing the above information with Penn State, Spotlight PA asked the university the following questions:

  1. How did President Bendapudi travel to and from the 2023 Rose Bowl?

  2. If the president traveled in a chartered plane, who paid for the trip and what was the cost?

Penn State responded in an email:

“As the president was expected to be at the bowl game for attendance at specific events, the planning included budgeting for presidential travel to be paid for from bowl funds,” the university wrote. “This is consistent with the practice at many other universities. Given that University planes are not designed to fly that distance without multiple stops, a plane was chartered, and the cost was covered through the Rose Bowl payout, handled by Intercollegiate Athletics (a self-sustaining unit). The University does not typically disclose specific operational costs.”

Based on that information, here’s what you need to know:

Penn State Athletics is a self-funded department. Payments for aircraft or other costs coming from the athletics budget are not connected to the university’s ongoing budget deficit.

Penn State has previously declined to share the costs of operating its aircraft.

Have an idea for the Penn State Transparency Tracker? Submit tips or questions to wmassey@spotlightpa.org. You can also share documents and other materials to help make our reporting more robust. Read more about sharing such information here.

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