flickr.com (stdavidshealthcare)
St. David's North Austin Medical Center Emergency Entrance. The company has begun providing healthcare services to University of Texas athletes and fans.

St. David’s now official health care provider for UT athletes

The contract benefits both UT and St. David’s by providing the university with health care services for student athletes and fans and by providing the healthcare company with good exposure in order to grow the business in the future.
St. David's North Austin Medical Center Emergency Entrance. The company has begun providing healthcare services to University of Texas athletes and fans. flickr.com (stdavidshealthcare)

St. David’s HealthCare agreed to pay $6 million over 6 years to be the official health care sponsor of University of Texas athletics, a contract that went into effect this past fall. With an athletic program as large and prominent as that of Texas comes the responsibility of keeping about 550 athletes, and their fans, healthy and safe.

Through a public records request, the Austin-American Statesman obtained the contract, which was released Dec. 15, that lays out the details of the agreement, negotiated on UT’s behalf by the marketing company Longhorn Sports Network IMG. The original plan was to keep the financial terms of the arrangement confidential, but the attorney general’s office forced them to publicize the contract.

This will truly have a positive impact on the health care services for 550 student athletes. We will upgrade our (emergency) facilities for the 100,000 people who come to a football game.

— Chris Plonsky to The Statesman.

"St. David's HealthCare's typical policy is to be private about our contracts because of the highly competitive healthcare environment," senior vice president of St. David's Mark Clayton told the Statesman. "Although we recognize that the University of Texas is a public entity, this partnership is unusual because it is more than a sponsorship. It is a partnership to provide health care services. If the conditions of this agreement were to be made public, any of our competitors could have come to the table to try and secure this partnership."

The exact arrangement is planned so that UT will receive a large payment each year, anywhere from $650,000 for the first year to $753,528 in the last year of the contract. St. David’s will also be providing services to student athletes that will total about $250,000 each year. New students athletes will all get heart-screenings, and a St. David’s nurse will work directly with UT to make sure athletes get the best medical care possible in all health situations. St. David’s will also have personnel at all games, treating athletic injuries and staffing that first aid facilities at all the stadiums.

"This will truly have a positive impact on the health care services for 550 student athletes. We will upgrade our (emergency) facilities for the 100,000 people who come to a football game," Chris Plonsky, the director of women's athletics and director of men's and women's athletics external services, told the Statesman.

Before this year, UT’s health care sponsor was Scott & White. The company, based in Temple, Texas, used the 5 and a half-year sponsorship to get exposure for their name and to grow their business with new facilities and care clinics all along Interstate 35. The St. David’s agreement likewise is arranged to give the company good exposure, but it also has the element of taking all the different services that the hospital already provides for the Austin area and making the natural connection to providing them for UT.

While the arrangement ensures that St. David’s is the only health care company that gets exposure from UT, it is not the only one to provide services. UT still maintains its right to send its athletes to whichever health care facility that can best serve them with the right specialists and equipment.

“We don’t have a med school, so we depend a lot on local public and private hospitals,” Plonsky said.

The contract benefits both UT and St. David’s, but it is especially a positive arrangement for UT students, not only the athletes who receive care but also the fans who attend games and those who are interested in studying medicine.

"UT is the flagship university and a major economic driver,” Clayton told the Statesman. “We're pleased to invest in programs there, not just athletics but nursing and research, too.”