The changes promised by Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little in the wake of the University of Kansas’ ticket sale scandal have begun, including the appointment of a new auditor independent of the Athletic Department, more transparency in the awarding of complimentary tickets, and closer monitoring of the entire ticketing process.
In recent months, KU has been rocked by news that a number of Athletic Department employees were involved in selling complimentary sports tickets to ticket brokers and pocketing the profits. An internal probe was unable to determine how many of these tickets were sold to brokers, but it found that, between 2005 and 2010, those involved had a part in illegally obtaining nearly 20,000 basketball and football tickets from the Department, with a value totaling approximately $1 million.
Those figures could climb even higher, since accurate records of such transactions have been kept only since 2005, and allegations of scalping by one of the accused and his associates reach back to the 2002 Big 12 Tournament. Also, the law firm completing KU’s probe has no subpoena power, while the federal investigation currently underway will likely uncover much more information through subpoenas.
The May 2010 report on the scandal implicated a number of administrators in the KU Athletic Department, including Rodney Jones (targeted also in the 2002 allegations), a former ticket manager who rose in the ranks to run the Williams Educational Fund, which oversees fundraising totaling about $25 million per year. His supervisor, Associate Athletic Director Bill Kirtland, has acknowledged that he and Jones illegally sold tickets and kept the proceeds. Charlette Blubaugh, a former Associate Athletic Director, has been accused of funneling comp tickets to those in her employ for sale. The probe found that two of Blubaugh’s assistants sold a total of $200,000 in tickets to ticket brokers, and Blubaugh’s husband, hired by KU as a consultant, has also been identified in the report.
Though not implicated himself, Athletic Director Lew Perkins, who was AD at the University of Connecticut from 1990-2003, has taken a lot of heat for the scandal. He has acknowledged responsibility for being blind to the unethical conduct, while repeatedly denying any direct involvement in the scheme. Within a week of the ticket scandal breaking, Perkins next had to answer charges that he received a free four-year loan of exercise equipment from a medical company, which would violate the rules of conduct for Kansas Athletics personnel. The news broke after an alleged attempt was made to blackmail Perkins regarding the loan.
In the aftermath of these scandals, Perkins announced earlier this month that he would be retiring from his Athletic Director’s position with KU in September of 2011.
With the alleged ticket sellers gone from the Athletic Department, Perkins on his way out and the new auditor on board, Gray-Little hopes to make good on her administration’s plans to reinforce an ethics culture in the Athletics Department. At a Board of Regents meeting last week, she outlined the University’s plans to recover from the ticketing scandal.
Over the next three months, the University will institute a fraud hotline, and responsibilities for ticket sales will be split among several ticket office staffers to reduce opportunities for fraud. The ticket selling process in general will have more checks, such as monthly reconciliation processes.
Complimentary ticket requests will be scrutinized even more closely. According to the Chancellor, Perkins’ long-debated “points” system, determining which Williams Fund donors get the best seats based on accrued points, will not be fundamentally changed, but will be better supervised and the process made more transparent.
Little-Gray is expected to return to the Board of Regents in September to deliver a progress report on the changes instituted.