I'm here to tell you, not much. You don't need to worry about that.
First, let's get some perspective. A handful of KU employees stole a
Field House full of tickets over the course of years and scalped them
for silly amounts of money. A lot of trust was violated and
relationships, both professional and personal, were certainly blown out
of the water.
Opposing coaches may try and baffle a few recruits with some "troubled
school" bull. Some donors will be grouchy until they know that none of
their money disappeared and that they can get decent seats again.
Small-time donors will continue to whine that Lew is big and mean and
won't return their phone calls.
This, too, shall pass.
Reality is, to you and me, $1 million is not a lot of money. Granted,
it's going to be a lot of money to Rodney Jones and Charlette Blubaugh
and others, both named and unnamed at this juncture, who are going to
have to figure out a way to pay it back to the University even though
I'd bet it's all been spent.
No one, including KU, wants to lose $1 million. To Kansas athletics,
though, $1 million is something you pick up after a nice lunch with
Dana Anderson. It's an accounting error. For some, it's a bonus after a
particularly successful year. This isn't about the money.
All the Lew-haters, Tigers and Wildcats blathering buzzwords that they
think sound important, like "lack of institutional control," and
calling for Athletic Director Lew Perkins' head are just being dopey.
If some of the money was trickling down to players, then you could
scream all you want. You could cry if you could follow the money uphill
to Lew's office. But there's absolutely no reason to think any of that
This was five people – six if you count Blubaugh's husband, Tom, who
was a contract consultant to the athletic department – who (allegedly)
decided to make some cash by stealing tickets and scalping them. They
did so in the face of numerous controls and audits and still got away
with it. As the Feds continue their investigation, other names will
probably come up. A couple of them were reported in the excellent Yahoo
Sports piece last week.
I'm not trivializing what happened, but I also refuse to make it more
than what it is. This was a group of employees stealing from the
office. That's it. There's nothing more insidious and evil than that.
It was, simply, a crime. It may end up being a Federal crime, since
it's attracted the attention of the Revenuers.
Office theft began one day after someone invented the office. No one
cares, however, when Linda takes a ream of paper and a box of pens from
the office. They might if she stole a million dollars worth of pens,
but that's another story. That's also a lot of pens.
The point is these people stole from their employer just like Linda
did. Nothing more. A crime doesn't constitute an NCAA rules violation.
So cool your jets on that, Turbo.
Sidebar to donors: okay, when a mid-level manager of an athletic
department hands you a boatload of very expensive tickets to an
athletic event and tells you to just make the check out to him or her
and not to the University, that should send up red flags. Just a little
helpful advice from your Uncle Jimbo.
KU fans knew, when Lew Perkins was hired, that Kansas Athletics was
moving on from the gentleman's handshake agreement,
raccoon-coat-and-pep-rally days in which we were mired. If they hadn't
hired Perkins, KU would be the best damn school in the Missouri Valley
Anyone who didn't stop to think, however, that leaping into the arms
race with the Texases and the Nebraskas of the world wasn't going to
put KU in a position for these things to happen – bigger budget and
more success means more money and more temptation – is either naïve or
just not very bright.
Now, here's why Kansas fans – and all college sports fans – should be
Perkins commented at the media conference that athletic directors from
all over the country had been calling him to pick his brain on what
happened and how the investigation was going. This is bad, bad news.
Lew Perkins has never given me reason to distrust him. That said, if we
take what he said – that his friends and colleagues were calling – at
face value, we can conclude that athletic directors think similar
schemes are occurring at a lot of other schools, not only under their
noses but the collective noses of the auditors and attorneys their
institutions hire to catch this kind of stuff.
Corruption in college athletics has been going on since the 1920s,
probably even before that. Thanks to the internet, e-mail, camera
phones and small, portable video recorders, we hear and see more about
it now than people did back then.
The firm investigating KU's ticket allocation system, including
priority seating, Select-a-Seat, Williams Fund, et al, said that
additional safeguards could and should be put in place. Those same
people turned right around, however, and said that no matter what you
do, if the right person wants to steal, they can.
(Insert obligatory "When will they change the name of the Williams
Fund?" joke here.)
Speaking of illegal activities, maybe this is a good spot for a quick
word about our boys, David and Dana Pump. From what little I know and
what I can gather, they're not doing anything illegal. There's nothing
wrong with ticket brokering, so long as you report the income. There's
nothing wrong with sponsoring AAU teams, except that after you attend
an AAU tournament, you just feel dirty. There's nothing wrong with
helping place coaches in good jobs and helping schools find good
coaches. These are all noble endeavors. Well, all except the whole
sleazy AAU thing.
But when you pull it all together, only then do you realize they've
infiltrated every aspect of high-level major college basketball. Maybe
that in itself isn't illegal, but it sure seems like it's a breeding
ground for all kinds of sordid activities. And I promise you that in
the coming weeks we're going to hear about just how widespread their
influence is. You think William "World Wide Wes" Wesley is seedy? The
Pump Brothers make him look like a student film.
The big-picture concern should be the widespread nature of the
corruption resulting from the insane amount of money and juice one can
acquire by cheating their employers. What happened at KU is all about a
few greedy people making money and so-called friends while they could
and getting out one step ahead of the pitchfork-and-torch-carrying
angry mob. They just screwed up and didn't know when to get out.
The thing is it's not just happening at KU. If it were a uniquely
Kansas problem, Perkins' phone wouldn't have been ringing off the hook.
Lew has a lot of friends, but rest assured all these athletic directors
weren't calling to see how his golf game is shaping up or ask about the
If you think it's bad now, however, wait until the conference
realignment takes place. This is a move about nothing other than money.
It's not about the betterment of the universities or providing the
student-athletes (or, simply, "athletes," depending on your attitude)
with a better college experience. It's not about the students or the
fans. It's about money. Money money money. Don't delude yourself into
thinking otherwise. It's a waste of time and energy and it makes you
Here's the real kicker, though: if you think it's bad then, wait till
the power conferences tell the NCAA to take a hike and start holding
their own postseason basketball tournament and, it would logically
follow, football playoff. It's already in the works among some
institutions. That will result in an all-out money-grab. Don't bother
writing a rule book because no one will read it.
Short of capping television deals and ticket prices, thus limiting the
amount of money conferences and schools can make, nothing will stop the
corruption that is so prevalent at NCAA institutions. The NCAA won't do
that, because they have too much at stake. In order to make it not
worth criminals' time, they'd have to institute policies and rules that
would take money out of their own pockets. They don't have the huevos
to do that.
A federal judge can throw the book at the people named in the report as
well as a couple who weren't named but who were (allegedly) involved in
scalping and, quite possibly, money laundering. Hell, the judge can
pelt them with an entire set of Federal statutes and regulations. It
won't stop corruption in college athletics. No matter how bad things
get for the people who stole God knows how much from KU, there's always
going to be someone who thinks they're smarter, they're slicker and
that their scheme is absolutely foolproof.
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