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Archive for Saturday, June 22, 2002

KU athletic department suffers some embarrassments

June 22, 2002

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These have not been the best of times for the Kansas University athletic department.

First is the embarrassing situation involving KU's athletic director, Al Bohl. The Fresno (Calif.) Bee newspaper carried a story several weeks ago on the continued investigation of whether Bohl had misrepresented the true financial condition of Fresno State University's athletic department while he was serving as its director.

Fresno State officials have claimed, and Bohl has not denied, that funds were shifted from one account to another within the athletic department in order to show a balanced budget or a profitable operation, which merited bonus payments to Bohl.

Bohl assured members of the KU Athletic Corp. board he had not done anything improper and that various Fresno State employees had been aware of his actions. Nevertheless, Fresno State officials called for the resignation  or they fired  a former associate of Bohl's who claimed he had transferred or shifted funds at Bohl's direction.

Bohl has claimed the bonuses were small, but the amounts have not been made public. The outspoken, outgoing and enthusiastic Bohl has received support from members of the KU athletic board and Chancellor Robert Hemenway, but the Fresno State investigation continues with school officials saying results will not be made public until late summer or early fall.

In the meantime, the matter has caused many in the Jayhawk family to be embarrassed and disappointed because there never has been any suggestion of improper financial dealings, manipulations or other indiscretions by past KU athletic directors. Until the Fresno State investigation is completed, and only when there is a public accounting of what did or did not take place, will the matter be closed. Until then, the questions, suspicions, concerns and food for gossip will continue.

The other puzzling, although relatively minor, matter is the apparent confusion or lack of direction concerning the athletic department's marketing and sales efforts.

Late last week, athletic department personnel started distributing promotional literature to encourage the purchase of tickets for the upcoming football season.

With new coach Mike Mangino on the scene, and with Mangino's past involvement with the successful Kansas State and Oklahoma football teams, KU officials are hoping ticket sales will rebound and bring far greater numbers of fans to Memorial Stadium this fall.

Many loyal Jayhawkers were puzzled, as well as unhappy, when they saw the promotional material for this fall's schedule. It pictured Mangino in a cap with the Oklahoma logo, a shirt with the Oklahoma logo, standing in front of an Oklahoma football crowd.

"What goes on?" many fans asked. "He's the KU coach, not the OU coach, and he should be pictured wearing caps and shirts with KU and the Jayhawk."

Doug Vance, a longtime and highly respected member of the KU athletic department and the person in charge of media relations and sports information for the university, was put in the awkward position of trying to justify the photo and answer the questions about why Mangino was dressed in Oklahoma garb instead of KU attire.

Vance said the photo had been used because of the limited availability of newer photos of the new head coach. "The brochure was designed before Coach Mangino had been on the practice field in Kansas gear," he said, "and we didn't have a wide variety of shots to choose from."

This is a dodge and a phony excuse because there have been all kinds of opportunities to take pictures of Mangino in a variety of outfits featuring the KU colors and mascot. Apparently, Vance had been asked to cover for someone and had to come up with a weak explanation.

Some indicate Mangino called the shots on which picture was to be used and was adamant that he wanted the pictures with OU identification and association. It is reported he wanted to be identified with a winning program.

This incident, in itself, is not a major problem, and it is hoped the Bohl-Fresno State dispute is cleared up in a short time with a clean report for Bohl.

Bohl's charge in getting the KU job was to oversee a winning program, to generate fan support, to increase revenue for a profitable operation and to do this by running a clean program free of any NCAA infractions.

A lot is riding on the upcoming KU football season, the enthusiasm of fans and their level of support for the KU program.

It's not good to get started on the wrong foot. The Bohl matter causes people to wonder, and the manner in which Vance was told to try to justify the Mangino picture is disappointing and laughable.

Both of these matters are relatively minor, but too often, minor incidents portend more disturbing developments in the future.

This cannot be allowed to happen at KU.

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