Kansas Athletics Inc. is assuring its donors that their contributions are safe and secure, as questions swirl about an independent review of the department’s ticket office and Williams Fund.
Late Thursday afternoon, the department sent an e-mail update to members of the Williams Fund, the department’s donor organization that has more than 4,200 members and last year generated about $15 million in contributions.
“We will continue to be as transparent as possible in regards to this process,” the department told members.
Among the questions asked of the department and answers provided in the e-mail, regarding the independent review:
- Have Williams Educational Fund funds been “stolen”? “No, absolutely not. The issue under investigation is related to tickets only. All WEF donations are secure through the (Kansas University) Endowment Association. The money is then directed solely to the support and benefit of our student-athletes.”
- Is KU in any “trouble” with the NCAA? “None whatsoever. This issue neither involves nor relates to NCAA rules and regulations.”
- What safeguards are being put in place to protect against future ticket misuse? “Despite the strong safeguards and internal controls we had in place, we know that even the best systems can be subverted with time and persistence. This is a difficult reminder that we can never be too vigilant with our internal control programs. Once the independent review ordered by the chancellor concludes and specific issues are identified, per (Athletics Director) Lew Perkins, we will be in ‘whatever-it-takes mode’ to further improve and tighten our safeguard processes.”
- Does this investigation suggest that the point system is flawed? “No. The two are unrelated. We are fully confident that the point system structure we have in place serves the Jayhawk fan base well and will remain an essential part of the WEF’s fund-raising efforts. That said, we remain committed to improving any part of the point-system process that needs to be improved.”
Fund members receive priority in purchasing tickets for KU football and basketball, both during regular seasons and for post-season games, based on the number of points they have accumulated. In general, points are assigned based on how much money a donor has contributed, and when.
Earlier this week, the university announced that Foulston Siefkin LLP, a Wichita-based firm, and BKD LLP, a national forensic accounting and auditing firm, had been hired to conduct the independent review of the fund and the ticket office.
“As Chancellor Gray-Little indicated, the review will be comprehensive,” the department said Thursday, in the e-mail. “The goal is to have the reviews completed as soon as possible, but we have not received a specific timeline from the investigators.”
The review comes after Perkins placed Rodney Jones, assistant athletics director for the Williams Fund, on administrative leave in early March. Gary Sherrer, vice chair of the Kansas Board of Regents, last week indicated that the probe had extended into a law-enforcement matter: “If somebody makes money and doesn’t report it on their taxes,” Sherrer said, “somebody at the federal level is going to get involved.”
Jones remains on administrative leave, and his duties are being handled on an interim basis by Jennifer Berquist, the fund’s associate director.
Another question posed in the e-mail: Will any other staff be placed on leave or fired?
“At this time, we are focused on fully cooperating with the independent review,” the department responded. “No actions regarding personnel or WEF or Ticket Office processes are anticipated prior to the conclusion of the review.”