Although none of the six people directly implicated in a Kansas University ticket scandal still work for Kansas Athletics Inc., this mess is far from over for KU and its athletic department.
The doubts that an investigative report released Wednesday cast on the entire ticketing system for KU football and men’s basketball games will be hard to overcome.
At Wednesday’s press conference, Athletic Director Lew Perkins tried to take the high road about the ticket investigation, saying, “Now that we know about it, we can correct it.” He said he was “very disappointed” at the situation, “but not discouraged.”
It will be interesting to see whether fans and supporters of the athletics department will take such a philosophical view.
The bottom line is significant. According to the internal investigation, five athletics department staff members and a paid consultant “subverted controls” on the department’s ticket system over the last five years to abscond with at least 17,609 men’s basketball tickets and 2,181 football tickets, along with KU parking passes and passes to the Arrowhead Club in Kansas City. The confirmed loss to the athletic association was $1.03 million, but auditors say that figure could grow to as much as $3 million when the investigation is complete.
Although the investigators, Perkins and Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little were all quick to say there had been no manipulation of the points system used to assign seats to Williams Fund donors, they also acknowledged that the ticket skimming had removed at least some seats from the pool that otherwise would have been available to those donors.
Restoring the trust of KU ticket buyers will be no easy task. Many donors already have questioned the integrity of KU’s money-driven points system that was supposed to bring new fairness to the allocation of season tickets. Those doubts are bound to increase. The fact that tickets, especially to men’s basketball games, are such a valuable commodity creates additional incentive for anyone who wants to subvert the system for personal gain.
Jack Focht, who represented the law firm that conducted the investigation, pointed out during the press conference that the athletic department employees implicated in this situation worked together in a way that fooled some of the nation’s best auditors and would have been hard for Perkins or others in his department to detect. Gray-Little also gave no indication at the press conference that she had lost confidence in Perkins’ ability to run the department and address the current situation. We hope that confidence is justified.
If they are lucky, KU and its athletic department now can start to put this mess behind them, but there are no guarantees. The internal investigation reports will be turned over the law enforcement agencies that will be able to subpoena records and demand testimony that Focht’s law firm couldn’t access. It will be interesting to see what additional information comes to light.
On Wednesday, Perkins said the ticket scandal caught him by surprise. Ticket sales and department revenue were up, he said, and things were going so well that he and his staff “maybe got a little complacent.”
Well, there’s certainly no room for complacency now. The spotlight shining on KU and Kansas Athletics is revealing some serious flaws that will take time to correct.