Kansas City, Mo — Athletic departments around the country are taking a close look at their ticket policies now that Kansas University admitted losing at least $1 million in an alleged scalping scheme run by a handful of school employees.
"We believe we have strong safeguards and systems in place," Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon said Thursday. "But we certainly will review the situation in Kansas to see if we can learn anything."
According to an independent investigation commissioned by KU, five Kansas athletic department employees and one consultant conspired to acquire tickets to always sold-out Allen Fieldhouse, sold them and pocketed the money. Counting a lesser number of football tickets and parking permits, the scam involved nearly 20,000 tickets altogether from 2005-2010.
The now-former employees, including some top lieutenants of embattled athletic director Lew Perkins, may face charges since Kansas officials have sent the details of their investigation to federal authorities. The investigation estimated the loss to Kansas at slightly more than $1 million. But that figure, once the full scale of the scam is uncovered, could triple.
Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith told The Associated Press said ticket procedures were discussed Wednesday as the Kansas allegations were hitting the headlines and the group said: "Let's go back through, let's just make sure we don't have anything that we think is an issue.
"We went through an audit last year and we'll go through another one next year," he said. "We're pretty confident with our audits. But one of the challenges we have is that once tickets leave us, we don't know where they go."
Oklahoma, which once employed some of the dismissed Kansas officials, also said it was reviewing ticket procedures. The University of Washington just finished doing so.
"Ironically, I had a meeting the day before yesterday with the internal auditors about our program and how we do things," Washington athletic director Scott Woodward said. "We have great internal auditing and good checks and balances. But as you can see, the best-laid plans can go (awry) when you have severe criminal activity involved."
Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds said he was confident the Longhorns had nothing to fear.
"For decades, Texas has had internal controls in place in our athletics ticket operation and in our Longhorn Foundation fundraising," he said. "And in my years as men's athletics director here, we have invited auditors to regularly review our ticket sales and distribution systems and policies. We also have two full-time risk managers on staff who continuously review how we do business."
Still, Perkins said he's heard from "a multitude of sports organizations."
"This is not just at the college level," he said. "Others have called me and said, 'What should we look for?' When this is over, we're going to be better and stronger and we're going to be able to help other people."
The revelations triggered a stern response on Thursday from Gov. Mark Parkinson.
"The news about criminal activity within KU athletics is disturbing and absolutely unacceptable," Parkinson said. "I am glad to see chancellor (Bernadette) Gray-Little and the Board of Regents taking this egregious matter seriously. I know they will hold people accountable and ensure that nothing like this ever happens again."
Meanwhile, Kansas fans were lining up on either side of another issue — should Perkins be fired?
Since he arrived in 2003, the Jayhawks have enjoyed their greatest growth and on-field success. A 40-year veteran of athletic administration, he was called he top executive in college sports by Time magazine just two years ago.
"I'm not quitting," Perkins said. "I don't see myself going anywhere. I have a job ahead of me. It's my job to clean it up and get us back into the right frame of mind and move forward. There's always doubters out there and I respect their feelings."
The betrayal by his employees, Perkins said, was "like somebody took a hot poker and stuck it in my heart."
Perkins angered many fans by putting in a points system where tickets and seating are basically allotted on the size of donations. The controversial system raised millions, but after this week some donors suspect they did not get proper credit for their contributions.
"I don't see how a person making $900,000 a year and getting obscene bonuses could not know what was going on right there in his own department," said Fred LaMar, a retired business executive in Olathe, and longtime donor.
But coming to Perkins' defense was the most influential booster in the Jayhawk family, California developer Dana Anderson. A 1959 Kansas graduate in whose honor the new football facility is named, Anderson does not want Perkins to go. And his opinion may count. When Kansas played UCLA last year, the chancellor stayed at his home and sat with him at the game.
"Lew has changed the economics of KU's athletic department dramatically. He did some things that everybody else had avoided," Anderson said.
Anderson acknowledged receiving calls from angry alumni who want him to call for Perkins to go.
"A lot of people have bruised feelings and questions have been raised," he said. "But ... I do not think this is grounds for termination."