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Archive for Thursday, November 18, 2010

Federal charges filed against five former Kansas Athletics officials accused of stealing tickets from KU

KU’s current head of ticket operations resigns just hours before her name is listed in indictment

From left, Ben Kirtland, Kassie Liebsch, Rodney Jones and Charlette Blubaugh have been charged with stealing tickets from KU. Also charged was Tom Blubaugh, who is not pictured.

From left, Ben Kirtland, Kassie Liebsch, Rodney Jones and Charlette Blubaugh have been charged with stealing tickets from KU. Also charged was Tom Blubaugh, who is not pictured.

November 18, 2010, 10:39 a.m. Updated November 18, 2010, 5:47 p.m.

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KU Ticket Investigation

Four former Kansas Athletics employees and one current employee have been federally charged and two former employees have pleaded guilty in a scandal involving millions of dollars of stolen tickets from the university.

KU ticket scandal

David Ray Freeman, a Lawrence builder, pleaded guilty Tuesday to conspiring to commit bank fraud in connection with an anticipated building boom in Junction City.

Charlette Blubaugh

Charlette Blubaugh

Ben Kirtland

Ben Kirtland

Rodney Jones

Rodney Jones

Kassie Liebsch

Kassie Liebsch

The director of ticket operations resigned Thursday morning from Kansas Athletics Inc. as a grand jury indicted her and four others for their roles in an alleged ticket scam prosecutors say cost the department up to $5 million during the past five years.

Kassie Liebsch is among those facing a charge of conspiracy after a grand jury in Topeka reviewed evidence from an ongoing federal probe addressing the diversion, theft and resale of tickets the university already has said involved more than 17,000 tickets for men’s basketball and more than 2,000 tickets for football.

The other four people charged — Charlette Blubaugh, former director of ticket operations, and her husband Tom Blubaugh, a former paid consultant; along with Rodney Jones, a former assistant athletics director in charge of the Williams Educational Fund, and his boss Ben Kirtland, former associate athletics director for development — already had been implicated in an earlier investigation led by Kansas University. The department severed its arrangement with Tom Blubaugh, and the others all resigned.

Liebsch, however, had not been identified in the KU report as being involved in the alleged scheme. In fact, she had been elevated to run ticket operations, and her efforts had been cited as helping identify others’ involvement.

But KU’s hired investigators didn’t have the ability to issue subpoenas or otherwise compel people to talk — or to prompt anyone to disclose information about what actually had been happening as federal authorities looked into allegations of people diverting tickets, channeling them to brokers and pocketing proceeds, said Jack Focht, the lead investigator for a Wichita law firm hired to conduct KU’s review.

“Her resignation speaks loudly about her involvement,” Focht said Thursday.

Focht said that during his investigation, he’d asked Liebsch and her counsel whether Liebsch had done “anything that would be indictable.”

The answer, Focht said, was no. No other principals or attorneys interviewed at that time had made such a similar claim.

“It disappoints me that she was still there if she knew, and her attorney knew, that she would be indicted,” Focht said, noting that an indictment is not a conviction. “I am surprised (about her indictment), based on what was said to us. We have to assume people tell us the truth, until we learn otherwise.”

Liebsch and her fellow co-defendants are scheduled to make their first appearances at 1:30 p.m. Dec. 8 in U.S. District Court in Wichita, where they will be required to enter pleas of not guilty. If convicted, each would face up to 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million.

Seeking monetary return

Prosecutors also are seeking to recover $3 million to $5 million from the defendants, the amount for which the five are “jointly and severally liable,” according to the indictment.

“That is the amount of money we believe should be returned,” said Lanny Welch, chief of the criminal division for the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Individual attorneys for each of the five defendants declined to comment on the indictment, other than to say they were studying it.

But John Rapp, an attorney for Charlette Blubaugh, did take issue with prosecutors’ description of the money involved.

“I think the amount of loss that this claims is high — erroneously high,” Rapp said. “It’s too high.”

The indictment outlines a “scheme” and “conspiracy” that started in 2005, when Charlette Blubaugh is alleged to have started taking tickets and distributing them to the others for sale to third parties — through individuals and ticket brokers — in violation of university policies.

The indictment alleges that the individuals entered false information into a computer system designed to prevent ticket theft, paid kickbacks to third parties not connected with the ticket office, had checks written to third parties and had checks written by ticket brokers to third parties.

The indictment also alleges that they concealed the receipt of their outside income on reports required by NCAA rules.

Such activities are in the past, KU officials said Thursday, as they sought to assure ticket buyers that they could continue to rely on systems now in place to ensure proper sales and distribution of tickets.

‘Unwavering’ commitment

“With a federal investigation ongoing, we have known that indictments, unfortunately, were a possibility,” KU Interim Athletics Director Sean Lester said in a statement. “We strongly support the U.S. Attorney’s search for the truth in this matter.

“Over the past six months we have implemented measures to strengthen our ticket protocols and make the entire process more transparent. I think our donors appreciate the enhancements we have made in transparency, accountability and the fact that so many of their seating locations have improved. We are unwavering in our continued commitment to our student-athletes, donors and fans.”

KU has hired an internal auditor, Brenda Muirhead, whose $58,000-a-year salary is paid by Kansas Athletics. Muirhead is part of KU’s Department of Internal Audit, which reports to Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little.

“Since we first became aware of the diversion of tickets, Kansas Athletics and the University of Kansas have taken a number of actions to enhance internal controls and accountability,” said Jack Martin, a KU spokesman, in a statement. “A forensic auditor was hired, new controls and restrictions placed on access to the ticketing system, and new transparency regarding seating was provided, among other actions.”

Athletics Director Lew Perkins resigned in September. A search for his replacement is ongoing, with Gray-Little expecting to have a new athletics director chosen by the end of the spring semester.

Now serving as interim director of ticket operations is Nicole Corcoran, who has been Liebsch’s boss as the department’s associate athletics director for administration. She also is chief of staff to Lester, after having been hired into the role by Perkins.

Two other former Kansas Athletics employees, Brandon Simmons and Jason Jeffries, already have pleaded guilty to offenses associated with the alleged tickets scheme and are awaiting sentencing in federal court. They are not named in the indictment.

Jim Cross, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, declined to speculate on the future of the federal investigation, or where it might lead.

“I can’t say who will or won’t get indicted in the future,” Cross said.

Interactive Timeline

KU ticket scandal timeline

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Comments

Richard Heckler 3 years, 5 months ago

These people are likely not the masterminds behind this corruption. Maybe these people are expected to take the fall for more important names? I have some doubts that the one builder was the mastermind. Seems like it would require at least one or two influential insiders to get this scam off the ground.

Could the masterminds be turning states evidence and maybe being granted immunity from prosecution? hmmmmmmmmmm

Lew resigned rather abruptly. How could Lew not know something was going on? Anything is possible I suppose.

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thesloss 3 years, 5 months ago

I remember walking into Allen Fieldhouse ... points in hand ... ready to see what seat assignments ... OMG ... are you kidding me ... going from front row balcony behind visitor's bench to ... very top row tucked in end zone corner ... just did not make sense. NOW , it is very clear ... I bet others went through same disbelief!

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4everahawk 3 years, 5 months ago

Blindrabbit: Did Charlette work for Lew at UConn?

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dick_hawk 3 years, 5 months ago

The whole thing stinks from stem to stern. Big Lew must be an idiot to not know about this, of course he knew something was wrong. He played stupid.

By the way, that $58,000/year audit job is form over function. One more layer of do nothing when common sense is the real answer. Talk about covering your a**.

I hope Lew gets out of town.

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blindrabbit 3 years, 5 months ago

my guess, more indictments will follow once the Basketball season is over, Pump it up.

Also, the scum seems to come to the surface wherever Ms. Blubaugh and her hubby have been; issues with Lew at Connecticut, followed at University of Oklahoma, KU and then an attempt at Central Oklahoma University. Bet the charges will grow considerably if those haunts are investigated. Glad KU was somewhat helpful in exposing them before they screwed "Central".

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HogJiver 3 years, 5 months ago

Did someone mention a red Corvette. If Lew didn't know about the ticket scam, that is worse than knowing. What the hell was he doing, having a family reunion in the field house.

Clean House

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ralphralph 3 years, 5 months ago

Jack Focht's Rule #1 for investigating crooks:

"We have to assume people tell us the truth, until we learn otherwise."

choke Does the KU Bookstore carry "Pollyanna"?

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yankeevet 3 years, 5 months ago

Wow; what a mess; and all these CROOKS working at the University of Kansas............

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4everahawk 3 years, 5 months ago

About that KU counsel you mention......I said before and I reiterate.......wife of KU counsel is the athletics department inhouse counsel.......feel that stinks a bit. Just speculating that in a situation like that, most anything could be going on. He is there to represent the university, she is there to represent athletics....all this mess has proven that those are 2 different ballgames, however, he might assist her however he can to protect her job which might influence him to do things not necessarily beneficial to the university.

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ralphralph 3 years, 5 months ago

Oops! Jack & Company not only missed one, but actually put her in charge!

Will KU's "hired investigators" be returning money too?

What a botched job. Want to be shocked, Jack? .... look in the mirror.

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Ricky_Vaughn 3 years, 5 months ago

They probably kept Cassie around to cover-up whatever she could before the indictments came down.

I've heard there are a lot of season ticket holders who "donated" (payed) the same amount as last year or less for their tickets and got MUCH better seats this season. Just goes to show how big this thing was and how many people were in on it.

How many "consumers" are out there keeping quiet and defending " 'Ol KU"? 1,000? I'm talking about the people who were buying these tickets and attending the games. I'm sure some of them didn't know what was going on, but I'm pretty sure some of them did...

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NOTcrusher 3 years, 5 months ago

Kassie Liebsch said "no," so Jack Focht believed her. And so she got a promotion? Why didn't she tell Lew about the bag of cash immediately? Perhaps there was more than $3,400 in her bag before she turned it in. And the gall of Charlette Blubaugh, creating a phony account named "Harridan Consulting." Did she think that Lew Perkins wouldn't know what a "harridan" is? Wait, he wouldn't! As a Washburn grad, I'm able to step back and look at this from a perspective that KU fans and KSU fans can't. Yes, your b-ballers beat up my b-ballers every year or two, but so do most Division I teams. I don't take it personally. What kind of lawyering is going on here? There's a general counsel at KU. Yet they hire a firm to "represent" them, and the report is made public? I thought lawyers were supposed to provide secret advice to their clients so their clients can make informed decisions. Sort of like a doctor telling you your diagnosis so you can decide what treatment you want. What sort of secrets did the lawyer keep with KU? And, when one of the principals starts to confess, KU counsel told him to shut up and get a lawyer! The guy was not in custody. I learned in an intro to law class that the Miranda rights only apply if someone is in custody. If he wants to spill his guts to KU, what kind of lawyer would tell him to shut up? The report is garbage. Some of it is broadcasting what the IRS was looking into. Who cares what they were looking into? KU had way too many associate and assistant athletic directors. And, they had a guy in charge who didn't know Shinola from a hole in the ground. I wonder if OU is looking at their Blubaugh.

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Steve Miller 3 years, 5 months ago

The ones that are pictured are just the tip of the ice berg, "Lambs" sent to slaughter...

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thesloss 3 years, 5 months ago

How many piles of "goo" are still scattered across (what used to be) Lew's Kingdom?

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Kontum1972 3 years, 5 months ago

mb they will be cell mates....and they can rock chalk in the can

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hail2oldku 3 years, 5 months ago

I get a kick out of all you Lew haters. Should he have known, yes it was his job to know what was going on in the ticket department. However, it was going on before Lew, and even before the crushed dove. This stink all started under the precious Dr. Bob.

You lawyers in the group will have to tell me if I am right about this, but I believe the statute of limitations for these charges only goes back 5 years which is why you have the indictments that you have and why blindrabbit's former basketball player/father of basketball player isn't being charged.

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BruceWayne 3 years, 5 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

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rabbit 3 years, 5 months ago

XO always with hand in the cookie jar

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TopJayhawk 3 years, 5 months ago

Lew knew before he flew with goo on his shoe. Now there's a headline. They broke a near sacred trust. Burn baby burn.

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Richard Heckler 3 years, 5 months ago

Our basketball and football coaches and Lew somehow become so involved with local builders why is that?

Is it because some have personal jet planes which make them fast movers and shakers?

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Richard Heckler 3 years, 5 months ago

How many knew they were purchasing "hot" tickets and said nothing?

How many were purchasing "hot" tickets from these individuals then selling off to their friends and acquaintances? = just as guilty!

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TopJayhawk 3 years, 5 months ago

I hope all of them rot in jail.
The money I have spent, all of these scumballs really need to suffer for this.
I think Lew will be indicted before all is said and done.
We need KU people to run this stuff. Not because they are inherantly more honest, but maybe just might care a little more about the institution.
Lew has goo all over his $5,000 suit. What a scum bag. I hope he goes to jail too.

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akhmatova 3 years, 5 months ago

Just want to give some praise to the LJWorld on how well-done this story is.

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Thunderdome 3 years, 5 months ago

Sounds like the Athletic Department has been outsourcing their accounting to the KU Business School.

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onceajhawkalwaysajhawk 3 years, 5 months ago

Where is Roger Morningstar in all this madness??

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greenworld 3 years, 5 months ago

im sure Rodney didnt do anything wrong. He is to much of a straight player.lol

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Alceste 3 years, 5 months ago

Kassie Liebsch is no "innocent darling" caught up in a web of deceit: Do some research; learn who she knew in order to get her job....and then went along with the crowd for easy money to buy those ever so special froo froo's. The contempt that the gentry have for the regular folk is revealed is these arrogant transgressions demonstrating greed, a sense of entitlement and the good ole boy "wink."

Same difference (that's Kansas speak for "same thing")...for Charlette Blubaugh, Ben Kirtland, Rodney Jones, et. all. Let's see if good ole Lew Perkins stands up for them. My money says his exericise equipment is for than enough to watch these people float down the river.......

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MustHaveSalt 3 years, 5 months ago

Thanks, Lew, for your wonderful legacy of making a fine university into a banana republic. No offense intended to any banana republics out there.

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hbjayhawk 3 years, 5 months ago

Funny how I purchased the low tier seats for the LV Invite and I was sent "top tier" seats according to the chart. I saved over $150 as a result and will be rubbing peens with the Williams Fund suckers while spilling beer, cursing the refs, and stepping all over their fake KC Louis Vutton Pony Hair checkered loafers and fake Gucci handbags their wives hold. Thanks Ms. Liebsch for hooking me up! Glad I have my tickets in hand because they can be sold on stubhub for twice three times what I paid! I may downgrade and sit with students.

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Bob Forer 3 years, 5 months ago

This isn't State kiddie court. The Feds treat white collar crime quite seriously. If convicted, i doubt any of the five will avoid prison time. My guess--one to three years, possibly more, given the amount involved.

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jstthefacts 3 years, 5 months ago

so thats why I had to watch the games on tv. Glad I wasn't on the "preferred list" to get a ticket now. Time for you all watch the games on tv (that is of coarse, if they allow that in jail) You folks disgust me to put it politely on this polite forum. Good luck in the county condo.

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AS 3 years, 5 months ago

@ (srj) there are people at Douglas County Jail right now that are innocent until proven guilty. The only is difference that the ones that are in jail right now have to prove that they are innocent because they are poor!

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smitty 3 years, 5 months ago

By Andy Hyland — Lawrence Journal-World August 27, 2010,

In the newly created position, Olin will evaluate a wide range of Kansas Athletics’ internal controls, policies and procedures; identify weaknesses that may put Kansas Athletics at a security, regulatory or reputational risk; and suggest improvements where appropriate.

“Ron will advise Kansas Athletics in security-related risk management and security for event-management activities,” athletics director Lew Perkins said in a release. “He will also advise us in our efforts to ensure the highest level of safety for student-athletes, staff and personnel.”....

.....Olin served as Lawrence’s police chief from December 1987 until his retirement this summer. He will make $115,000 a year in his new position, just slightly more than his city salary of $112,863.....

Today we are served up this......

....KU has hired an internal auditor, Brenda Muirhead, whose $58,000-a-year salary is paid by Kansas Athletics. Muirhead is part of KU’s Department of Internal Audit, which reports to Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little.

“Since we first became aware of the diversion of tickets, Kansas Athletics and the University of Kansas have taken a number of actions to enhance internal controls and accountability,” said Jack Martin, a KU spokesman, in a statement. “A forensic auditor was hired, new controls and restrictions placed on access to the ticketing system, and new transparency regarding seating was provided, among other actions.”...

What is it about Olin and auditors?

Olin is paid 115K while the auditor is paid 58K

When the auditor shows up, he disappears.

Seems rather an odd ball scammy kinda thing that this high dollar security fix it man is not mentioned.

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Steve Jacob 3 years, 5 months ago

Innocent until proven guilty, but the arrest of Kassie Liebsch after KU cleared her is the biggest embarrassment of them all.

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LeBo 3 years, 5 months ago

Please award the Chancellor with a honorary degree in criminal justice.

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Scott Kaiser 3 years, 5 months ago

Hmmmm... I say sic the IRS on 'em. The IRS fixed Capone's wagon!

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Agnostick 3 years, 5 months ago

The next opera in the cycle, "Prince of Fools," will be staged down the road in Manhattan, sometime next year...

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BobtheBuilder 3 years, 5 months ago

Lew knew about all of this. He was called by a KC Star reporter in 2006 about this and the son in law called the Star reporter and told him to quit nosing around. Ask a certain travel agent here in town how much Perkins asked him for as a kickback to keep the KU travel business. Also, lets ask Lew to provide documentation on what account he took the money out of to buy his red Corvette. Oh, wait, maybe the car was bought for him by Adidas. I'm glad he's moving to South Carolina

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edjayhawk 3 years, 5 months ago

Was winning the Orange Bowl worth all of this? HELL YES!!!

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Richard Payton 3 years, 5 months ago

When does the ticket broker's names get mentioned?

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wprop 3 years, 5 months ago

why do "outstanding" staff leave KU? Perkins hires his son-in-law , age 28 at $128,000 to work in ticket office....then gets him a job at Tulane...... then collects millions in Quiet money why would an "outstanding" staff member leave?...............nepitism. cronies, backdoor deals...hire police who "investigate" blackmail charges as "cheif" of security......pitiful

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gphawk89 3 years, 5 months ago

"university's own efforts to uncover wrongdoing had not implicated Liebsch" ...which begs the question: who else was NOT implicated? More to come...

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rhaddad5 3 years, 5 months ago

I appreciate the coverage this paper provides.

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Alceste 3 years, 5 months ago

"Let them dangle...."....quoting Elvis Costello......let us hope Justice is served; none of them get a "break"; and are all made "examples of".....it's what would happen to the common Jane or Joe is these here parts.......

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KEITHMILES05 3 years, 5 months ago

I doubt there will be more people named that were involved as they have had months to investigate. Very doubtful there will be new information coming out.

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AS 3 years, 5 months ago

Just wondering if this would be considered as White Collar Crimes or just a black man crime?

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Keith 3 years, 5 months ago

"Until Thursday morning, Liebsch had the university's director of ticket operations."

She may have, but I think you need a 'been' in between had and the to make that sentence mean what you want it to mean.

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AS 3 years, 5 months ago

I tell you David Freeman really knows how to lay the pipe when he gets started!!!

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greenworld 3 years, 5 months ago

Pretty sad but the ticket brokers should be held accountable also as they are the one's that also made out like bandits. Dont tell me there werent calls made to purchase 100's of tickets for low amounts and the brokers didnt turn around and sell them for 5-10 times the amount. How did Lew not know any of this stuff was going on , on his watch but everyone else did. Sometimes things just dont make sense but they really do. Lew is gone also, now things are starting to add up.

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yankeevet 3 years, 5 months ago

Yes; there is something fishy going on here.......................

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blindrabbit 3 years, 5 months ago

rtpayton: Neither of those; getting close though!

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Haiku_Cuckoo 3 years, 5 months ago

Lew wasn't involved. If he was, it would have come out a long time ago.

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Richard Payton 3 years, 5 months ago

Remember Mitch Barnhart has a friend sitting on the current search committee for the next KUAD. Wondering what Mitch Barnhart and Bubba Cunningham would do to clean up the stink coming from KU athletic department if named the new KUAD? Blind Rabbit whom on Folks Road are you suggesting Compton or Self? Both, neither or someone else!

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Fred Whitehead Jr. 3 years, 5 months ago

Who is paying that kind of money for football these days? Must be someone from Missouri.

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Uhjh 3 years, 5 months ago

There's gambling at Ricks! What a mess and what is in place now to stop the crap.

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Number_1_Grandma 3 years, 5 months ago

I can see the headlines now....."Lew knew before he flew......"

LJW, I give you permission to use this if and when Lew is indicted.

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The_Original_Bob 3 years, 5 months ago

"So you think Lew knew about this somehow?"

It was his job to know about it. Which, I know, isn't a crime, but to hell with Lew Perkins.

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4everahawk 3 years, 5 months ago

I posted long ago that I was shocked that Kassie was promoted to director of ticket office when all the documentation provided detailed that she knew at least some of what was happening. This was just another of Lew's poor decisions. Don't believe she was 'big' enough to orchestrate any of the theft, but still knew it was going on. Wouldn't be surprised if other names come up as this goes on.

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mysterion 3 years, 5 months ago

I wonder how many other KU folks are suddenly nervous hearing this news.

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Gary Denning 3 years, 5 months ago

I'm wondering how long it will be before one of the little fish tries to bargain for a lesser sentence by naming the biggest fish?

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ToriFreak13 3 years, 5 months ago

Poor Kassie getting bullied by all those suits. Kassie needs to lawyer up and save herself!!! Let those "grown men" get the punishment they deserve!

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The_Original_Bob 3 years, 5 months ago

Damn it. I was really wanting Lew Perkins to be in on this.

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irvan moore 3 years, 5 months ago

do i understand this correctly that we hired/promoted the fox to guard the henhouse?

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KCsFinest5 3 years, 5 months ago

Glad this is happening. For the amount of money that the KU alumni pour into the Williams Fund, it is only fair that the people that have been cheating those donors out of their deserved tickets be held responsible.

That said, I don't blame them for their actions. There weren't enough checks and balances in the system, and they exploited it. Right or wrong, they probably made a good chunk of money out of this. This isn't the first time something like this has happened and it won't be the last. Hopefully this strengthens the athletic department moving forward.

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blindrabbit 3 years, 5 months ago

rockchalk1977: No not obsessed with that particular neighborhood; just a few of the folks that live adjacent to it. If you want the specifics, put on your thinking cap. Rockchalk 1962.

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oneeye_wilbur 3 years, 5 months ago

Chancellor BG was well briefed long before she arrived in Lawrence. Do not ever forget that she hired Moeser who was from KU and an organ professor at that to head up NC.

So she had lots of time to consider the job at KU and likewise had many conversations about the local politics. And being a clinical pyschologist she knew exactly what kinds of "patients" she would be dealing with.

3to5 million dollars worth of tickets. Nowdays, considering the winning games of KU football, those tickets might be worth $30 to $50 thousand.

Better then than now :).

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BrianM10 3 years, 5 months ago

Hahaha...that's not a picture of Kassie.

That's what you get for pirating pics off of Facebook.

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smitty 3 years, 5 months ago

The house of cards are all falling due to a what a local contractor exposed through a federal plea deal on a bribe. Thought he was getting off for the information.

I love it. Keep it coming.

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PugnaciousJayhawk 3 years, 5 months ago

1 new name? Interesting. I wonder if anymore will come out of the woodwork.

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smitty 3 years, 5 months ago

Wow, the KUAD needs Olin's CYA methods to keep them out of the lime light.

Where's Lew?

Our new chancellor is sure getting an education from the good ole boys of Kansas.

I want to be the first to apologize to BG for our local culture. So sorry.

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snakes 3 years, 5 months ago

What a bunch of diarrhea dicks

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ModerateOne 3 years, 5 months ago

LJW -- surely the defendants are not seeking a monetary judgment. Please fix last paragraph.

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blindrabbit 3 years, 5 months ago

No former BB players and/or Folks Roaders; maybe yet to come!!

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consumer1 3 years, 5 months ago

See Ya!! wouldn't want to be ya!!

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Flap Doodle 3 years, 5 months ago

I'm shocked I tell you, shocked.

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