Kansas changing ticket practices

Updated: June 24, 2010, 6:34 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

TOPEKA, Kan. -- The University of Kansas is hiring a new auditor and considering changes in the athletic department's board of directors in response to a recently uncovered ticket-scalping scam, the school's top administrator said Thursday.

Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little also told the state Board of Regents that the university is improving its pre-sale and post-sale accounting for sports tickets and has separated athletics department duties to divide control over tickets. She said the university may sue five former employees and a contractor allegedly involved in the scheme, which may have cost the university $3 million in ticket revenues.

Gray-Little promised that the university will make the "points" system determining which donors get the best football and men's basketball seats more transparent to the public. She also said she will not abolish the system, which was established by athletic director Lew Perkins and has criticized by some longtime fans and donors.

According to an independent investigation, five Kansas athletic department employees and one part-time consultant conspired to acquire basketball tickets, sell them and pocket the money. The scam, which also included a lesser number of football tickets and parking permits, involved nearly 20,000 tickets from 2005 through 2010.

The FBI is investigating, and Perkins testified earlier this month before a federal grand jury.

Perkins has not been implicated in the scandal. But some of the employees allegedly involved in the scheme were his top lieutenants, and his oversight of the department has been questioned.

The regents, who oversee the state's higher education system, had directed Gray-Little to report on the university's response to the scandal. Board members said they were pleased with her handling of athletic department issues, but also told her to report back in September on the university's progress.

"I think we're headed in the right direction," board member Ed McKechnie, a rail company executive and former Kansas state legislator, told Gray-Little. "The cultural issues are being addressed."

Gray-Little said it will take the university at least a few weeks to hire the new auditor, who will report to the university administration and not the athletic department. She said most other changes, overseen by a group she'll appoint, should be in place within three months.

"I think we will have addressed the specific steps within in the next couple of months. We will have changed some policies. We would have separated duties. We will have made some hires. The employees who were directly involved are no longer there," she said. "If it is the case that there is a cultural issue, that will change over time, and I can't tell you how long that will take."

Perkins also faces a state ethics commission review for accepting thousands of dollars worth of exercise equipment in 2005 from a medical supply company. A separate university investigation found no evidence to back up a former employee's claim that Perkins took the gift in exchange for preferential treatment on tickets. Perkins paid $5,000 for use of the equipment earlier this year, after it had been removed from his home.

Perkins has announced that he'll retire in September 2011. As for the points system he devised, Gray-Little said she's comfortable with having one.

"I think most athletic programs have a points system. I think it's reasonable, given that the resources that are needed will usually exceed the face value of the tickets," she said. "It's here to stay."

As for the points system he devised, Gray-Little said she's comfortable with having one.

"I think most athletic programs have a points system. I think it's reasonable, given that the resources that are needed will usually exceed the face value of the tickets," she said. "It's here to stay."

McKechnie told Gray-Little that he hopes the university considers adding members to its athletic department board of directors from outside the university. Gray-Little said discussions about the athletic department's board -- and the boards of other groups affiliated with the university -- have been under way since the spring.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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