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Audit questions Colorado spending, advances, camps

12/12/2005 - Colorado Buffaloes

DENVER -- In another unseemly glimpse inside the Colorado
football program, state auditors said Monday that former coach Gary
Barnett's offseason camp was such a bookkeeping mess they couldn't
be sure whether more than $400,000 worth of transactions broke any
rules.

The long-awaited audit detailed three years of sloppy accounting
within Barnett's camp and cited repeated examples of financial
carelessness inside the athletic department.

Missing paperwork, a lack of spending oversight, even a failure
to check the criminal backgrounds of staff working with young
campers -- all of it points to a need for big changes, the auditors
said in a 72-page report.

"The worst audit I've seen in my 11 years in office," state
Sen. Ron Tupa of Boulder said near the end of the two-hour hearing.

Indeed, there were many ugly aspects to the audit, but the
report and the reactions to it illustrated the large disconnect
between the political climate surrounding CU athletics and the
realities of running a big-time football program with an annual
budget of more than $36 million.

"I don't know that Colorado is any worse than anywhere else,
but it's just that it's gotten a lot of visibility," said John
DiBiaggio, a former university president who was hired by CU to
look into its problems.

University President Hank Brown, who last week announced an
overhaul of the school's accounting and purchasing practices,
agreed to each of the 15 recommendations for change proposed by the
Legislative Audit Committee.

But Brown called the audit "a lot of smoke" without a smoking
gun.

"Sadly, we're probably better than most public entities, but
clearly still not up to par," said Brown, a former U.S. senator
who has an accounting degree and once ran the multimillion-dollar
Daniels Fund.

Barnett stepped down under pressure last week after his team
lost three straight games by a combined score of 130-22. Athletic
director Mike Bohn reiterated that Barnett's departure was based on
a combination of factors, but in no way timed with the release of
the audit.

Barnett's attorney, John Rodman, did not return messages seeking
comment.

Like almost all coaches at big football schools, Barnett ran a
football camp, earnings from which helped augment his salary and
those of his assistants. But it came under scrutiny -- as did most
aspects of Barnett's football program -- in the wake of the
recruiting scandal that enveloped the university over the past few
years.

The coach, who received a $3 million settlement when he stepped
down last week, was not present at the hearing. His name was never
mentioned in the report, nor brought up by any of the auditors or
university administrators who testified.

But it was his business, High Hopes 95 Inc., that got the most
attention.

Auditors said they were unable to determine where $328,000 paid
to Barnett's camps came from -- 44 percent of the total income
between 2002 and 2004. Nearly $103,000 in expenses from that period
lacked sufficient paperwork, the audit said.

CU took over administration of the camp last summer, though the
audit revealed that not all the issues had been resolved under the
school's purview.

Still searching for a new coach, Bohn said he didn't believe
CU's oversight of the football camp, along with the school's new,
more stringent accounting practices, will deter anyone from coming
to CU. The new accounting practices will make almost every aspect
of running the football program more difficult -- from paying for
road trips and trips to bowl games to organizing preseason and
end-of-season banquets.

"I'm confident we'll find a professional who understands the
importance of proper documentation and teamwork," Bohn said.

As part of its response to the audit, CU said it had reported
two secondary rules violations to the NCAA. One involved $30,000
Barnett spent from camp funds to buy gift certificates for camp
staff. Another involved staffers for Barnett underreporting the
amount of money they expected to make from the upcoming year's
camps.

NCAA spokesman Kent Barrett said the NCAA wouldn't investigate
any of the audit findings unless Colorado reported them as
violations.

In another section of the audit, more than $300,000 in athletic
department expenses were questioned, dating to 2002. Auditors said
they found an "overall lack of controls over spending and cash
advances that have led to poorly documented, questionable and
unallowable expenses."

The audit committee will keep tabs on CU's progress, though
there isn't much legal recourse against the school.

Most of Barnett's problems are related to his company, and he'll
have to answer to the IRS for that. The school reported no tax
issues as a result of this audit and an IRS official said he
couldn't comment.

Kristen Hubbell, spokeswoman for Attorney General John Suthers,
said the audit contained little new information. The committee,
meanwhile, must wait to see if CU cleans up its act, as promised.

"I'm more than appalled," Rep. Fran Coleman said. "I don't
care if they make money. They just have to report it. It's an
example of everything that's wrong with the commercialization of
college sports."