Kansas says $1M tickets sold ‘inappropriately’

There was no reason to suspect anything was wrong at the

University of Kansas. The teams were winning, the stands were full,

the donor money continued to roll in.

But behind the scenes, working side-by-side within the athletics

department, a group of six employees had allegedly hatched a

lucrative ticket-scalping scheme.

Details of the scam were outlined Wednesday in a report that

found the “inappropriate” sale of at least $1 million worth of

basketball and football tickets to brokers over the past five

years, leaving school officials embarrassed.

“Being on the athletics side, the simplest way to try to

describe this is that there was a curveball thrown and I missed

it,” athletic director Lew Perkins said. “I missed that

curveball. It got by. We had the wrong people hired for the wrong

the jobs.”

The school said the findings, contained in a report done by a

Wichita law firm, have been sent to federal investigators already

looking into allegations of wrongdoing in the athletics department

and the school’s athletics fundraising arm, the Williams

Educational Fund.

The investigation said five Kansas athletics staffers and a

consultant – all of them no longer employed by the school – sold or

used at least 17,609 men’s basketball tickets, 2,181 football

tickets and a number of parking passes and other passes for

personal purposes. The report showed over $887,000 in basketball

tickets and more than $122,000 worth of football tickets were

involved.

And it may be higher than that.

Because investigators did not have subpoena power, the amounts

could climb as high as $3 million once the federal probe is

complete, according to Jack Focht, attorney for Foulston Siefkin.

He said it’s also possible the scam could have started much earlier

since accurate records were only kept back to 2005.

Investigators were unable to determine what portion of the $1

million in tickets were sold directly to ticket brokers.

Distribution of the tickets were disguised by department employees

as complimentary and inventory tickets, or other categories with

limited accountability.

School officials were grim-faced as they discussed the former

employees, described in the report as “ice cream store” workers

who seemed to “feel free to sample the wares without paying for

them.”

“We sincerely regret the stress this has caused our loyal fans

and any lose of confidence that may have resulted,” chancellor

Bernadette Gray-Little said. “I want to reassure all Jayhawks that

the University of Kansas will be taking decisive actions to restore

trust.”

The investigation said five Kansas athletics staffers and a

consultant – all of them no longer employed by the school – sold or

used at least 17,609 men’s basketball tickets, 2,181 football

tickets and a number of parking passes and other passes for

personal purposes. There was no evidence any money was stolen or

diverted from the Williams Fund, which raises about $25 million a

year from more than 5,000 boosters.

The investigation found no wrongdoing in the points system used

to award season tickets and said the actual effect on tickets

actually awarded was minimal. The university said it will take

immediate measures to prevent wrongdoing within the ticket

office.

The investigation began in March amid reports that tickets to

Jayhawk basketball games – both at Allen Fieldhouse and in NCAA

tournaments – were being scalped by officials within the athletic

department.

The 29-page report, backed up by 240 pages of exhibits,

suggested former Williams Fund director Rodney Jones, who helped

determine who got premium seats at Kansas home games, was a key

player in the scandal.

Jones joined the ticket office in 1997 and became its director

six years later. In 2004 he was appointed to a $70,000-a-year job

running the Williams Fund. When he left in March, Jones was making

$135,000 a year and $8,000 in bonuses.

Ben Kirtland, the school’s associate athletic director of

development, told investigators that Jones “was always on the

lookout for development tickets.” But the report said Kirtland was

also to blame, saying he helped create “an atmosphere similar to a

worker in a candy store” when it came to work with the

tickets.

“It was only after the federal authorities began to ask

questions that Kirtland began to reveal facts he knew about Jones

and expressed his belief that Jones was selling tickets and could

be making as much as $75,000 to $100,000 a year in additional

income,” the report said. “Kirtland finally admitted to his own

culpability in the selling of tickets .. that he and Jones had not

only violated the rules pertaining to the number of tickets

available to donors, they had personally kept the money from

selling tickets to them.”

Jones’ attorney, Gerald Handley, also didn’t respond to AP

requests for comment Wednesday. The report said getting details out

of Jones – who did not cooperate in the law firm’s probe – was best

left to federal authorities.

The report also singled out Charlette Blubaugh, the former

associate athletic director in charge of the ticket office and the

manager most familiar with the ticketing software.

Blubaugh allegedly arranged to have ticket records destroyed and

then suggested it be blamed on stadium construction, the report

said. And at the 2009 NCAA tournament, after a Kansas loss,

Blubaugh and others went out and sold the unneeded Elite Eight

tickets “on the floor.” One staffer came back with a bag of

$3,400 in cash, but Blubaugh never turned hers in.

“Blubaugh used her position to improperly direct tickets to

subordinates … so that they could be sold to ticket brokers and

the proceeds kept,” according to the report. “We have also

discovered a ‘fake account’ for the ‘sale’ of season tickets that

appear were mailed to Blubaugh’s former addresses.”

Two of her assistants, Brandon Simmons and Jason Jeffries,

“sold over $200,000 worth of tickets through brokers with

Blubaugh’s knowledge and consent,” the report said.

Investigators recommended civil charges against all five former

employees mentioned in the report as well as Blubaugh’s husband,

Tom, who did consulting work. The school said it would try every

means to recover the money.

Mentioned briefly in the report was David Freeman, a close

friend of Jones whose attorney has confirmed that his client is

talking with investigators about the ticket scheme. Freeman is

facing an 18-month jail sentence in an unrelated bribery case.

Freeman is also a former business partner with former Kansas

basketball standout Roger Morningstar, whose son, Brady, is a

current member of the team.

According to a report posted online Wednesday by Yahoo! Sports,

Freeman said he has told federal investigators he believes the

scalping stretches beyond Kansas and claimed he, Jones and Roger

Morningstar were following the instructions of David and Dana Pump,

two California-based basketball camp organizers.

According to Freeman, the ticket scam began in 2002 when the

Pumps contacted Roger Morningstar and asked how to obtain extra

Kansas postseason basketball tickets. Freeman told Yahoo! that

Morningstar asked him to contact Jones, an assistant ticket manager

at the time.

The scalping began that year, during the Big 12 tournament,

Freeman told Yahoo!.

“(Rodney) gave me the tickets and then I took them to the Pumps

and they gave me the money,” Freeman said, saying that first

year’s gains yielded about $40,000 split among Freeman, Jones and

Morningstar.

Morningstar declined to comment to Yahoo! and could not be

located for comment Wednesday by the AP. Messages left at business

offices for the Pump brothers were not immediately returned, nor

were messages left for Freeman’s attorney, Carl Cornwell.

Freeman said the 2002 Final Four in Atlanta was the most

lucrative, with Kansas alumni eager to dump tickets after the team

lost in the semifinals, telling Yahoo! Sports: “We made a

half-million dollars (that weekend).” He declined to say who was

buying the tickets.

Associated Press writers Bill Draper in Kansas City, Mo., and

Thomas Watkins in Los Angeles contributed to this report.