Share “Kansas ticket scandal touches OU”

BY JAKE TROTTER Published: May 27, 2010

photo - A football fan tries to sell game tickets during the Red River Rivalry college football game between the University of Oklahoma Sooners (OU) and the University of Texas Longhorns (UT) at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, Texas, Saturday, Oct. 17, 2009. Photo by Chris Landsberger, The Oklahoman ORG XMIT: KOD
A football fan tries to sell game tickets during the Red River Rivalry college football game between the University of Oklahoma Sooners (OU) and the University of Texas Longhorns (UT) at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, Texas, Saturday, Oct. 17, 2009. Photo by Chris Landsberger, The Oklahoman ORG XMIT: KOD
A married couple who previously worked at the University of Oklahoma are at the center of a University of Kansas ticket scandal.

A KU report alleges Tom and Charlette Blubaugh, and two others with OU connections, "inappropriately” sold or used at least $1 million worth of men’s basketball tickets and football tickets for personal purposes.

The report suggests the Blubaughs engaged in similar activities when they were at OU.

Tom Blubaugh was OU’s ticket director until 2003. Charlette Blubaugh was the operations manager at the OU ticket office. The two married in 2004 after they had left Norman.

Neither work at KU anymore, in the wake of an investigation into their involvement in the scandal.

The report accuses six people, including the Blubaughs and two other ex-KU employees with OU connections of selling or using 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.

Efforts by The Oklahoman to reach the Blubaughs, who are now back in Oklahoma, failed.

Charlette Blubaugh, who was the executive administrative assistant to the athletic director at the University of Central Oklahoma, resigned that position Wednesday.

The report also alleges the involvement of Brandon Simmons, another former OU ticket office employee, and Rodney Jones, an OU graduate.

OU spokesman Kenny Mossman said the school is surprised by the report and has contacted federal officials to offer assistance in the investigation.

"The involved individuals with OU ties have not been employed at the University of Oklahoma for a number of years. None are current employees,” Mossman told The Oklahoman via e-mail.

"One has not worked for the university for seven years, while the others have not been employees for four years or more. The University of Oklahoma’s ticket operation is reviewed annually by an external auditing firm and also is subjected to routine internal audits conducted by the university’s internal auditing office to protect the integrity of the process. No evidence of impropriety has been found.”

Simmons told a KU investigator that while working as an assistant athletics director for sales and marketing at KU, that Charlette Blubaugh gave him tickets to sell for personal profit.

"Blubaugh told him that she would not be able to pay him enough money commensurate with the work that he would be doing and the position that he held, so she would supplement his income with tickets,” the investigating attorney wrote in his findings to KU. "He explained that he knew ‘that was the way it was done at the University of Oklahoma.’

"When queried by the investigator as to whether he had even seen money change hands in that fashion in Norman, Simmons said that he had seen an assistant athletic director and Tom Blubaugh, passing money back and forth when Tom Blubaugh was the manager of tickets at OU.

Whether that activity represented improper conduct is purely conjecture.”

To recover the money lost, KU officials emphasized at a news conference they would take legal action against the Blubaughs, Simmons and Jones, the former assistant athletic director in charge of KU’s fundraising arm who allegedly participated in the scalping of tickets for personal profit.

Jones is a graduate of OU.

Other ex-KU employees allegedly involved are Jones’ boss, Ben Kirtland, associate athletic director for development, and Jason Jeffries, assistant director of ticket operations.

All five employees have resigned since the investigation began.

A Yahoo! Sports investigation also implicated former KU basketball standout Roger Morningstar, whose son, Brady, is a rising senior guard on the Jayhawk basketball team.

"There were many victims of this activity: Our fans, donors, alumni, Kansas Athletics and the university as a whole,” said Kansas Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little. "We sincerely regret the distress that this situation has caused our loyal fans and any loss of confidence that may have resulted.”

The financial loss to KU could be higher than what the report estimated.

Because investigators did not have subpoena power, the amounts could climb as high as $3 million once the federal probe is complete, an investigating attorney told the Kansas City Star.

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.”

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 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.


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