Share “Kansas ticket scandal touches OU”

BY JAKE TROTTER Published: May 27, 2010
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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

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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. 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, didn’t respond to The Associated Press’ 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 manager most familiar with the ticketing software.

She 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 appears to have been mailed to Blubaugh’s former addresses.”

Two of her assistants, Simmons and Jeffries, "sold over $200,000 worth of tickets through brokers with Blubaugh’s knowledge and consent,” the report said.

Several invoices also linked Tom Blubaugh to the "sale” of season tickets, money going to a fake account, listing Thomas R. Blubaugh’s address in Olathe, Kan.

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.

Staff writer Mike Baldwin, Yahoo! Sports and The Associated Press contributed to this report