Wednesday, May 23, 2018
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The doctor is in

THE University of Toledo is an often dysfunctional bureaucracy in which its various constituencies - faculty, staff, student body, and, certainly, athletics - go their own way and do their own thing.

And as a four-part series which concluded Sunday in The Blade made clear, it is a monster - like the mythical multi-headed serpent Hydra - that is nearly impossible to subdue.

We are encouraged, however, that UT President Lloyd Jacobs, just a year into his administration, is determined to try.

Our stories described a maddening pattern of abuses in the department of athletics that reflects a long-standing indifference to oversight by the administration and ultimately, a board of trustees weakened for years by appointments rooted in politics and money instead of the best interests of the institution.

Coaches' wives have traveled at taxpayer expense to away games, including last year to the Virgin Islands, and the basketball program arranged a bizarre deal to have $6,000, its proceeds from an away game last December at Vanderbilt University, sent by Vanderbilt directly to an area sporting goods store. Ultimately the money was paid directly to UT, as it should have been, but even Vanderbilt officials later called it an unusual arrangement and a mistake.

Other questionable expenses included a $3,000 charge for dry-cleaning football coaches' game-day garb. It should go without saying, but we'll say it anyway: It's not likely the folks who mow the grass at UT get their work clothes dry-cleaned by the taxpayers.

Keep in mind that all this is occurring at a time when the UT athletics department is running a budget deficit of $1.5 million and wants the students - it's always the students who pay, isn't it? - to take a hit for an additional two-thirds of a million bucks in fees to help make ends meet.

So where, one might ask, is the person charged with monitoring UT athletics' financial problems and bringing them under control?

Well, she was let go, in what is billed as a consequence of the merger of the university and the Medical College of Ohio. Suzette Fronk, who'd been assigned to the athletics department in 2001 as assistant athletic director for business affairs, managed in the beginning to help the department erase its annual deficits.

But ultimately, it is clear, her zealousness in challenging improper expenses grated on the department, including Mike O'Brien, director of athletics. A month ago, she lost her job.

It's a mess that President Jacobs has inherited from his predecessors, and he is implementing aggressive new procedures to tighten up athletics administration. While we're sure he roots for the Rockets, he does not worship at the altar of big-time collegiate athletics, which should make him the right man at the right time for UT.

As a physician himself, Dr. Jacobs understands the urgency of effective pharmaceutical monitoring and accordingly has recommended the dismissal of UT team physician Roger Kruse for lax oversight of drugs administered to athletes. At the same time, the president gave the man in charge, AD O'Brien, a vote of confidence.

The people who really ought to go are the remaining members of the UT board of trustees whose appointments during the Taft administration reflected a long-standing trend to reward donors and supporters with board seats, appointments engineered in most cases by the now discredited and imprisoned Tom Noe.

Gov. Ted Strickland will soon make his first appointment to the UT board. He can signal his support for Dr. Jacobs' resolve by eschewing any formula - the two departing nine-year trustees are African-American - and instead naming an individual, regardless of color, who will bring the credentials and determination to help turn this place around.

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