University of Toledo President Lloyd Jacobs yesterday ordered a massive restructuring of the UT athletic department, citing problems with team travel, lack of financial control, and unlawful handling of medications.
The expansive reorganization calls for many actions within the department, from urging dismissal of the department s team doctor to moving sports accounting and bookkeeping from the athletic department to the finance department.
Dr. Jacobs also focused on athletes, mandating that every basketball and football player, with the exception of incoming freshmen be interviewed by outside/special counsel and a faculty athletics representative to determine their eligibility for the upcoming season.
Despite the reorganization of the department, Dr. Jacobs said he continues to support Athletic Director Mike O Brien and is recommending that his contract be extended or renewed.
Dr. Jacobs directives come more than two months after the FBI announced a point-shaving investigation involving a UT football player, and one day after The Blade questioned top university finance officials about improper spending within the athletic department.
The university president said the overall shakeup of the ath-letic department is being done to ensure UT s policies are honored.
What we re trying to do is create a culture of compliance in this organization, Dr. Jacobs said. Not only in the department of athletics, but across the institution. We are an organization that believes in following the rules, and my job is to try to create a culture where people understand that we follow the rules.
The UT athletic department has had its problems, beginning in October of 2006 when the NCAA approached university officials three days before the UT-Kent State football game on Oct. 14, notifying them that a large bet had been placed on the game.
The NCAA later informed Mr. O Brien in an email that no further investigation was warranted at the time, but football player Harvey Scooter McDougle, Jr., was arrested by the FBI in March on charges that he conspired with a Detroit-area gambler to fix scores of UT games. Those charges were later dropped.
Two weeks later, a second football player Richard Davis was charged with attempted aggravated burglary after he mistakenly broke into an off-duty Lucas County sheriff s deputy s house looking to settle a dispute with a teammate. Mr. Davis was carrying a gun.
A Blade investigation has found numerous examples of questionable spending by the athletic department, spending that Dr. Jacobs confirmed was also being investigated by UT officials.
Records obtained by The Blade show that the wives and girlfriends of UT coaches, and boosters and other nonessential personnel, were allowed to fly with the football and men s and women s basketball teams at university expense. Records also show that coaches traveled to Germany and charged trip expenses to their UT credit cards.
UT s president said these issues and others currently being examined by the university are what caused him to make changes within the athletic department.
We have a set of values listed in our strategic plan that we re trying to live out, and whatever we encounter in other internal assessments, we deal with them openly, Dr. Jacobs said. If there s something wrong, we ll fix it.
Dr. Jacobs said he asked the university s internal compliance officer to begin looking at some internal control issues within the athletic department more than two months ago. He said the investigation is still ongoing and is currently focusing on travel and other fiscal issues.
Previously the investigation centered around coaches compliance with eligibility rules, the athletes study and training habits, and medical practices within the department.
Dr. Jacobs said the findings are added to a running report that is currently protected from public release by attorney-client privilege.
But in that report, according to a letter written yesterday by Dr. Jacobs to Mr. O Brien, is evidence that applicable laws of the control of medications were violated within the athletic department.
The university president ordered that the inventory, storage, and dispensing of medications in the department be placed immediately under the direction of the university s director of pharmacy.
Dr. Jacobs also urged Mr. O Brien to replace current team physician Dr. Roger Kruse with a full-time university employee physician in an effort to improve the conformity to applicable laws concerning the control of medications.
Dr. Jacobs told The Blade yesterday that he didn t think there were any medications distributed to the wrong persons, and there were no athletes harmed. He said because the UT investigation found that rules or laws were violated, he was considering whether to refer the matter to prosecutors.
One of the things that comes out of [UT s merger with the Medical University of Ohio last year] is that we have a pharmacy that knows [medication control laws] and practices those practices, Dr. Jacobs said. This allows me to put our pharmacist in charge of those issues.
Other changes Dr. Jacobs is implementing include:
The compliance officer within the athletic department will now report to UT s institutional compliance officer rather than Mr. O Brien.
All athletic accounting and bookkeeping will be conducted by the university s finance department.
UT football coach Tom Amstutz and men s basketball coach Stan Joplin will now report directly to Mr. O Brien. Previously, the two coaches reported through Mike Karabin, who is the university s senior associate athletic director for marketing and promotions.
Dr. Jacobs said switching who the coaches report to was not something inspired by the investigation.
This is something I ve decided to do on my own, he said. I ve discussed this with [Mr. O Brien] and he certainly has no objection to it.
Mr. O Brien did not speak directly with The Blade yesterday, but released a statement through the UT athletic media relations department supporting Dr. Jacobs changes.
Dr. Jacobs and I have been in conversation about the changes in the structure of the athletic department, and I see these changes as being very positive, Mr. O Brien said. I perceive this as an opportunity to make our department stronger and more responsive to the changing nature of intercollegiate athletics.
Dr. Jacobs also informed Law Professor James Klein that he will no longer be the faculty athletics representative. Those duties will be assumed by Alice Skeens, associate professor of psychology.
Mr. O Brien was also ordered by UT s president to implement an educational program for all athletes in areas such as gambling, dealing with agents, and the effects of, and prohibitions relating to alcohol and drug usage.
The athletic director was instructed to improve the process for discipline of student athletes who violate team rules, university policies, and NCAA and MAC rules and regulations.
You will pay particular attention to the sports of football and men s basketball, where I believe there is unusual vulnerability for student-athletes.
The point-shaving charges against Mr. McDougle, 22, were dropped by federal investigators in April, but attorneys for both sides agreed that the case against the UT running back is far from over.
According to the federal criminal complaint, Mr. McDougle allegedly took bribes from Detroit gambler Ghazi Manni in return for finding UT football and basketball players willing to affect the point margins although not necessarily the outcome of games.
President Jacobs said yesterday that the point-shaving scandal was not the reason UT football and basketball players would be interviewed by an attorney before they play next season.
None of these actions are a direct result of that. Ascertaining, determining the eligibility of athletes, is a really important issue, and I just want to be sure that this year it is done very, very well, he told The Blade.
Does this mean Dr. Jacobs has lost confidence in Mr. Joplin and Mr. Amstutz?
Do they have my support in everything? Possibly not, he said. I don t know what everything is that they do. Do I hold them accountable? We have 7,000 employees. I hold every one of them accountable for our value system. I hold them accountable for doing their job, everyone accountable for following the rules of the state, the NCAA.
As for Mr. O Brien, Dr. Jacobs said he wants him to remain as athletic director, but is appointing a committee to advise him on whether that should happen.
I think Mr. O Brien has done an excellent job in scheduling games with opponents, Dr. Jacobs said. He s done a great job of organizing, he s a good leader, and furthermore, he s a friend and good person. I would like very much to extend his contract, but I d like to create an objective process to advise me.
The changes I ve made here are not a reflection of his job performance.
Tomorrow: Athletic department travel practices under scrutiny inside and outside the university.
Contact Joe Vardon at: email@example.com or 419-410-5055.