Kansas informs donors money is intact

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- In a mass e-mail, the University of Kansas has reassured thousands of its biggest donors that their contributions have not been misused or stolen.

The school announced last week that it has commissioned an independent investigation into possible wrongdoing in the ticket office and the Williams Educational Fund, the money-raising arm of the athletic department. The fund brought in about $15 million last year to pay for scholarships and other expenses for Kansas' roughly 500 athletes.

The Kansas City Star, quoting anonymous sources, has reported that federal investigators are looking into the possibility of the illegal sale of basketball tickets.

Rodney Jones, the assistant athletic director in charge of the Williams Fund and a former head of the school's ticket office, has been placed on administrative leave. He has not been publicly implicated in any alleged wrongdoing.

The e-mail assured donors their money will not be used to pay for the investigation.

"Kansas Athletics will pay for the review through other sources of revenue. Additionally, no state funds or tuition dollars will be used to pay for this investigation," it said.

Written in question-and-answer format, the e-mail also said the school was not in trouble with the NCAA and that there have been no allegations of money being stolen from the fund.

The Williams Fund has about 5,000 members who receive priority seating at sports events and first choice at purchasing such items as NCAA basketball tournament tickets. Many of the donors make six-figure contributions.

"The issue under investigation is related to tickets only," the e-mail read. "All WEF donations are secure through the Endowment Association. The money is then directed solely to the support and benefit of our student-athletes. This issue neither involves nor relates to NCAA rules and regulations."

Associate athletic director Jim Marchiony told The Associated Press the school had been hearing from anxious donors who were concerned that their financial gifts would not be used for the purpose they had intended.

"We were getting phone calls and e-mails so we thought it would be good to be proactive and put the questions and answers out there," he said.

The school also promised that athletic director Lew Perkins and the administration already were working on new safeguards.

"Despite the strong safeguards and internal controls we had in place, we know that even the best systems can be subverted with time and persistence," the e-mail read. "This is a difficult reminder that we can never be too vigilant with our internal control programs. Once the independent review ordered by the chancellor concludes and specific issues are identified, per Lew Perkins, we will be in 'whatever-it-takes mode' to further improve and tighten our safeguard processes."

Donors also were told a full report of the investigations eventually would be released.