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Naval Academy inquiry focused mostly on football

In a story today, I describe a report from the Naval Inspector General that tells of a "sham" bank account used by leaders of the U.S. Naval Academy to steer privately raised foundation dollars toward football tailgate parties and holiday gatherings without the customary checks and balances.

It's a 110-page document, and there are probably details within that neither I nor my counterparts at the Baltimore Sun or Navy Times (props to them for breaking the story) could fit into their respective accounts.

Here, then, is the full redacted report.

It didn't occur to me until I interviewed a 2010 academy graduate late Tuesday that many of the questionable (or merely questioned) expenses involved football.

Midshipmen are inculcated with a strong sense of fairness. They live and study under strict rules, gain coveted freedoms over time and expect to be treated as equals. They take a dim view of favoritism.

Fairness is at issue in each of the controversies I have covered at the academy over the past year: Allegations by a member of faculty of a two-tiered admission system that favors minorities; displeasure over racial tinkering in the academy's color guard; the fallout after the academy allowed a football player to remain after failing a drug test.

The latest dust-up largely hinges on allegations of extravagant spending by or for the football team.

Here are a few of the many passages in the report that reference football:

". . . the complainant alleged that senior USNA staff members improperly received large numbers of complimentary tickets to home football games for their personal use . . . "

" . . . At home football games, USNA hosted up to 100 Sailors and Marines, each of whom received an emblematic ball cap, which ranged in price from $9.95 to $15.95 . . . "

" . . . The expenditure of $157,000 to purchase an 18-wheel tractor trailer truck for USNA's football team . . . "

" . . . Annual expenditures of $400,000 or more for USNA sponsored Tailgate events at football bowl games over the past six years . . . "

The academy's defense rests, in part, on the notion that the football program a) is beloved and b) generating considerable revenue.

(Little-known fact: a lot of big football programs lose money.)

Many of the expenses were deemed appropriate by naval investigators, who stopped short of judging whether they were excessive. Others, including many of the transactions involving the off-the-books account, were found to be "extravagant and wasteful."

The midshipman who called me would not speak for attribution, because he remains attached to the academy. He said he and his classmates enjoyed the lavish tailgate parties but came to realize "that a lot of money was being spent on the football team."

He said the Mids were particularly rankled by reports of annual steak dinners for the team, a privilege not shared by the rest of the brigade.

"When people saw extravagant spending for a special group, as opposed to the brigade as a whole, we started asking questions," he said. "We'd like to have steak dinners, too."

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By Daniel de Vise  |  June 30, 2010; 11:12 AM ET
Categories:  Administration , Athletics , Finance , Students  | Tags: Naval Academy IG report, Naval Academy slush fund, USNA superintendent investigation  
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football programs often lose money and redirect resources that could be spent elsewhere. many ardent football fans insist otherwise and, also, repeat the canard that Title VIIII funding (for college women's sports) "robs" rightful sports like football of its funding.
this story is a case in point. underfunded women's sports at Annapolis and elsewhere are dwarfed by the fraud, waste and abuse of tax and donar dollars in the football program.
why are the criminals not charged, made to make restitution and then dishonorably dismissed?
are they just patted on the head, and ushered off to lavish retirements with COLAed checks, best-available health benefits and zero accountability?
who was cowed into that deal? a football fan??

Posted by: FloridaChick | July 1, 2010 7:24 AM | Report abuse

That we still have the Service Academies as four-year schools is absurd. They should be converted to one-year finishing schools for ROTC graduates. That would end this sort of stupidity (finishing schools don't have intercollegiate sports teams - or shouldn't), as well as most of the other stupidities there - and there are many. For example, I doubt many taxpayers - who are really tuition payers at the Service Academies - are aware that the marching bands at each one are in fact uniformed troops, and not students. This translates into each Service Academy getting roughly $10M annually for a marching band!
And this at a time of trillion dollar deficits and high unemployment.
Shut them down. Use ROTC instead. It's cheaper and produces officers who are every bit as good - and who don't have the unearned arrogance of the Service Academy grads. They can be given the necessary military polish in one year after graduation.

Posted by: LoveIB | July 1, 2010 7:44 AM | Report abuse

@FloridaChick : You clearly have no knowledge of that which you speak. While, yes, the football programs at many universities lose money, this is not the case at the Naval Academy. In fact, without a Division I football program at the Naval Academy, many of the woman's athletics programs would cease to exist without the redirected proceeds from Navy's football program. One of the stronger recruiting points the Naval Academy can point to when reaching out to potential candidates of both sexes is the opportunity to participate in much wider range of athletic activities than many other 4000-person strong student bodies can support.

Posted by: dougb95 | July 6, 2010 7:19 PM | Report abuse

The comment in the article that many football programs lose money is wrong. If you read the report, it says that athletic programs as a whole typically lose money. This is because few sports other than football and basketball generate significant revenue (just compare revenue between schools with and without football). Most football programs make significant money that helps fund other teams and academic projects that cost tens of millions of dollars.

Furthermore, if you read the full Naval Academy report, very little has anything to do with football spending and most of that which did was found to be proper. Case and point, the tractor-trailer was bought with money that was not from the slush fund and was the first thing the report listed as being proper and any accusations of wrongful spending on it were unmerited. Most of the unjust spending was related to things like Adm. Fowler’s house parties and women’s retreats w/$200+ dinners held on the yard.

Finally, the comments about tailgaters and steak dinners in this and other articles are inaccurate. The tailgaters benefited the brigade as a whole. The football team cannot even attend because... wait for it... they are playing in the game! And the entire brigade has steak nights almost every week in the fall, something that was organized in part by a member of the athletic/football staff to help increase brigade morale.

Please read the full reports and know the facts before making your posts (and before writing a faulty article Mr. de Vise).

Posted by: baconator55 | July 7, 2010 11:16 AM | Report abuse

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