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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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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