The damage disgraced former Athletic Director Norwood Teague caused the University of Minnesota goes beyond embarrassment. A pair of post-Teague reviews of the athletics department released Tuesday point to the need for stricter financial oversight over a department whose spending excesses have undermined public trust.
One of the two reviews was reassuring — but it was the sort of reassurance that would not have been necessary had Teague’s sexual harassment of two female colleagues not led to his resignation in August. No culture of sexual impropriety exists in Golden Gophers sports, the review said. “The vast majority of witnesses described a positive work environment, where women and men were supported.”
The second report was more troubling. It described a department that had become sloppy and even deceptive in accounting for purchases, particularly those involving entertainment. Justification for travel expenses was “routinely inadequate,” the audit said. Expenses incurred by Teague were sometimes reported as being made by a subordinate, presumably so they would not come to the attention of Teague’s boss, U President Eric Kaler.
The report detailed lavish personal expenditures for which the U should not have been billed. Holiday parties, hair stylists, clothing, gifts and first-class air travel all went on U credit cards despite university rules to the contrary. A sense of privilege appears to have trumped accountability in the AD’s office. The financial audit called for a “stronger culture of compliance” and for reimbursement of all inappropriately charged expenses. That’s the least that ought to happen (and in the case of all current employees involved in questionable charges, it already has, interim athletic director Beth Goetz reported).
The “tone at the top” likely has already improved with Teague’s departure. But that change is not enough to assure Minnesotans that these practices were confined to the athletics department and will not recur. It’s up to the Board of Regents to put oversight systems in place that provide that assurance.