An investigation into irregular spending activity within the Middle Tennessee State University athletic department has focused on a $3,500 purchase by a former associate athletic director and another $34,084 in purchased credit with a sports fitness company, according to a report released Thursday by the Tennessee Comptroller's Office.
As reported by The Murfreesboro Daily News Journal, the purchases in question took place between August 2015 to June 2018. The comptroller's report did not name any individuals involved in the purchases.
The findings revealed an associate athletic director used his university purchasing card to buy 100 copies of an etiquette manual from a company in which "he appeared to have a personal financial interest."
Each copy of the 12-page manual titled "A Guide to Etiquette for Student Athletes" cost $35, the report said. The associate AD was listed as one of "two incorporators of the company that produced the guide, and he was identified on the corporate website as the chief operating officer."
Two days after the manuals were purchased, the associate AD offered the company's other incorporator a job in the athletic department, the report said.
The manuals were purchased for the football team, however key members of the athletic staff, including athletic director Chris Massaro and football coach Rick Stockstill, told investigators that they did know of, approve of or even see the manuals.
"The associate athletic director had authority to make purchases such as the etiquette manual. Considering the undisclosed relationship between the associate athletic director and the vendor, however, Athletic Department management could not determine whether the purchase was in the Athletic Department’s best interest," the report said.
The second irregularity revealed several athletic department staff members used credit from the school's Nike account to buy athletic apparel and shoes for their family and friends.
In November 2016, one associate athletic director used the credit to purchase more than $1,200 in apparel to benefit a private organization he had personal ties to, the report said.
"The associate athletic director told investigators that he initially planned to reimburse the university for the cost of these items. The contract with the sports and fitness company, however, prohibited this type of use of the free products and apparel," the comptroller's findings said.
The report also noted that the investigation found at least one employee within the department gave family members and friends direct access to the university’s account with Nike, allowing them to order products using the purchase credit.
According to the comptroller's office, the athletic department is working to establish new spending practices to prevent future issues. The athletic department was first to discover the irregularities and cooperated with the comptroller's investigation.
“I want to emphasize to the public and our stakeholders that our business office in Athletics unearthed the points raised in the audit and that we acted properly in passing them to the proper authorities,” Massaro said in a statement to The Daily News Journal. “We have already taken steps to strengthen controls on the use of goods and services provided by our partnerships at no cost to the University. I will ensure the audit’s findings are properly addressed.”