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The Commercial Appeal (Memphis, Tennessee)
A long-delayed state audit has found University of Memphis athletic director Tom Bowen had a conflict of interest when he renegotiated then-basketball coach Josh Pastner's controversial contract in 2013.
However, Bowen, who shared the same sports agent with Pastner, did not personally benefit from that conflict, nor did he inappropriately share sensitive information, according to the audit by the Tennessee Board of Regents.
"University staff did not follow the TBR and University of Memphis conflict of interest policies in place to formally report and evaluate the potential conflict of interest when it was identified," said the audit report obtained Monday by The Commercial Appeal.
The year-long audit followed an investigation by the newspaper in March 2016 that found Pastner and Bowen both had the same Ft. Smith, Ark.-based sports agent when Bowen negotiated a contract that would pay Pastner his $2.65 million annual salary in monthly installments through April 2020 if he was fired - a deal that could have cost the university $10.6 million.
Weeks later, Pastner took the head coaching job at Georgia Tech and agreed to a $1.255 million settlement, saving the school more than $9 million.
Though the audit report is dated March 6, the university suddenly released a statement Monday as the newspaper obtained the audit. The statement says issues in the audit have been addressed, noting that violations occurred under the "previous administration" of President Shirley Raines.
"Consistent with University and state policies, the University of Memphis immediately forwarded the complaint for review and investigation to TBR, has been transparent and cooperated in full with the investigation, and had already taken appropriate steps to ensure all state and University policies are followed," said the statement released through spokeswoman Daphne Thomas.
Bowen could not be immediately reached despite a call to his cell phone Monday.
The audit report also recommends the university "review the potential conflict of interest" for Bowen in "athletic leadership seminars offered by his sports agent."
In a formal response, the university said Bowen no longer is represented by agent Joey McCutchen. The university also said the conflict of interest committee met with Bowen to discuss potential conflicts.
The nine-page audit report said that while current and former employees discussed Bowen's potential conflict before negotiations with Pastner were initiated, university staff "did not follow the policies to refer the matter to the University's conflict of interest review committee" or take proper steps to eliminate the potential conflict.
The audit also found that Pastner's contract wasn't submitted to TBR for approval as required for all contracts exceeding $100,000.
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