Coyle updates Regents on changes to Athletics Dept. spending

The audits resulted from the resignation of Norwood Teague in August 2015.

Kevin Beckman

While not completed, spending reforms in the University of Minnesota’s Athletics Department are on track.

Two internal audits from last December this May — spurred by the resignation of former Athletics Director Norwood Teague last year — revealed misspending in the University’s Athletics Department, prompting planned reforms to its spending habits.

Athletics Director Mark Coyle updated the University’s Board of Regents Friday the department’s plans to improve spending. Regents said they were pleased with the progress Coyle has made so far, but more time is needed to fully complete the changes.

“The culture’s starting to change,” Coyle said. “We are going to be accountable to our decisions and how we act.”

Of the seven recommendations made in the University Office of Internal Audit’s December 2015 report, four have been completed, two partially finished and one not implemented.

One of the recommendations made in the May 2016 audit have been completed, four partially applied and two not implemented.

The recommended changes to department practices included improving compliance with University expenditure policies, being more rigorous in recording expenses, and instituting an administrative review of the issues to make sure future practices change.

The May audit, released in June less than a month after Coyle took the job, found that while certain improvements had been made in department practices, issues with contract management and insufficient documentation on providing complimentary tickets to companies remained.

Coyle told regents that since he took the job, the department has added staff to oversee audits and staff members must go through mandatory training on financial compliance and University spending policies.

“One of our guiding principles is sound fiscal management,” Coyle said, adding that he will prioritize transparency and consistency in his administration.

Coyle said he has also met individually with every head coach and senior department official to make sure they understand University financial policies.

In meeting with coaches and senior athletics officials, Coyle said he made it very clear what the department’s expectations are.

“We’re going to do things my way,” he said. “Any time we … do something that takes away from what our students are doing in the classroom or what they’re doing in competition, it’s not a good day for the Gophers.”

December’s audit found serious issues with the department’s purchasing and payment processes, including 17 instances of alcohol being bought with an athletics purchasing card, totaling $2,896. Other expenditures attributed to the athletics department in the report included four holiday parties between 2012 and 2014 costing a total of $7,230, and $1,981 for two hair stylist sessions, make-up, shoes and a suit for a new employee.

At the meeting, Coyle said representatives from the department’s compliance office will attend both home and away games to ensure the teams’ expenses are appropriate.

Regents said that though it will take more time to fully implement the oversight group’s recommendations, Coyle has demonstrated that he is taking the department’s issues seriously.

“Obviously they haven’t had a lot of time to really make changes, but I think there are changes being made,” said Regent Michael Hsu. “The feeling that I’m getting is that they’re taking these issues seriously and trying to remediate them.”

Regent Richard Beeson said it will most likely take the full academic year before the board can be completely satisfied that the culture within the department has been changed.

“I think there’s a general need for systems and procedures to be in place so that the appropriate people have the authority to make spending decisions within their approved budget,” he said.

The University of Minnesota’s Board of Regents expressed satisfaction Thursday and Friday after hearing a progress report on the Athletics Department’s previous misspending that was discovered after the resignation of Norwood Teague.