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Architect of Ohio U’s Sports Cuts Pleads Guilty to Embezzlement

When the Ohio men’s swimming team was cut, finances, OU athletic director Kirby Hocutt cited finances as the reason. The decision, Hocutt explained, followed, “hundreds of hours of comprehensive research and study over an extended period of time, both by my staff and others within the University." Now it has come out that a member of that staff helped contribute to the departments fiscal shortfall through the misuse of athletic department funds.

Robert Andrey, who was hired to help bring financial discipline to the department, plead guilty last week to theft after misusing department credit cards to run up over $30,000 in personal expenses. As a part of the plea agreement, Andrey will pay the school $31,075 in restitution in return for a recommendation from the prosecutor that he be sentenced to five years of probation.

Phil Whitten, CSCAA Executive Director summed up the irony perfectly - "I think it's ironic that this chain of events that begain with the cutting of several teams were based to a significant degree to the expert advice of an admitted embezzler." 

Andrey’s dealings were identified through an anonymous tip program that allows OU employees to report suspected criminal or unethical behavior. The tip alleged that Andrey used the card for personal expenses while also stealing game day parking revenue, and forging Hocutt’s signature on purchase orders. After being provided with evidence, Hocutt met with Andrey and by June 30th he was gone.

Now the athletics department is considering moving its business operations back under the direction of the university’s general finance and business office.

“We are talking about what our best options are, as far as the future alignment of our athletics business component," Hocutt told The Athens News.

Moving business operations back under the umbrella of the university would not be a new move. In 2003, Vanderbilt president Gordon Gee drew national attention when he eliminated the athletic director and moved the athletic department into the student life department.

Said Gee, “For too long, college athletics has been segregated from the core mission of the University. As a result, we have created a culture, both on this campus and nationally, that is disconnected from our students, faculty and other constituents, where responsibility is diffuse, the potential for abuse considerable and the costs — both financial and academic — unsustainable.”

Since that time Vanderbilt has enjoyed unprecedented success highlighted by the addition of six sports including women’s swimming.

While the thought of fiscal responsibility and accountability may not be spreading like wildfire throughout the country, according to Whitten, it's a positive step.

"Perhaps it's time to discard the model of an athletic department as a business and reintegrate the department under the control of the faculty because the role of athletics is ultimately educational."

Of course, until it does, OU will remain without a men’s swim team.