Real Kansas Scandal: Trading Prospects For Profit

If you haven’t read through the excellent reporting on the Kansas University sports tickets scandal, you’re missing out. Fascinating work by Yahoo Sports and the KANSAS CITY STAR.

Kansas Ticket Scandal With The Pump Brothers

(Well at least they passed the savings on to you! .. Wait.)

Though a critical part of the story is missing: Exactly what conditions existed at KU and in the world of high profile NCAA basketball to allow such alleged corruption to germinate and take hold.

The Yahoo Sports report, featuring Jason King, Charles Robinson and Dan Wetzel, gets us closest to the root of problem, though the Kansas University investigative report gives no clue to the true symptoms. (The Kansas investigative report was commissioned and paid for by the athletic department only after the Kansas City Star previously reported a federal inquiry into the possibility that KU men’s basketball tickets had been taken and sold illegally.)

While it may seem that allegedly scamming up to $3 million worth of Kansas hoops tickets is pretty damn serious, we’ve yet to get a whiff of what the Feds and IRS are currently digging up. From Yahoo:

Freeman also provides information about a ticket scalping operation involving NCAA Final Four and University of Kansas basketball tickets, including potential tax evasion, theft, money laundering and other possible crimes.

A source familiar with the investigation confirmed to Yahoo! Sports that Freeman tied multiple individuals to the scalping operation, including college sports entrepreneurs David and Dana Pump, KU athletics department employee Rodney Jones, and former KU basketball star Roger Morningstar, the father of current Jayhawks guard Brady Morningstar.

In other words, things may still get a lot worse for the Kansas Athletic Dept. along with the aforementioned outside individuals.

Though we don’t know the precise nature of the initial contact, Yahoo does report that the whole sordid ordeal allegedly began in 2002 when college basketball power brokers David and Dana Pump contacted former KU player Roger Morningstar.

This passage from the Yahoo report is, to me, the most important part of the entire scandalous saga - at least so far:

According to Freeman, the ticket scalping operation at KU began when the Pumps contacted Roger Morningstar – Freeman’s former business partner – in the winter of 2002 and asked him if he knew how to obtain extra Kansas postseason basketball tickets. The Pumps promised him that a significant amount of money could be earned by selling the seats at a price above face value.

Roger Morningstar knew that Jones, who was an assistant ticket manager at the time, was one of Freeman’s close friends, so he told Freeman to ask Jones if he was interested in participating, Freeman said.

Freeman is David Freeman. From Yahoo:

Freeman, who has a pair of drug convictions on his record from 1989, was scheduled to begin an 18-month jail sentence Thursday on an unrelated bribery charge.

As Freeman was apparently buddies with KU athletic admin Roger Jones, he was able to convince Jones to *creatively acquire* KU hoops tickets to funnel to the Pumps - via Morningstar and Freeman - who would then sell the tickets to ticket brokers.

Now for the $64,000 question: How in the hell did the Pumps convince Morningstar to ask Freeman to ask KU athletic admin Jones to get tickets for them?

Answer: Being the two most powerful men in college sports you never heard of.

From Yahoo:

Since their alleged involvement with the KU scalping ring, the Pumps’ influence has continued to grow throughout college basketball. Their activities include scalping tickets obtained from coaching staffs, hosting a well-known and lavish annual charity retreat for coaches and athletic directors and operating “ChampSearch” – a consulting firm retained by universities looking to hire new head basketball coaches. Simultaneously, the Pumps finance multiple elite traveling summer basketball teams that showcase recruits, some of whom have ended up with the programs that the Pumps do business with.

Roger Morningstar has coached some of those summer traveling teams, one of which included his son, Brady, who committed to Kansas in 2006. Since Jones, Freeman and Roger Morningstar allegedly engaged in scalping tickets through the Pump brothers in 2002, summer traveling teams financed by the Pump brothers have featured at least nine players who went on to play for the Jayhawks. Among them were nationally recruited players Mario Chalmers, David Padgett, Omar Wilkes, Tyrel Reed, Elijah Johnson, Jeff Withey, Travis Releford and Brady Morningstar.

Chalmers’ father, Ronnie, also coached the Pump brothers’ summer traveling team in Alaska, before being hired as the director of basketball operations at KU in 2005. He eventually resigned that position in 2008. And the sons of head coach Bill Self and assistant coach Danny Manning Tyler Self and Evan Manning – are both currently listed on the rosters of the Pump brothers’ summer traveling teams. Coach Bill Self and Perkins have attended the Pumps’ annual retreat held for coaches and administrators.

So the Pumps have provided a noteworthy number of players to the Kansas college basketball squad roster the past decade, while also providing high profile spots on their summer team squads to the sons of Bill Self and Danny Manning. And don’t forget wining and dining Self and KU AD Lew Perkins at their annual “retreat.”

But the Pumps are far from being focused on just Kansas. They annually control many high school players who can help college coaches build programs and their respective careers, not to mention athletic directors at plum college programs in charge of hiring those coaches! (The Pumps were reportedly integral in placing Bruce Pearl at Tennessee.)

So now we’re at the heart of it all: Perhaps in exchange for funneling players to certain programs and “placing” coaches at certain schools - among other things - the Pumps get Final Four tickets from head and assistant college coaches to resell to brokers and maybe just as important, connections to athletic administrators like Rodney Jones at Kansas in the acquisition of scores more potentially illegally-accessed tickets, including more seats to conference tournaments and the Final Four.

Remember, we’re talking pricey seats to always-soldout Kansas basketball home games. The kind of ducats normally owned by big money donors. Not to mention Final Four and Big 12 conference tournament tickets allotted to coaching participants.

Now the scary part. None of this entire situation would have ever come to light if Freeman, the convicted felon, hadn’t sang to the Feds after an unrelated, garden-variety bribery conviction. From Yahoo:

In April, the Lawrence-based developer was sentenced to 18 months in prison after pleading guilty to a bribery charge. In an attempt to decrease his sentence, Freeman provided federal agents with information regarding an NCAA tournament ticket scalping ring at the University of Kansas that was allegedly orchestrated in 2002 by The Pumps and Roger Morningstar and also involved Rodney Jones.

Once the Feds started investigating KU admin Jones, Morningstar and the Pumps - thanks to Freeman’s allegations - they later discovered the recent impropriety on KU Athletic Director Lew Perkins‘ watch.

So next time you log on to your favorite college hoops ticket broker website, know this: There’s a couple dudes (hard-working nonetheless) brokering high school kids and their college coach placement service as entry to the mostly, allegedly illegal - at least at Kansas - access of thousands of premium college hoops tickets which they sell to ticket brokers at a markup.

Then of course, the brokers pass those savings on to you!

And thanks to zero NCAA oversight, the Pumps are unimpeded from doing this at any other major college basketball program, so the Federal investigation fun (reportedly potential tax evasion, theft, money laundering and other possible crimes) perhaps has just begun!